Reinforced tyres - advantages and disadvantages

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

What are reinforced tyres? Many drivers use them for their various benefits, but they also have their own drawbacks as well. Here, we will look at the various advantages and disadvantages to reinforced tyres, as well as under which circumstances they are worth purchasing.

What Are Reinforced Tyres?

Every size of car tyre has a specified tyre load index. This value is strictly defined by tyre manufacturer’s organisations such as ETRTO (the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation). Reinforced tyres define models which are adapted to withstand loads and pressures greater than those laid down for standard tyres of a given size. They are designed to be used in scenarios that require an additional, larger load capacity over and above the standard tyre level.

How Are Reinforced Tyres Labelled?

Similar to the situation with run-flat tyres there is no one set tyre marking for reinforced products, but reinforced tyres typically carry the marking “Reinf” or “XL” or “Extra Load”. Less common designations also include “EXL”, “RFD” and “RF”. Of these possible varieties, the most popular is “XL” and it is quickly replacing the other designations found on products launched a few years ago. For now, however, many of these alternative labels can still be found.

markings of reinforced tyres – Extra Load

How Do Reinforced Tyres Differ From Standard Tyres?

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

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 principle car tyre elements, or using additional elements completely. A common solution used to increase the load index, for example, is to apply an additional carcass layer.

From the outside, reinforced and standard tyres look exactly the same, as all the differences are concealed within the tyre. For a driver, the only visible difference will be the Extra Load or Reinforced markings on the side of the tyre.

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

The table below gives values of tyre pressure and the corresponding values of the permitted load. Size 205/55 R16 tyres have been chosen - these have a standard index value of 91, which permits a maximum load of 615 kg per wheel. XL versions of the same of tyre usually have an index of 94, increasing the maximum load, per wheel, to 670 kg. That’s an overall difference of 55 kg per wheel. 

Table of pressures and equivalent loads, using the example of size 205/55 R16 tyres:

  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

A higher tyre load capacity increases the resistance to high speeds. Therefore, when a given size and model of tyre with several speed indexes are given, the XL tyre will be associated with the highest speed index. 

What Benefits Do Reinforced Tyres Bring?

The advantages of reinforced tyres results from their increased load capacity. This includes:

  • 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 so long as the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure is being adhered to.
  • Resistance to mechanical damage caused, for example, by driving at high speeds into the kerb.
  • 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. 

What Are The Disadvantages Of Reinforced Tyres?

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 the 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.

Is It Worth Buying Reinforced Tyres?

First of all, any information concerning the need to use XL tyres will usually be found in the vehicle’s manual. This will detail what reinforced tyres can be used, giving a recommended pressure value.

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. Insurance companies, for example, may refuse to put in the case of an accident.

It is also a good idea to purchase reinforced tyres if:

  • You often travel with a significant load. In this case, using XL tyres 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.

As you can see, there are a number of benefits to reinforced tyres yet, considering their drawbacks, there are only a few, specific circumstances where they are beneficial. Most drivers will prefer using standard car tyres, but you should be aware of your vehicle’s specific requirements as well.


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