Steel belted tires, also known more commonly as radial tires or steel belted radial tires, have been the technology standard in tire construction since the mid 1970s. The tire is featured by its construction of a steel wire mesh between the tread and the body ply of a tire. In many cases, these tires may have more than one layer of steel belts.
Tires with steel belts have a number of advantages over tires without the technology, the main one being durability. The belts allow the tire to be used over more miles, bringing greater tire life for the end user of the product. They may also be harder to damage in some ways than traditional tires.
The durability of steel belted tires is achieved mainly from the way the steel belts work to increase the rigidity of the tread. This helps in a number of ways. First, it spreads the load over a greater surface. Second, and somewhat related to the first issue, is that it also helps keep the tire cooler, because there is not as much friction being created on certain areas of the tire. The cooler the tire, the less opportunity there is for the rubber to break down over time, thus increasing its overall life.
However, steel belted tires also have some disadvantages over their traditional counterparts. First, the tires are generally considered to have a rougher ride than tires without steel belts. This effect, however, has been largely counteracted by improvements in vehicle design, and especially the shock and strut system. In nearly all cases, the ride in a modern vehicle seems smoother than a ride in a 1970s vehicle, no matter what tires are on the modern vehicle. The other disadvantage is cost. The traditional tires are much cheaper to produce, and therefore much less expensive for the consumer. The additional rigidity in the tread also makes it harder to tell when the tire is running low on air, which could affect fuel mileage.
However, in the vast majority of cases, steel belted tires have more positives than they do negatives. For example, the higher cost may be balanced out by the fact the life of the tire is greater, meaning not as many will be bought over the life of the vehicle. This explains why these tires have quickly become a standard in an industry that, many times, finds it hard to agree on any sort of standards.