How to Choose the Best Trailer TiresMaddy Scheinost
How to Choose the Best Trailer Tires
It’s a mistake many folks make—not paying enough attention to the trailer tires. After all, without a safe, reliable trailer, you couldn’t take your “toys” to the lake cabin, you couldn’t tow your travel trailer, RV trailer, camper trailer or teardrop camper to your sleeping site, and you might even have to carry your tools to the worksite by hand. Get the idea? There’s no upside to neglecting your trailer tires, and life will be sweeter, with fewer hassles, if you’re using the best trailer tires for you. That’s why the tire experts here at Treadworld have put together a few tips to help you make your best selection.
In sourcing the perfect tire for your trailer, the tire’s design, load range, size and your trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) should all be taken into consideration.
Trailer Tires Are Different than Passenger Tires
The idea that trailer tires are designed differently than the tires on your car or truck may not have been top of mind, but it probably doesn’t surprise you. After all, passenger tires are designed to help you steer, and provide comfort, ride quality and the traction needed for interacting with the road—turning, braking and accelerating—so they have a more flexible side wall, with a wider, patterned tread. Trailer tires are designed to be pulled, so the design focus is more on carrying capacity and stability, with a low rolling resistance and a narrower, evenly wearing tread. They are designed with a stiffer sidewall that can carry the load and help prevent swaying, plus they are designed to withstand the higher temperatures that accompany heavy loads. DO NOT put passenger tires—or even light truck (LT) tires—on your trailer except in rare cases. To do so is simply asking for a blow-out that leaves you on the side of the road. Or worse.
What is an ST Trailer Tire?
Special Trailer, or ST, tires are made specifically for use on travel trailers and other trailers, offering higher inflation pressure and stiffer sidewalls that can take higher pressure coming directly down on them. They’re designed to carry heavier loads, typically with narrower tread patterns designed for forward motion and traction, not longevity, in mind. The fact is, you’ll probably want to replace your trailer tires before the tread wears out because of oxidation. Oxidation is caused by exposure to high heat caused by carrying your load down the road, and to a lesser extent, to sun and air. It leads to the rubber in the tire drying out and becoming stiffer leading to cracks. Trailer tire treads will wear irregularly if used on the tow vehicle, leading to something bad happening in short order.
Trailer Tires Come in Bias Ply and Radial Ply
Trailer tires are constructed in one of two ways…bias ply or radial ply. There’s no “best” between the two, there’s only “best for the job.” The difference between the two lies in the belt construction—with bias ply tires, the ply cords (typically a combination of polyester and steel) extend diagonally from bead to bead. They cross the tire at a 32-degree angle to the direction of travel with successive plies laid in a crisscross pattern. With radial tires, these cords run at a 90-degree angle, or across the tire, to the direction of travel.
What that all means is that, while both constructions retain the same functionality, how they roll down the road is different. Radial ply tires typically are more flexible, leading to better traction, stability, and treadwear. They also tend to run cooler, which can provide an advantage in longevity. But they are not great in harsh environments. Bias ply tires tend to have stiffer sidewalls, which makes them superior when it comes to use in agriculture, on country and unpaved roads, at slow speeds and over rough terrain. They also tend to be cheaper. Solving the bias vs. radial question comes down to how the tires will be used.
Pay Attention to the Load Ratings
The trailer tire’s load range is how much the tire can carry. Load ratings are a comparative value of a tires strength and are listed on the tire (letters B, C, D, E, etc.), which will give you information on how much weight the tire can carry. The higher the load rating, the more the tire can carry. This measurement is actually an offshoot of an older measurement known as ply ratings, which was relevant when load-carrying capacity was determined by plies. The number of plies stopped being a good indicator of tire strength because of advances in tire manufacturing. Today’s tire construction uses fewer, stronger plies—therefore, load range defines the tire’s toughness and load capacity, rather than specific information about its composition. For example, a C Load Range specifies that a tire is equivalent to a 6-ply construction tire. This tire is not actually built with 6 plies, but rather one or two plies of equivalent strength.
The Right Trailer Tire Depends on Your Trailer’s GVWR
To determine the load rating, you also need to know the GVWR of your trailer—the gross vehicle weight rating, which includes the static weight of the trailer plus the maximum weight of cargo it can carry. For example, a trailer with a GVWR of 8,000 pounds, that itself weighs 3,000 pounds, can safely carry 5,000 pounds of cargo. In this example, you would want tires with a 2,000-pound load rating—though it’s always a good idea to have a little insurance.
Also Check the Tire’s Speed Rating
Speed is a huge consideration with trailer tires because exceeding the speed rating can cause the tire to heat up and fail easier and quicker. Tires speed ratings are expressed in letters. J, for instance is used for tires rated up to 62 miles per hour. M, indicates a speed rating of 81 mph. Most trailer tires, unless otherwise noted, are rated at 65 miles per hour as their max speed.
Look for Fresh Trailer Tires
Though it doesn’t seem like something you should have to consider when selecting the trailer tires you need, age is a factor because tires can begin to degrade if they spend time sitting on a shelf, even if they haven’t been on the road. Typically, each tire manufacturer has a different recommendation on the service life of a particular type of tire, but statistics suggest the average life of a trailer tire is about five years under normal use and maintenance conditions, and that tire replacement should be considered after three years—without regard to tread wear (as mentioned above.) There’s an easy way to tell how old your trailer tires are—you can find it right on the sidewall.
When You Need Trailer Tires, Count on Treadworld
When you’re looking for new trailer tires, or a spare trailer tire, count on us here at Treadworld to provide you with the high-performing, long-lasting trailer tires you want, in a wide range of styles and a huge selection of sizes. All our RubberMaster Trailer Tires are manufactured to strict tolerances from top rubber compounds, then triple-tested for quality, balance and uniformity before being X-rayed to be sure they’re perfect. Easy ordering, fast shipping plus your satisfaction is guaranteed with our no-hassle Ultimate Advantage Warranty. Don’t hesitate to contact our tire experts via live chat or email with any questions you may have, and to get the ideal trailer tires —or the perfect ATV tires, UTV tires, lawn and garden tires, and many others—from our extensive selection.