A failure analysis, based on fracture mechanics, may be useful for predicting the lifetime of a cord‐reinforced rubber composite pneumatic tire. This paper presents a new three‐dimensional Finite Element (FE) local model to calculate the energy release rate at the belt edge region. The new local model uses a three‐dimensional (3D) Finite Element Modeling (FEM) fracture analysis based on a steady‐state rolling assumption, in conjunction with a global‐local technique in ABAQUS. Within the local model, a J‐integral variation study is performed in the crack region. This consists of a prediction of the crack propagation direction and a mesh density analysis of the crack model. Furthermore, the study is used to determine the crack growth rate analysis. This study assumes that a flaw exists inside the tire, in the local model, due to a mechanical inhomogeneity introduced in the manufacturing of the tire. This paper also considers how different driving conditions, such as free‐rolling, braking and traction, contribute to the detrimental effects of belt separation in tire failure.