Reinforced tyres: pros and cons

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

Do you know what a reinforced tyre is and how to decipher its designation? See when to use it and what are its pros and cons.

Reinforced tyres are not only for delivery vans

Reinforced tyres – what are they?

Each size of tyre has a specified tyre load index. This value is strictly defined by technical organisations that gather tyre manufacturers such as ETRTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation). Reinforced tyres are adapted to loads and pressures greater than those provided for the standard version of a given size. They have been designed for when the tyre’s use requires additional, higher than the standard load capacity.

Designation of reinforced tyres

Reinforced tyres are marked:

  • Extra Load (XL)

  • Reinforced (Reinf)

Less common labels include EXL, RFD and RF. The most popular mark at present is XL, which is replacing the other labelling found on products launched a few years ago.

Marking on reinforced tyres – Extra Load

How do reinforced tyres differ from standard tyres?

A tyre with the basic load capacity defined for its size is called an SL (Standard Load) tyre. The difference between a reinforced tyre (XL) and an SL tyre is that the XL tyre, meets the standard requirements for its size, whilst also offering the possibility of using a higher pressure, and consequently has an increased load capacity.

From the outside, reinforced and standard tyres look exactly the same – the differences are concealed within. A tyre’s load index is increased by modifying its face (the part under the tread) or heel. Such modification may involve using higher-strength materials, reinforcing the principal elements of the tyre, or using additional elements. Solutions used to increase the load index include applying an additional carcass layer.

An example designations of reinforced tyres – “Reinforced”.

What are the characteristics of reinforced tyres?

Tyres with the XL marking have a greater load capacity, because the design makes it possible for higher air pressure to be maintained within the tyre. The maximum permitted load on a wheel is always related to the pressure. If the vehicle is certified for use with reinforced tyres, information about the recommended pressure will be given in the manual.

The table below shows the pressure values used in the wheel and the corresponding values of the permissible load. The size 205/55 R16 was used as an example. By default, it has a load capacity index of 91, which allows 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 dependencies between pressure and load on size 205/55R16:

  205/55 R16 91 NL 205/55 R16 94 XL
Pressure (kPa) 150 160 170 180 190 200 210 220 230 240 250 260 270 280 290
Load capacity (kg) 410 430 450 475 495 515 535 555 575 595 615 615 635 650 670

Higher load capacity of the tyre increases durability to high speeds. Therefore, when there are several speed indexes in a given size and tyre model, the XL marking will be associated with the tyre of the highest speed rating.

Did you know?

C-type reinforced tyres are designed for delivery vehicles and are characterised by a high load index and a lower speed index. C-type tyres or reinforced delivery tyres can be used in cars with a maximum load of 3.5 tonnes.

XL Tyres – advantages

The advantages of reinforced tyres resulting from their increased load capacity are:

  • When normal and reinforced tyres are used in the same way, the latter will last longer. XL tyres can travel for a greater total distance without suffering internal damage, even when under intensive use. This applies as long as the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure is being adhered to..

  • Reinforcement of the tyre improves resistance to mechanical damage caused by, for example, driving at high speeds into the curb.

  • Better traction and adhesion properties. The tyre’s greater rigidity ensures stability, more effective transmission of the vehicle’s power to the road surface, better handling on corners, a faster reaction to turns and a greater resistance to additional loads and forces (acceleration, braking, centrifugal forces on turns).



Reinforced tyres for a passenger car? It is worth to first analyse all pros and cons...

XL Tyres – disadvantages

The most characteristic drawbacks to reinforced tyres are:

  • When normal and reinforced tyres are used in the same way, the latter will last longer. XL tyres can travel for a greater total distance without suffering internal damage, even when under intensive use. This applies as long as the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure is being adhered to.

  • Reinforcement of the tyre improves resistance to mechanical damage caused by, for example, driving at high speeds into the curb.

  • Better traction and adhesion properties. The tyre’s greater rigidity ensures stability, more effective transmission of the vehicle’s power to the road surface, better handling on corners, a faster reaction to turns and a greater resistance to additional loads and forces (acceleration, braking, centrifugal forces on turns).

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect tyre. All models are a designed and calculated compromise between various parameters and this still applies to reinforced tyres. The more important drawbacks to reinforced tyres are:

  • Higher noise levels. The tyre certification requirements permit reinforced tyres to produce 1 dB (decibel) more noise than normal tyres.

  • The use of reinforcement may involve increasing the thickness of the face (under the tread) and shoulder of the tyre. This, in turn, can cause increased rolling resistance and greater fuel consumption.

  • Reinforcement usually involves an increase in the tyre’s weight and mass, which again leads to higher fuel consumption.

  • Modifications may lead to a lowering of driving comfort, when compared to using normal tyres, although such differences will be minimal and rarely felt by the driver.

Reinforced tyres have both advantages and disadvantages.

XL Tyres – are they worth buying?

Any information concerning the need to use XL tyres will usually be found in the vehicle’s manual. This may often apply in the case of vans, large saloons, estate cars and delivery vehicles. Reinforced tyres are also often used in high-performance sports cars.

If the vehicle manufacturer has gained certification for the vehicle running on reinforced tyres, then it is unconditionally necessary to comply with that requirement. Buying tyres with a standard load index because they are cheaper than XL tyres is a breach of safety conditions and can have unpleasant consequences (such as insurance companies may refuse to pay in the case of an accident).

It is a good idea to buy reinforced tyres if:

  • You often travel with a significant load: in this case, using them may improve the lifetime of your tyres.

  • You have a vehicle with a powerful engine: XL tyres will then provide greater stability on corners and a better reaction to both acceleration and braking at high speed.


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