Trailer Tires vs. Truck Tires
When purchasing tires for your trailer, you may notice that they are the same size as those for your passenger car or a truck. You may even be tempted to use your vehicle's spare tire on your trailer. That's not a good idea. That's because, to respond to various stresses, trailer tires, truck tires, and passenger car tires have distinct structures.
Putting a trailer tire on your vehicle or a car tire on your trailer might result in disaster. Passenger vehicles use their tires to interact with the road. Through accelerating and braking, the tires transfer power back and forth. They change shape in reaction to twists, ensuring that they maintain the greatest grip possible. They have a longer tread life and are often more durable as compared to trailer tires.
Trailer tires are designed with load-bearing capabilities and towing in mind. They feature stronger sidewalls and place less emphasis on tread life. There are two different styles of trailer tire construction, both of which are intended to withstand the forces of towing - not to steer and not to transfer power to the road.
Radial tires are the most common type of passenger vehicle (P) and light truck (LT) tire. These tires are not designed for the same uses as trailer tires. This might be for weight carrying capability, long-distance driving, or a mix of both, depending on the classification.
However, no matter what design you choose, the basic structure is the same. During their construction, three important considerations should be kept in mind:
Acceleration: When accelerating, a car tire must provide traction as well as withstand the stresses imposed by the acceleration.
Braking: When braking, the automobile tire must withstand any and all external forces and bring the vehicle to a halt.
Turning Grip: When a car tire takes a turn, the tread and overall structure bend to give improved grip.
When it comes to constructing an automobile tire, these three characteristics are crucial. The materials and structure are tailored to the demands of the vehicle. They're even programmed to react to weather conditions to meet these requirements. These tires may have tread life capabilities of up to 80,000 miles with regular care. It's all too easy to throw them on a trailer.
On the other hand, there are trailer tires. Trailer (ST) tires are available in either radial ply or bias, each with its own set of benefits. They are, however, suited for towing in general. The material used to produce trailer tires' sidewalls is thicker than in passenger tires. Because trailer tires aren't designed to withstand fast bends, their tread is concentrated in the center of the tire to assist with large loads.
Radial trailer tires are similar in construction to automobile tires and have a longer tread life, making them excellent for lengthy hauling. Bias-ply trailer tires have a lower tread life but are built differently for greater loads.
LT tires have been designed for those vehicles that experience stress when carrying high loads, such as pickup trucks, commercial vans, or larger SUVs. They're great for putting on a tow truck because of their stability. Some camper manufacturers, notably Airstream, have provided LT tires in recent years. Some trailer manufacturers have made LTs mandatory.
The differences between ST and LT tires are significant. Truck tires have a greater peak speed, usually up to 100 mph or 106 mph. At the same time, you might not need a trailer to tow at 75mph. However, a tire with a greater peak speed rating typically offers better resistance to heat buildup. In case you didn't know, heat is a tire's worst enemy.
The maximum inflation pressure is another distinction. The maximum pressure of an LT tire is likely to be lower than that of a similar-sized ST tire. Any trailer tire pressure label would not apply to LT tires. If you're going with LTs, make sure to inflate them to the highest pressure shown on the tire’s sidewall. Don't over-inflate or under-inflate your trailer, and don't overburden it.
Buying a tire with a greater load range can end up stiffening the sidewall; therefore, on heavier trailers, D, E, or F load ranges on an LT tire is always recommended. The sidewall becomes stronger as the letter identification progresses across the alphabet. The majority of passenger tires have a Load Range B rating, whereas both trucks and trailer tires have a greater rating.
The majority of tires feature double-ply cord sides made from polyester, with some having three-ply sidewalls. Plies are rubber sheets that include fabric that has been twisted into strands. The plies might be designed for lower duty, such as on a vehicle, or for greater loads, for instance, on trucks, depending on their weight and thickness. Several years later, the amount of plies on tires for trucks might climb to ten or even twelve. Today's load range letters are meant to suggest stiffness equivalent to numerous plies rather than the actual amount of plies.
Are Standard Tires a Good Choice?
Except for a few pop-ups or compacts with 13-inch wheels, all new trailers in the United States are equipped with radials. Your camper can have bias-ply tires, and your tow vehicle can have radials, but you can't interchange radial and bias tires on a trailer. This is mainly because while bias plies are less expensive, they last less time and get less mileage.
As an alternative, some manufacturers provide superior tires. Basic ST tires are commonly found on light travel trailers. They'll have enough load capacity for the loaded trailer, but they'll probably only go 65 mph. However, M-rated tires are better than ST tires (81mph).
STs with a larger D or E load range can be used to replace the normal tires. That would, at the very least, enhance the heat resistance of your trailer tires, which is a primary reason for a failing tire.
The majority of trailer tires, especially the less expensive ones, are produced in China. Shop with caution. If you've ever heard the term "China bombs," it refers to low-cost Chinese trailer tires that frequently blow up. Chinese-built high-performance passenger tires, including LT tires, suffered the same issue for a while. While some tires made in China are of low quality, others are of higher quality—and cost more. Many American brands are also manufactured in China. Not only should you read the reviews, but you should also read the press releases.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding