Steer Tires (Explained, Versus Drive Tires, Used as Driving)

Trucks have different types of tires, with each one of them designed to perform specific duties. Long trucks tend to have steer tires, drive tires, and trailer tires. All these tires work together to ensure a smooth driving session.

So, what is a steer tire? A steer tire is found at the front of the truck and is designed to ensure a smooth ride, fuel economy, and impact handling. Steer tires have unique features that can handle a range of hauling and driving. Therefore, it is vital to equip your truck with the right steer tires for maximum efficiency.

Trucks rely on tires for efficiency. It goes without saying that without steady tires, you wouldn’t drive your truck. A typical truck has different types of tires, steer tires, drive tires, and in some cases, trailer tires. As a regular truck user, you might be wondering what steer tires are.

Steer tires are found in front of the truck and help ensure a smooth ride. These tires are arguably the most essential on a commercial rig. They are tasked with regulating fuel economy and impact handling; their vital role means they take the most wear. Most tire manufacturers equip steer tires with the ability to take on any terrain or landscape.

For that reason, you should ensure that your truck has the right steer tires for better performance. You should know that steer tires cost more money than any other tires on your truck. However, they tend to wear down faster than others, given their challenging role. Luckily, you can prolong their lifespan by taking good care of them.

Generally, steer tires come in two load ranges, H and G. The G load range is the most common and has a weight limit of fewer than 6,200 pounds. The G load-range tires can sustain this weight when inflated to 110 psi. However, if you inflate them properly, they have a steer-axle weight limit of 12,400 pounds.

Many tire brands have the 100-psi-fits-all policy. According to the standard inflation and load tables, inflating tires to 110 psi will give you about 11,600 per axle or 5,800 pounds per tire. Due to upgrades and improvements in tire quality, most trucks exceed this weight limit.

However, to accommodate the weight of today’s trucks with their enormous engines and after-treatment systems, the weight rating of steer tires and axles has increased to 14,600 pounds. To achieve this weight with your steer tires, you need a load-range H tire inflated with around 120 psi.

This could be slightly different for fleets with trucks having 13,200 and 12,000-pound axles. It would also be easy to ignore the heavier axle rating even if your maintenance service provider is in the habit of recycling old tires.

One reliable way of prolonging the lifespan of your steer tires is not overloading them. In fact, the quickest way to ruin a steer tire is by overloading it or running it under-inflated. Generally, truck tires don’t respond well to under-inflation. Therefore, you should have technicians examine your truck’s steer axle weight ratings and compare them to the tire you are using.

They also check the tire load range and ensure it can hold the cold inflation pressure. If you tend to overload your steer tires, you will notice that they wear down at a fast rate. Therefore, you should refrain from overloading your truck to keep your steer tires in excellent condition.

Paying attention to wheel balance is another reliable way of keeping your steer tire in excellent condition. Even though some tire handlers will tell you that good-quality tires don’t need balancing, that is not always the case.

When you mount the high-quality tire on a rotating assembly with a steel wheel or aluminum, there is no guarantee that the components that make up truck wheels will be perfectly balanced. Therefore, you should have installers align the yellow dot on your steer tires with the valve stem for perfect balancing. Even though this helps, it might not be enough.

Accessories such as internal balancing compounds and balancing rings have proven to stabilize the balance of the entire wheel-end assembly. Your steer tires need you to take measures that will help improve their concentricity and balance. If your truck has a faulty geometry, you will notice it in the face of steer tires.

This is because steer tires are more of two lonely sentinels guarding against several issues. All the tussle for direction control takes a massive toll on the steer tires’ tread wear. Fortunately, professional technicians can detect the problem by briefly observing the tire treads.

Mostly, bad steering geometry and misalignment cost thousands of steer tires every year. Ironically, the problem is easy to detect and remedy. For example, if you run the palm of your hand across the tread face, you will easily notice the irregularities you might not be able to see.

Experts advise that you detect the problem early enough because it helps you save the tire. Two technicians with a tape measure can also roughly determine the drive-axle parallelism and the distance from the center of the drive axle to the center of the steer axle.

There shouldn’t be any deviation in these measurements because it will be a sign of alignment problems. In that case, you should get experts to realign the tires. This will go a long way in elongating the usability of steer tires.

Using a tape does not diagnose steering geometry issues, including improper toe and caster settings. However, it is still a reasonable procedure that helps point out defects. Using a tape is also easy, fast, and affordable, and it can reveal problems that could cost thousands of dollars. It is vital to take your truck for annual alignment sessions that help keep steer tires in position. This will also keep them in good condition.

What Is the Difference Between Drive and Steer Tires?

Steer tires and drive tires both play an important role in the smooth running of a truck. Both of these tires need to be in perfect cohesion for your truck to function properly. However, you might be wondering what the difference between them is.

The main difference between drive and steer tires is their positioning: steer tires are at the front of the truck while drive tires are at the back. It is the responsibility of steer tires to keep the truck going in the right direction.

On the other hand, drive tires provide the necessary traction to get the truck moving and keep it going. If the truck has a trailer, it will have trailer tires whose job is to go along the ride. However, this doesn’t mean trailer tires have an easier job — they still carry a fair share of the load and constantly face tough terrains and tight turns. Even though these tires take a beating, most drivers tend to ignore them. They also play a crucial role in maintaining the stability of steer and drive tires.

Generally, steer tires need driver input to direct the vehicle. These tires are constantly working against 16, 20, 24 other tires that might want to go in other directions. For that reason, steer tires need stiff sidewalls to make sharp maneuvers and keep the truck in the right position. They also have to be responsive to driver input and provide an essential handling feel.

For a drive to be smooth, steer tires have to be very comfortable and in excellent condition. This makes you wonder: what are the qualities of steer tires? Tires designed for this role have multiple circumferential grooves (commonly referred to as rib tread design) that provide traction on wet surfaces.

Steer tires also have to sipe along the grooves to help ensure even wear and tear. There is also a sacrificial groove in the shoulder area to help manage the onset of irregular wear. This design makes them totally different from drive tires.

Drive tires have a flat edge designed to withstand the weight. Unlike steer tires, they are thicker and bigger. These traits help them sustain more weight and maintain traction. You must ensure that your drive tires have treads to avoid sliding.

If you intend to drive your truck in wet conditions, ensuring your drive tires have sufficient treads is very important. While drive tires carry a significant part of the load, steer tires carry the most weight. This amounts to up to 2,000 additional pounds each — almost twice as much as the weight of drive tires.

Some steer tires are rated for 6,500 to 7,000 pounds and need inflation of up to 120 psi. This is not the case with drive tires that work well with inflation of as low as 100 psi. The low pressure works with drive tires because they don’t carry a significant part of the load.

Given that steer tires are exposed to every form of external force caused by bad steering system geometry, misalignment, and other abnormalities, they tend to wear down faster than drive tires.

For that reason, tire manufacturers try to build extra resistance to this kind of wear. Most steer tires in regional applications or highways look very familiar but their tread and internal structures might be very different depending on the brand.

This is not the case with drive tires. All the tread designs of drive tires are designed for fuel economy and durability. Although some have a different appearance, most drive tires have similar qualities. This means you won’t have a difficult time choosing a drive tire for your truck.

Can Steer Tires Be Used as Drive Tires?

Given the different roles of steer and drive tires, some drivers still ponder using them interchangeably. While steers have unique qualities to adapt to their roles, they have a structure that could make you consider using them as drive tires. But is that possible?

You can steer tires as drive tires as long as they are similar in size. This is because there is a chance that one tire will have more drag than the other tire, creating a pull to the side. Therefore, you must ensure that the steer tire has the right size before using it as a drive tire. As mentioned earlier, drive tires need to have a specific size to function properly.

Each type of tire is designed to provide grip in a wide range of road and weather conditions. In addition, the ability to turn, brake, and accelerate at higher speeds all depend on the drive tires’ grip. For this reason, it is essential to consider how and where you will be driving. This will also help you decide on the kind of tire treads you need.

Drive tires are also needed in handling. Handling is how the truck responds to the demands of the driver (braking, accelerating, or steering). Tires with excellent handling capabilities enhance safety by keeping the truck stable and the drive-in control.

These tires also make the drive smooth. Both steer and drive tires play a vital role in handling — they transmit your instructions from the wheel to the ground. Generally, sporty, high-performance tires are designed to deliver precise steering and maximize handling performance. You must ensure that the drive tire is able to resist whatever the road brings. Therefore, if you have to use steer tires as drive tires, they must have the mentioned features.

Wrap Up

Steer tires are those found in front of your truck and are designed to take on tough terrains. These tires are also tasked with ensuring a steady ride and fuel economy. Steer tires have special treads that make it easy to respond to driver instructions. Given their tough role, steer tires wear down faster than other tires. They also cost more than others.

The main difference between steer tires and drive tires is their positioning; steer tires are at the front while drive tires are at the back of the truck. Besides, steer tires handle more load capacity than drive tires. Even though steer tires have a different shape and design, they can be used as drive tires. However, drive tires cannot be used as steer tires because they don’t have the necessary features.

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