The truth about trailer tires

By: Discount Tire

trailer sitting on a lake

While there are specialized tires for almost every vehicle type, trailer tires tend to get overlooked.

But why?

In our mind, trailer tires deserve the same love and attention. Whether your vehicle is hooked up to an RV or you’re hauling a utility trailer, camper or boat, you should equip a set of the right trailer tires will keep you and your cargo safe on the road.

Why do I need trailer tires?

Typical automobile tires are developed with features like flexible sidewalls and long-lasting tread designs. This is because your tires accompany the steering and braking systems on your car and transmit power from its drivetrain to the road.

Trailer tires differ in that they don’t provide the power from or steer your car. They are also designed to dissipate heat because of the weight they carry, which can be much more than a standard passenger tire.

The most common trailer tire type is known as special tire (ST). These typically have reinforced sidewalls to keep your rig in place and have a higher load capacity when compared to light truck or passenger tires. They are also suited for trailer wheels and have thinner treads to help reduce any negative impact to your vehicle’s fuel economy when towing.

Safety and Maintenance

Using non-trailer tires on your trailer is also a safety hazard. But like any tire, you also need to maintain and properly care for your trailer tires.

Here are tips on how to get the most out of your trailer tires:

Maintain correct air pressure
  • Your trailer tires need to be properly inflated in order to achieve their full load carrying capacity. Check out our guide on how to avoid improper inflation.
  • Do frequent air pressure checks and make sure your trailer tires are in the recommended PSI range. Also, be sure to double-check your air pressure when your trailer tires are cold or have not been driven on.
Know your load carrying capacity
  • Make sure all tires are the same size, brand and model to ensure proper weight distribution. All tires must have the correct carrying capacity to either meet or exceed the weight of the trailer and its contents.
  • If trailer tires need to be replaced, you have to do so equally in order to maintain proper weight distribution. For example, if a tire fails on the left side, the right side must also be replaced because it was overloaded and had to carry the full weight of the trailer/load. In most cases, this tire’s internal structure will break down within seconds of being overloaded due to instant heat buildup.
Service life
  • We recommend replacing your trailer tires every 3-4 years regardless of their treadwear and appearance. Trailer tires generally lose one-third of their strength after three years of use.
  • Perform inspections prior to use and check for cuts, snags, punctures and air pressure loss. Especially if you don’t use your trailer often, we can’t overemphasize the importance of a thorough inspection before you load your trailer up.
  • Cover your tires and keep them stored in a cool and dry place when not in use.
General trailer tire safety
  • Always carry a spare trailer tire (and check its air pressure too!)
  • Be sure to avoid overloading your tires. You can find the maximum load capacity for a trailer tire on the sidewall.
  • Visually inspect your tires before and during any trip. It’s best to check when the tires are cooler.
  • Don’t mix up radial and bias-ply when choosing trailer tires. Bias ply tires can carry more weight for longer periods of time but tend to have more irregular wear. Radial tires provide a smoother ride and are better suited for highway driving. Make sure to stick to one type with the same size for all.

Need expert advice?

We go into even more detail on our Trailer Tire FAQ page, but you can also stop by any of our store locations for a trailer tire inspection, trailer tire/wheel consultation and more. Stop in and we can help you get set up with the right tires for your trailer today!

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