What are Reinforced Car Tyres?

Reinforced tyres are usually marked “XL” or “Extra Load”. They are often similar in price to standard versions of the same tyre, so some people wonder what the differences are.

There are many ingredients in a modern tyre and all of them are “reinforced” in one way or another. Run-flats are reinforced to keep their shape if they lose pressure, but should never be confused with XL tyres designed to withstand heavier loads. That extra load-bearing capacity of XL tyres is intended for heavy vehicles, ordinary vehicles carrying a lot of weight (whether in the cab or a trailer), and performance cars that exert more torque on the tyres while cornering or braking at speed.
Like ordinary tyres, an XL tyre should be inflated to a higher pressure to cope with a higher load. So XL tyres are built largely to tolerate higher inflation.

Identifying an XL tyre

Seeing an “XL” printed into the sidewall is a bit of a giveaway, but you might also see just “extra load” or “reinf”, “EXL”, “RFD” or “RF”. However more specific details are printed on most tyres.
Every tyre, not just XL variants, has a specified load tolerance. It is often printed alongside other code letters telling you the tyre size and maximum speed. Often (but not always) it may be followed by the less-specific guidance “XL” or an “NL” (for “normal”). For example, in “225/55 R16 104V XL” the “104” is the load index.
Like the speed rating, this load index is a code and you will probably need to look it up. Your owner’s manual is the best place to start, as it will give you a clear indication as to the vehicle's empty weight and the appropriate tyre inflations under a range of loads. Our tyre professionals will happily answer all questions and you can easily book a free vehicle check online.
Other than the markings, you can’t identify an XL tyre just by looking at it. XL tyres are adapted in a variety of ways, including modifications to the interior bracing, an additional layer of carcass or by adding ingredients to the rubber, but none are visible.

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The pros and cons of XL tyres

The argument against XL tyres is that they’re heavier and have higher rolling resistance. As a result, some are noisier and burn through more fuel. You might feel more road vibration. However, this can be offset by choosing a smaller rim with a wider sidewall, or by avoiding summer tyres that are firmer to begin with. Many all-season and winter tyres are also XL, including the Falken Euroall Season AS210 and Falken Eurowinter HS01. Road vibration is less significant in a high seated SUV than a low slung sportscar, so also consider summer tyres such as the Falken Azenis FK510.
You don’t have to be heavy to drive on XL tyres. Many ordinary drivers believe their strengths outweigh their disadvantages. They are less prone to damage if you collide with a kerb and often last longer. Their greater rigidity means they respond more efficiently to the transmission and more sharply to your steering, giving improved cornering control. If you’re tempted to fit XL tyres, why not consult with the tyre professionals at any Protyre garage.

About the author

Alistair Crumley
Alistair has 20 years’ experience in the motor industry and has previously worked for automotive oil and tyre ...
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