Tire maintenance & safety

Tire ply: Overview & importance

Last updated 10/17/2022 - Originally published 9/23/2020
Written by SimpleTire

There are many aspects of a tire that are considered critical to a tire's performance ability. The tread, sidewall, shoulders, and tire bead enable a tire to remain on a wheel and grip the road. However, it's the tire ply, or a series of tire plies that offer a tire much of its capability, rolling resistance, and durability. Without a tire ply, a tire would be nothing more than a large rubber balloon mounted onto a rim. A tire ply gives a tire its form once it has been mounted and inflated. Tire plies are also responsible for providing a tire with a long tread life, resistance to treadwear, and sidewall construction.

What is a Tire Ply?

Of the most important aspects of the tire, the tire ply is one that can't be seen just by looking at the outside of the tire. Tire plies are the internal layers that make up most of the inner workings of a tire. These layers are made up of a variety of materials including various rubber compounds, depending on the tire design and construction.

These reinforcement layers are covered with rubber compounds and made with steel cables, nylon, or other sturdy materials that help a tire maintain shape and structure when it experiences the internal pressure from inflation. When working within a pneumatic tire, or inflatable tire, tire ply construction will play a factor in many aspects of tire performance and tire safety.

Tire ply infrastructure gives support, resilience, and versatility to a rubber pneumatic tire. Constructing tires with tire plies immediately became the standard in tire design. A tire ply may run horizontally to the tire bead, or it may run diagonally.

Radial Tire Ply

Tire plies that run horizontally to the tire bead are known as radial tires. These are most commonly used on passenger vehicles as the rolling resistance of tires with radial plies is lower, allowing for a more fuel-efficient ride. The roll of these tires is smooth, and a radial tire ply is most often incorporated into high-performance tires as well as most high quality touring and all-season tires. Radial tire ply technology results in tires with additional stability and longer tread life.

Bias Tire Ply

A tire ply or a set of tire plies that run diagonally within a tire's construction can be found in tires known as bias tires. The plies in these tires are sturdy and are known for offering a very smooth ride on rough surfaces. On the other hand, the drawback of bias tire ply design is their poor rolling resistance. That's why these tires are often manufactured for use on heavy machinery such as trucks and tractors as well as some passenger vehicles.

The Importance of a Tire Ply

Each tire contains several tire plies within it. The support exists to hold form when inflated through either tubeless or inner tube design. However, a tire ply presents a tire with a significant level of assurance when driving on a multitude of road surfaces.

The multiple tire ply layers are able to reduce the potentially harmful effects that certain road surfaces and hazards can have on a vehicle's suspension, as well as the tires themselves. Because of the multiple layers of strong materials within a tire, a tire may not need to be replaced if it is damaged. Under some circumstances, tire plies allow tires to be repaired instead.

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