Trailer Tires (Tire Types, Use Drive Tires & Steer Tires)

Standard tires come with a specific design that makes them easy to use on vehicles. They are generally smaller in size and have a unique shape to fit the car tire rim. In comparison, car tires are very different from trailer tires; but still, some users wonder if you can use them interchangeably.

So, can you use car tires on a trailer? It is impossible to use car tires on a trailer. This is because car tires and trailer tires have different structures designed to respond to different stresses. If you use car tires on a trailer or trailer tires on a car, it could lead to severe consequences. Trailers need tires with longer tread life, and car tires are not designed to meet these conditions.

If you own a passenger car and a trailer, you might be thinking about whether it is possible to use the tires interchangeably. Some users find themselves in this situation because they believe car tires and trailers have almost the same qualities. With that analogy, some end up using car tires on trailers.

You shouldn’t use car tires on a trailer. Car tires and trailer tires have very different structures designed to meet varying levels of pressure. If you use car tires on a trailer, you are likely to cause severe damage because they are not stable. Trailers need tires with a longer tread life, and car tires don’t have this quality. As a matter of fact, there are significant differences between car tires and trailer tires.

First of all, the sidewalls of a car or passenger vehicle tire are designed to flex. This is the case because passengers need a comfortable ride. On the other hand, your trailer is made to carry loads and follow behind the truck. This means that trailer tires have very poor sidewall flexing, especially those with a high center of gravity.

Trucks with enclosed travel trailers are more likely to have poor sidewall flexing. In fact, this is the most common cause of trailer sway — if you hit a pothole, the trailer sways uncontrollably due to poor sidewall flexing in the tires.

Therefore, before you decide to use your car tires on a trailer, remember that they are not sizable enough to handle the pressure of a swaying trailer. Such tires can accentuate trailer sway and increase the chances of accidents.

You wouldn’t want to drive a swaying trailer due to the risk it poses to your safety. Trailer tires are well adapted to handle the swaying. For instance, they have stiffer sidewalls and higher operating pressures that significantly reduce the swaying.

Keep in mind that the tow trailer is a leader, meaning traction is a key factor in the design of its tires. When handling trailers, traction is very important. It allows your truck to turn around the corner, accelerate down the road, and brake to a stop. The trailer is only a follower.

Trailers tend to perform and pull better on tires specifically designed for trailer use. Given that trailer tires are designed with heavier duty materials, they are tougher than standard car tires.

This is advantageous because trailers have a stiffer suspension system than most automobiles. Industry standards show that trailer tires have a speed rated to 65 MPH under normal load and inflation conditions.

When adding pressure to your tire, you should never exceed the stipulated maximum pressure. This is because the wheel prohibits the increase of air pressure, with the maximum amount set to 70 kPa. Generally, the cold inflation pressure shouldn’t exceed ten psi or 69 kPa. This should be the case even when hauling the maximum load of the trailer tire.

The only acceptable reason you can use car tires on a trailer is if you are only doing it temporarily in an emergency. You can do so when moving your trailer from point A to point B, which should be a very short distance. Once they have served the purpose, you should go back to using trailer tires for your trailer.

As mentioned, it is very risky to use non-standard tires for trailers. It poses a great danger to your safety and other road users. However, if you must use car tires, at any point, you should check their pressure, load rating, and general condition before usage.

You should also ensure that the car tire is as near as possible to the recommended trailer tire specifications. This helps prevent a disastrous ride. You should check the tire pressure and load capacity before using it on a trailer.

Can You Put Drive Tires on a Trailer?

Drive tires are those found behind the truck. They have a unique role that exposes them to significant wear and tear. Given the structure of drive tires, some users wonder whether you can use them on a trailer.

You can put drive tires on a trailer if they are the same size; however, given that the tires are specifically designed for trailer position, they will not last long. Drive tires will wear down quickly, especially if the trailer hauls heavy loads.

This makes it vital to get the right trailer tires for your truck. When shopping for trailer tires, there are several factors you need to consider. This section discusses some of those factors in detail.

Tread depth is one of the essential factors you should consider when shopping for your trailer tires. Tires with deeper treads last longer and are resistant to punctures. According to the authorities, trailer tires should have a tread depth of at least 2/32 inches.

However, seasoned users that have been in the tire industry for many years will advise you to exceed the set minimum. In most cases, they will advise you to go for trailer tires with depths of 6/32 inches or more.

The type of driving is also an essential factor to consider. The right trailer tire for you depends on your driving habits and capabilities. If you go on long hauls, it is vital to have trailer tires that deliver extended wear.

You should also get tires with very low rolling resistance. However, if you often drive locally, you should get trailer tires with specially designed sidewalls and thicker tread. These features will help protect the tires against additional puncture hazards. These traits are also vital if you want a long-lasting trailer tire.

It is vital to consider fuel efficiency when purchasing trailer tires. You wouldn’t want to get tires that significantly increase fuel consumption. According to estimates, trailer tires account for around 40-50% of overall fuel economy.

Steer tires and drive tires account for 15-20% and 30-40%, respectively. However, the impact tires have on fuel consumption are often affected by other factors. For instance, the rolling resistance rating of a trailer tire could increase or reduce fuel consumption.

Besides, the weight of your load could increase the pressure exerted on trailer tires, increasing fuel economy. Choosing wide-base tires or traditional dual tires could also impact the rate of fuel consumption.

Even though most drivers don’t pay much attention to it, tire repositioning is also a crucial factor to consider when shopping for trailer tires. Steer and drive casing tires can be moved to the trailer to extend their life and functionality.

If you can reposition tires, you save a lot of money in the long run. All you have to do is monitor the older tires closely as they may be rapidly approaching the end of their reliability. If that is the case, you wouldn’t want to use them on the trailer beyond a certain point. Therefore, you should always keep a close eye on the repositioned trailer tires to avoid inconveniences.

Furthermore, the type of trailer you use also impacts the trailer tires you buy. This is because different types of trailers affect tires differently. For example, spread-axle trailers tend to cause more damage than others and wear down faster.

To fix such tires, you may have to retread them. Retreading tires is a reliable way of getting the cost-effectiveness you want and the performance you need. However, it is vital that you insist on the excellent casing that will keep the trailer tire in excellent condition for many years to come.

In some operations, trailers become dumpsites for tires that have been used as steer and drive tires before being moved back to the trailer. Given that fuel economy tends to increase when tread depth decreases, many users run the trailer tires down to the point that there is very little rubber providing protection against road hazards and punctures. When trailer tires get punctured, the cost of repairing them could be very high.

Mostly, a typical tire service call will cost around $1,000, including getting a new tire. Therefore, the money you have saved by increasing the mileage of the tires is quickly consumed by the costly repairs.

Additionally, there is the loss of goodwill and a potentially tarnished reputation when the cargo arrives several hours late. This is why you should avoid using tires in the wrong positions and stick to using the right ones. You should also avoid patching worn-out tires.

Can You Patch a Steer Tire?

Steers tires are those found in front of the truck. They take the most damage and could be prone to punctures. Given their likelihood of getting punctured, some users wonder whether you can patch a steer tire.

It is possible to patch a steer tire: however, only professionals should handle the patching. Steer tires have unique specifications that only require experts to handle the patching. The patches have to be precise to avoid widening the puncture. Besides, only the right materials should be used when patching because steer tires are not as tough as drive and trailer tires.

One common tire myth says steer tires cannot be repaired and returned to the front. Perhaps, the confusion is based on the federal motor carrier safety standards that make such repairs illegal.

While there is much debate surrounding the definition of ply repair, the Department of Transportation has a more specific definition. It states that puncture repairs in the tread area don’t constitute ply repairs, hence making them legal. Understanding this interpretation is vital in helping you make the right repairs on your steer tires.

However, before considering patching up your steer tire, there are several issues you should address. First, you need to know the definition of a nail hole and puncture in order to apply the right method.

Punctures are those found in the crown of the tread and are 3/8 inches in depth. Any hole located in the shoulder that exceeds the indicated size is defined as ply repair or section repair. This means it cannot be repaired and returned to the steer position.

Apart from the location and size of the injury, another essential point you must consider is proper puncture repair. In most cases, the type of repairs not considered acceptable is the plug-only method.

Remember that the plug-only repair method involves a piece of rubber or string forced into the puncture or nail hole. Experts warn that on-the-wheel repairs are not only unsafe but also increase the chances of the irreversible casing.

The patch-only method works on steer tires because it involves removing the tire from the rim so the interior can be inspected thoroughly. However, failure to fill the puncture or nail hole allows moisture and water to enter the tire and cause significant damage.

A typical nail hole repair involves three basic principles: assess and remove the damage, fill the hole, and seal its inner-liner. Remember that removing the damage needs a special carbide cutter that trims the belt package. This also ensures that bord cords hold tight the solid rubber and keep the area stable.

Wrap Up

Car tires and trailer tires have different designs and structures. This means that you cannot use them interchangeably. While some users find it viable to use car tires on trailer tires, it is not advisable. Trailers need larger tires that can handle massive loads and take on tougher terrains. Besides, car tires don’t have the required tread depth to be used as trailer tires.

Also, drive tires can be used as trailer tires. However, drive tires will not last for long because they are not designed to handle trailers. This is likely to be the case when the trailer hauls massive loads. Therefore, you should avoid using drive tires on trailers if you have another option.

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