There are two distinct types of construction for tyres--
bias ply and radial ply. The construction method affects the durability, ride and fuel economy of the tyres. In India Radial tyres are the most common on cars and trucks are
still largely on Bias Tyres.
Bias Type Construction
Tyres have belts called plies that give a tyre its shape. Plies may be the layers of polyester, fiberglass or steel cords embedded in the rubber of a tyre.
A bias-ply tyre has the layered belts running at angles to each other and to the body of the tyre.
Radial Type Construction
Radial-ply tyres have the belts at a 90-degree angle to the tyre, and the belts overlap rather than cross each other. Radial tyres have another belt, usually of steel cord, running around the tyre under the tread.
Radial construction allows the sidewall of the tyre to flex under loads without affecting the contact of the tread with the road.
Advantages of Radial Tyres
Michelin introduced and patented the radial tyre in 1946. Since then, radial type construction has been recognized in the world for its advantages over the bias tyres. There are still applications where bias tyres are suitable, but radials offer benefits that bias tyres cannot. These benefits make radials a preferred choice for the most.
The advantages of a radial tyre are due, in part; to the way the tyre is constructed. Coated steel cables run from bead to bead perpendicular to the circumferential center line of the tyre. Steel belts are then laid over the radial plies under the tread of the tyre. This forms a two-part construction in which the sidewalls are a separate unit from the tread structure.
The strength of the multi-layers of steel belts makes the tread resistant to punctures. The two-part type construction of the tyre structure allows the sidewalls to flex independently from the tread. This allows the tread to stay in contact with the road surface even while the sidewalls flex under a load or while cornering. This greatly reduces the chance of foreign objects puncturing the sidewalls since the sidewall doesn't "roll over" to present itself to the road surface.
The same construction elements that make the radial tyre puncture resistant also give it better traction than bias ply tyres. The radial's tread stays in contact with the road surface even under a load. A bias ply tyre will distort its tread under a load and so it reduces the amount of tread area that is in contact with the road surface.
The steel cables in radial tyres act as a heat sink to neutral the affect of heat. This keeps the tyre running at a cooler temperature than an equivalent-sized bias tyre. The plies of a bias tyre hold heat and so are more prone to blowouts when the tyre heats up during sustained highway driving.
The radial tyre--due to its two-part construction--offers a quieter, smoother ride than the bias tyre. It is also more fuel efficient since it offers less resistance to the road surface. This is a term referred to as "rolling resistance." Overall, radial tyres have longer life compared with bias tyres under similar workloads and environments.
On the basis of purpose
There are several different types of tyre that you can buy for your car. What you choose depends on how you use your car for, where you live, how you like the ride of your car and a variety of other factors. The different classifications are as follows, and some representative examples are shown in the image on the left.
Performance tyres or summer tyres
Performance tyres are designed for faster cars or for people who prefer to drive harder than the average consumer. They typically put performance and grip ahead of longevity by using a softer rubber compound. Tread block design is normally biased towards outright grip rather than the ability to pump water out of the way on a wet road. The extreme example of performance tyres are "slicks" used in motor racing, so-called because they have no tread at all.
All-round or all-season tyres
These tyres are what you'll typically find on every production car that comes out of a factory. They're designed to be a compromise between grip, performance, longevity, and noise and wet-weather safety. For increased tyre life, they are made with a harder rubber compound, which sacrifices outright grip and cornering performance. For the majority of the world's drivers, this isn't an issue. The tread block design is normally a compromise between quiet running and water dispersion - the tyre should not be too noisy in normal use but should work fairly well in downpours and on wet roads.
Rather than using an even harder rubber compound than all-season tyres, wet weather tyres actually use a softer compound than performance tyres. The rubber needs to heat up quicker in cold or wet conditions and needs to have as much mechanical grip as possible. They'll normally also has a lot more sipping to try to disperse water from the contact patch.
Snow mud or ice: special winter tyres
Winter tyres come at the other end of the spectrum to performance tyres, obviously. They're designed to work well in wintery conditions with snow and ice on the roads. Winter tyres typically have larger and thus nosier tread block patterns. In extreme climates, true snow tyres have tiny metal studs fabricated into the tread for biting into the snow and ice. The downside of this is that they are incredibly noisy on dry roads and wear out both the tyre and the road surface extremely quickly if driven in the dry. Mud snow tyres typically either have 'M S' stamped on the tyre sidewall. Snow Ice tyres have a snowflake symbol.
All-terrain tyres are typically used on SUVs and light trucks. They are larger tyres with stiffer sidewalls and bigger tread block patterns. The larger tread block means the tyres are very noisy on normal roads but grip loose sand and dirt very well when you take the car or truck off-road. As well as the noise, the larger tread block pattern means less tyre surface in contact with the road. The rubber compound used in these tyres is normally middle-of-the-road - neither soft nor hard.
At the extreme end of the all-terrain tyre classification are mud tyres. These have massive, super-chunky tread blocks and really shouldn't ever be driven anywhere other than loose mud and dirt. The tread sometimes doesn't even come in blocks any more but looks more like paddles built in to the tyre carcass.
Tyre type on the basis of tread pattern
Symmetric tread design can be commonly seen on the tyres of many cars. As their name itself indicates, symmetrical pattern refers to those treads which feature similar continuous design across the tread on either sides of tyre.
Tyres with this type of pattern are normally non-directional, meaning that they can be fitted without worrying about a specific rotational direction.
Exactly opposite to the symmetric tread pattern - asymmetric tyre treads feature dissimilar designs on both the sides. This discrepancy in their design allows better grip on flat out roads and also while making turns.
Generally, the outer area of such tyres has broad design where as the inner carries smaller independent tread blocks, as seen on symmetric design
The unidirectional (also known as directional) tread patterns are made to perform well when fitted on a specified direction, this direction is generally marked with help of an arrow on the sidewalls.
This type of tyres have 'V' shaped tread design which helps increasing aquaplaning resistance when the vehicle is running on high speeds, by efficiently cutting it through this unique pattern.