Wondering what a reinforced tyre is and how to decode its markings? Don’t worry! It’s easy! In this article, we discuss the conditions in which such tyres should be used as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Reinforced tyres can be used not only on commercial vehicles.Reinforced tyres can be used not only on commercial vehicles

The term “reinforced tyres” leads many motorists to immediately assume that they are more robust and resistant to punctures and other mechanical damage than standard tyre versions. This type of tyre obviously has a stronger structure, but it is manufactured primarily for increased load capacity, and often also for high speeds. So what are these so-called XL (reinforced) tyres? How do you recognise them? And what distinguishes them from standard models of the same size?

Reinforced tyres – what are they?

All tyres have defined speed and load indices for specific sizes. This way, drivers know whether a particular model can be used in their cars. The value of this parameter is strictly defined by technical organisations of tyre manufacturers, such as the ETRTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation).

Higher load capacity is a characteristic feature of reinforced tyres. What does that mean in practice? This type of tyre is designed for loads and pressures higher than those specified for the standard version of the size in question. They are designed for conditions where additional load capacity above the standard is required. 

Want to know more about the load index? Read the following article: Load index – what is it, and how to choose the right one?

The structure of reinforced tyres

During the production of reinforced (XL) tyres, manufacturers apply additional layers of rubber and carcass, and sometimes they also use a more robust belt. This translates into more weight but better durability and load capacity compared to standard models.

But what do load capacity and durability have in common? The permissible maximum load per wheel is always related to the number of bars in the tyre, and the more air the tyres can absorb, the stronger their design. If your vehicle is homologated for reinforced tyres, information on the recommended pressure will be stated in the log book.

In order to illustrate this relationship, the following table shows tyre pressures and their corresponding permissible loads. The size 205/55 R16 was chosen as an example. The standard load index for this size is 91, allowing a maximum load of 615 kg per wheel. XL versions of this size usually have an index of 94, which increases the maximum load per wheel to 670 kg.

Table of illustrative pressure-load relationships using the 205/55R16 size as an example
Pressure (kPa)150160170180190200210220230240250
Load capacity  (kg)410430450475495515535555575595615

It is worth bearing in mind that usually (with the exception of C tyres designed for commercial vehicles) a higher load capacity of the tyre also means better performance at high speeds. Imagine, then, that for a given model in a given size, several speed ratings are present. What does the XL on the tyre signify in this situation? It symbolises the version with the highest load and speed indices.

More about tyre pressure: What is the correct tyre pressure?

XL tyres – advantages

Advantages of reinforced tyres due to their increased load capacity:

  • With the same use of regular and reinforced tyres, the durability of the latter will be better. XL tyres make it possible to drive more kilometres without internal damage from use, even under heavy use. This is conditioned upon complying with the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • The tyre’s reinforcement increases its resistance to mechanical damage caused by driver errors, such as when hitting a kerb.
  • Improved traction and grip properties of tyres. Greater rigidity ensures stability, appropriate cornering behaviour, faster steering response, more efficient transmission of vehicle power to the road, and increased resistance to stress (acceleration, braking, centrifugal forces in corners).

Reinforced tyres for a car? You should first consider all the pros and cons.Reinforced tyres for a car? You should first consider all the pros and cons.

Disadvantages of XL tyres

The main disadvantages of reinforced tyres are:

  • Higher noise level. The requirements for approval of reinforced tyres allow for a noise level that is 1 dB louder than that of standard versions.
  • The reinforcements used may involve an increase in thickness in the crown area (under the tread) and in the shoulder area of the tyre, which in turn may lead to an increase in rolling resistance and thus in fuel consumption.
  • A robust construction usually translates into increased tyre weight, which also contributes to higher fuel consumption.
  • Modifications in relation to standard tyres may also have an impact on driving comfort, but the changes will be minute and are unlikely to be felt by the driver.

Markings of reinforced tyres

To make it easier for drivers to distinguish reinforced tyres from classic versions, manufacturers use special markings:

  • Extra Load (XL)
  • Reinforced (Reinf)
  • EXL
  • RFD
  • RF
  • C (for commercial vehicles)

Today, the XL tyre marking is the most popular, and it replaces other abbreviations in the tyre industry introduced years ago. The unification of the symbols makes it much easier to recognise the type of tyre. The marking is used, among others, by Continental in the WinterContact TS 860 S model.

What are the differences between reinforced and standard tyres?

It is not difficult to see that, except for the markings, XL and standard tyres look virtually identical on the outside. The differences, however, are concealed inside. An increase in the load index of the tyre is achieved by modifying the crown (the part of the tyre under the tread) or the bead. This is done by using stronger materials, strengthening the basic components, or using additional elements. One solution used to increase the load-bearing index, for example, is to use an extra layer of carcass.

Reinforced tyres versus Run Flat tyres

It is worth knowing that the XL reinforcement in tyres refers to something completely different from Run on Flat technology. Despite their robust design, reinforced tyres will not allow you to ride after a puncture– unlike the latter – as they lack a special stiffening insert. In the event of damage, you should proceed in the same way as with ordinary tyres with the SL (Standard Load) marking.

Now you know what XL tyres are. What does Run-Flat mean, and how do such tyres work? You can learn about it here: Run-flat tyres – what are they and are they worth the money?

XL tyres – are they worth going for?

Information about the obligation to use tyres with the XL marking can usually be found in the vehicle’s handbook. This can apply to vans, estate cars, large sedans, and commercial vehicles. Reinforced tyres are also often used on high-performance sports cars.

If the manufacturer of our vehicle has homologated XL models for it, you should strictly comply with this. Buying tyres with a standard load capacity for the sake of a lower price violates safety conditions and can have unpleasant or even dangerous consequences. In extreme cases, such neglect can lead to a collision or serious accident. It is also worth knowing that if you have fitted ordinary SL tyres despite the necessity to use XL tyres, the insurance company may refuse to pay the claim.

Reinforced tyres are worth buying when:

  • you regularly drive with a heavy load – their use can have a positive effect on the service life of other car parts,
  • you have a car with a powerful engine – you will gain better stability in corners and better response to acceleration and braking at high speeds.