Finite elements developed in cylindrical coordinates are presented for three‐dimensional analysis of tires. In contrast to elements formulated in Cartesian coordinates, these elements allow the exact representation of circular shapes. The exact modeling of circular geometries can provide better finite element predictions and reduce the number of elements needed around the tire circumference. Numerical results are presented for the application of this formulation to the analysis of a radial automobile tire subjected to rim mounting, nonconservative inflation pressure, and rigid pavement contact. The predictions of the foregoing finite elements are compared to experimental data and to predictions of a commercial code using finite elements developed in Cartesian coordinates. The comparisons demonstrate the accuracy and the advantages of the cylindrical coordinate formulation for the three‐dimensional finite element analysis of tires.