If you are looking to buy tractor tyres, or tyres for your farm trailers, ATV’s or RTV’s, then understanding the difference between cross-ply and radial tyres is advantageous. Or, more importantly, understanding the relative performance pros and cons for your specific farming application.
The first pneumatic tyre was produced and patented by a certain Mr Dunlop in 1888 as a way of cushioning the wheels on his son’s tricycle. Tyre technology has come on dramatically since those early days, and applications now range from the smallest bicycle to the tractors we all use day in, day out. However, it still boils down to two methods of construction – Dunlop’s original ‘cross-ply’ design and the much later ‘radial’ development by Michelin.
Cross-ply and radial tractor tyres are made using completely different approaches, and their internal structure affects the performance of the tyre at every level. When buying agricultural tyres, you will likely need to make the decision over which type is best for you.
Cross-ply tyres use a network of interlocking cords which are layered across each other at a 45-degree angle, before being encased in the toughened rubber outer shell.
This results in the tyre being rigid and highly inflexible, which can cause overheating when used on hard road surfaces, increasing tyre wear (all high-speed tractor tyres are of radial construction.) However, this rigidity means that cross-ply tyres are more resilient against damage, in particular sidewall damage.
A cross-ply tyre does not come into as much contact with the ground as a radial tyre which can lead to less engine power transmission or more site damage. As it does not absorb as much impact shock, the driver can feel more vibration. The rigid sidewall can, however, be an advantage in certain working environments where tyre bounce is a problem, for example on telehandlers or forklifts.
The initial cost of cross-ply tractor tyres is cheaper than radial tractor tyres, so they are often an attractive choice to anyone on a budget.
Advantages of cross-ply tyres include:
- Improved vehicle stability
- Higher resistance against sidewall damages
- Cheaper to produce
Disadvantages of cross-ply tyres include:
- High rolling resistance, which causes tyres to quickly heat up
- Reduced comfort due to the tyre’s rigidity
- Increased fuel consumption
By running steel cords at a far wider angle of 90 degrees, and with the addition of steel belts to support the tread area of a tyre, the radial design did away with the need for inner tubes for support, simplified production and gave additional benefits of improved ride and handling.
Interestingly, the first car to be fitted with a radial tyre as standard was the 1948 Citroën 2CV, a car designed predominantly for a rural, agricultural population. It was reputedly suggested at the prototype stage that the 2CV should be able to carry a basket of eggs across a ploughed field without breaking any!
Nowadays, your John Deere 8R probably does the same job a lot better but, other design features aside, the 2CV’s comfort on the rough was in no small part due to the combination of flexibility and strength its radial tyres provided. The sidewall of radial tyres and the tyre tread work as two independent features, which allow them to absorb impact shock and bumps more effectively than a cross-ply tyre.
The flexibility of the sidewall enhances vehicle stability and provides maximum contact of the tyre with the road surface. This, in turn, leads to a more comfortable ride and allows the driver to work longer. These tyres are also stronger and can be operated at higher load capacities on heavy-duty machines such as tractors.
Advantages of radial tyres include:
- Good steering and better road contact
- Improved driving comfort thanks to flexible sidewalls
- Less heat generated in the tyre at high speeds
- Higher resistance against tread-related damage
- Lower fuel consumption through better transfer of energy from machine to road
Disadvantages of radial tyres include:
- The soft sidewalls are vulnerable when, for example, vehicles collide with curb stones
- Minor bumps in road are dealt with less effectively because radial tyres feature a steel belt
We hope this helps you understand the relative pros and cons of the two tyre types. Please do not hesitate to contact our expert advisors if you need further guidance!