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Radial Tires vs. Bias-Ply Tires

When choosing the right agricultural and tractor tires for your machinery, you may find yourself choosing between radial tires and bias-ply tires. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about these types of agricultural tires so you can make an informed decision for your agricultural work.

Firestone Minute - Bias vs Radial

What is a Radial Tire?

A radial tire is a tire that the body plies run radially across the tire, perpendicular to the circumference of the tire. That allows the tire to flex more and permits a bigger footprint.

Radial tires have reigned supreme in agricultural work for almost 50 years, after emerging in the 1970s and besting the bias-ply tire design. These are almost always the ideal solution for large, heavyweight tractors and farm equipment, and agricultural users can get more work done faster in the field.

Benefits of Radial Tires

1. Better Comfort and Control

The radial farm tire design offers a bigger footprint and is designed to provide a smoother ride on different surfaces.

2. Better Traction

The more pliable radial tire construction increases contact area and will allow the tire to exert greater traction. It distributes weight more evenly and it’s more adept at handling off-road or wet road surface conditions.

3. Better Fuel Economy

Radial tires have lower rolling resistance - it takes less effort for the tires to roll over the terrain - so they build up less heat and achieve greater fuel economy. Radial tires with AD2 technology can carry even more load at lower inflation pressure.

4. Run Cooler

Again, radial tires better dissipate and manage their heat when in use. This helps the tires run cooler, improving tread life, and lengthening the overall lifespan of the tire.

5. Less Soil Compaction

Radial tires have a larger footprint that distributes weight more evenly over large areas.  They can also operate at lower inflation pressures than their bias counterparts. Agricultural users can achieve less soil compaction and greater crop yields with this design by managing inflation pressures to match the load to the required inflation pressure.

6. Longer Lasting & Easier Repairs

Agricultural tires are a long-term investment. Radial tires achieve longer and more even tread wear and are more resistant to cuts and punctures in the tread making repairs less often and sometimes designed to resist cuts and punctures in the tread. Combine that durability with better heat management, and this tips the scales for the radial tire.

Drawbacks of Radial Tires

There are few drawbacks of radial tires relative to their bias-ply counterparts. The cost of radial is sometimes higher leading to a larger starting investment and there may be certain use cases where radial isn’t the best for the terrain or desired usage.

Bias-Ply Tires

Unlike the radial tire, bias-ply tires are engineered with a crisscross pattern of overlapping body plies, typically at 45-degree opposing angles. Bias tire construction allows the sidewalls to be more rigid and may provide more stability in extreme hill side applications.

Benefits of Bias Tires

While radial tires have set the industry standard for nearly 50 years and out-perform bias tires in most cases, the bias-ply tire design does still have a few advantages in select situations.

First, the bias tire construction is simpler than the radial, and so it tends to cost a little less. The bias tire design can be a cost-effective option for certain older secondary farm equipment. Second, the bias-ply tire design tends to have a stiffer sidewall that resists punctures, so if your work poses high risk for sidewall punctures this may be the tire for you. They can be beneficial for stability on particularly rough terrain at low speeds, like forestry and non-tillage work.

Drawbacks of Bias Tires

Bias tires may provide a lower upfront cost, but they have a faster wear rate and other drawbacks for common farming applications. They are designed to have less flexibility than radial which can lead to increased wheel slippage, reduced traction and provide a smaller footprint resulting in additional compaction.

Bias vs. Radial Tires Comparison

Both tires can provide function and value based on individual application needs. Radial has become the standard in modern day agriculture but there may be times a bias is what your equipment needs. It is not a competition but rather understanding when and where to use each type of tire.


To summarize the difference between radial and bias-ply agricultural tires, here is a helpful table about the construction, benefits, drawbacks, and best uses for each type.




Longer Tread Wear

·       Slower wear rate and even wear profile due to even footprint pressures and a square footprint

·       Circular footprint that results in wearing out faster

Reduced Soil Compaction

·       Deflects more resulting in a longer footprint and reduced social compaction

·       Doesn't provide as long of a footprint as Radial resulting in potentially more soil compaction

Better Comfort on Road

·       Flexible sidewalls allow the tire to flex and absorb shock for a smoother ride

·       Stiffer tire which may not absorb shock as well

·       Provides better stability on extreme side hills and rough terrain at low speeds

Increased Traction

·       Increased traction to avoid slippage

·       May not provide as much traction on all terrains


·       Less slippage contributes to less fuel usage and more productivity in the field

·       More traction to cover more acres for less working time in the field

·       Greater sidewall puncture resistance in extreme operating conditions for equipment up-time


·       Higher entry cost but provides a lower cost per operational hour over the life of the tire

·       Designed for longer tread life

·       Lower upfront cost

·       Generally 8-10% less than Radial

Best for…

·       All-terrain

·       All speeds

·       Larger, heavier equipment

·       Higher crop yields

·       Newer Equipment

·       Very rough terrain

·       Slow speeds

·       Smaller, lighter weight equipment

·       Older equipment

Firestone Recommends Radial Tires

While some specific agricultural needs and equipment may call for the lower-cost bias tire option, in nearly all cases, we recommend radial tires for their longer life, smoother ride, and better outcomes.

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