Ensure Your Safety While Towing Your RV by Using the Right Tires
Ensure your safety while towing your RV by using the right tires. Not all tires are suitable for towing, and it’s important to choose the correct tires for your towing setup. While choosing a high-quality tire for your trailer is essential, it’s equally important to have the proper tires for towing on your tow vehicle.
However, many people overlook the tires on their tow vehicle when trying to avoid blowouts and premature tire failure. The extra weight and stresses on your vehicle’s tires while towing require the correct tire. A tire’s rated loads and construction play a big role in its ability to support towing safely.
We’ll break it all down to make things easy and ensure you’re using the best tires for towing. From their construction to pairing them with your vehicle and all the numbers on the sidewall, this is what you need to know about tires for your tow vehicle.
Understanding All the Numbers
We have all looked at tires and seen the list of numbers and letters printed all over the side. When it comes to tire size, most people are familiar with those numbers. For example, 235/75/15 refers to the width (235), height (75), and rim size (15). When buying tires, we generally look at two things: the type of tire we need (whether it be an all-season passenger car tire or an off-road truck tire) and the tire size we need.
These two factors will usually find you the right tire, but if you plan to use your vehicle for towing, more research must be done. The extra factors involved with tires for towing are the load range and load index, which will also be listed on the sidewall of the tire.
Load range is a measure of a tire’s weight-carrying capacity, which is an important factor to consider when choosing tires for your vehicle. It’s based on the older method of tire classification known as ply rating, which refers to the number of layers, or plies, in a tire’s construction. In the past, tires were rated by the number of plies, with four plies being common for passenger car tires and six plies or more for truck tires.
However, modern tire construction uses stronger materials, so tires typically require fewer plies to achieve the same level of strength and weight-carrying capacity. Load range ratings are now indicated by letters, with the higher letters indicating a greater weight-carrying capacity. For example, a load range C tire is equivalent to a 6-ply tire in terms of weight-carrying capacity, although it may not actually have six plies.
The higher the letter in the alphabet, the stronger the tire and the greater its weight-carrying capacity. You want to make sure that you always choose tires with an equal or higher load range than the OEM tires that come with your truck. When choosing tires, it’s essential to consult the manufacturer’s specifications for the correct maximum air pressure and weight-carrying capacity for your specific tires.
The load index is a more recent rating of a tire’s weight-carrying capacity. It is indicated by a number followed by the tire’s maximum air pressure. The load index number will correspond to the manufacturer’s load index chart. This chart will have a max weight and max air pressure rating for each load index number.
Your tires load index will look something like this: Max Load 635kg (1400lbs) AT 300kPa (44psi)
This means at the max tire pressure of 44psi, that tire is capable of supporting 1400lbs. Air pressure less than this will result in a lower carrying capacity. Goodyear has an easy-to-read load index chart on their site.
Tire Construction Explained
Modern tires are truly remarkable. They can support heavy loads, rotate at high speeds, and absorb impacts, all while providing a smooth, cushioned ride. And when you factor in tens of thousands of miles, they truly are an impressive feat of engineering!
Like many other things, tires have evolved significantly over time, thanks to extensive research and development. The materials used and the manufacturing process have combined to create tires that are stronger, more durable, and offer a more comfortable ride. When we look at tires, we often focus on the tread pattern on the outside, but it’s what’s underneath that gives them their strength and durability.
Layer by Layer
Modern tires are constructed with multiple layers, each serving a specific purpose. The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association breaks it down as follows:
- Bead: The tire bead bundles, usually made up of wire strands, secure the tire to the wheel.
- Bead Filler: A rubber compound placed above the bead bundle that may be used to adjust the ride and handling characteristics.
- Belts: Typically, two belts with steel cords are laid at opposing angles. Belts provide stability to the tread area of the tire, which contributes to wear, handling, and traction.
- Body Ply: Most tires have one or two body plies, each typically made up of polyester, rayon, or nylon cords within a rubber layer. Body plies function as the structure of the tire and provide the strength to contain the inflation pressure.
- Inner liner: A rubber compound used to retain the inflation pressure inside the tire.
- Sidewall: A rubber compound used to cover the body plies on the sides of the tire, providing abrasion, scuff, and weathering resistance.
- Tread: The tread rubber compound and tread pattern provide grip and abrasion resistance, contributing to traction and treadwear.
The Best Tires for Towing
The best tires for towing aren’t necessarily a specific brand but rather the tires that are correct for your specific setup based on the weight of your RV and vehicle. Unlike trailer tires, which are often cheap and problematic, with only a few trusted brands, quality vehicle tires are available from many different manufacturers. The key is to purchase the proper tires.
Before purchasing tires for towing, you need to gather information about your vehicle and the trailer you will be towing. Comparing the weight ratings for certain tires with the information about your trailer and tow vehicle is the only way to ensure that you have safe and reliable tires.
Each tire has a maximum weight it can safely carry when properly inflated, and this weight will be multiplied by the number of tires on your vehicle: Four for standard vehicles and six for dual axle trucks. This will give you the total weight your vehicle’s tires can handle.
Note: The weight that your tires can handle should be equal to or greater than the weight your vehicle can handle. However, regardless of the weight rating for the tires, the weight rating of your vehicle should never be exceeded!
Adding It All Up
The following is an example of an RV and tow vehicle setup and how to correctly choose an appropriate tire for the tow vehicle.
- Fifth Wheel loaded weight – 12,000lbs
- Fifth Wheel pin weight (20% of total weight) – 2,400lbs
- Truck weight – 7,500lbs
- Truck payload capacity (passengers, gear, pin weight) – 4,500lbs
- Total weight on tires (truck weight + payload) 12,000lbs
- Total weight on tires divided by the number of tires (12,000 divided by 4) 3000lbs
Each tire must be able to carry 3000 lbs, in this case, to be safe and legal. This tire would fall into the 121 load index or a load range E tire. This 3000 lbs per tire range are very common for truck tires for towing.
Maximize the Performance of Your Tires for Towing
As amazing as today’s tires are, they are only as good as you maintain them. Spending money on the best tires and then not having them properly inflated, for example, will still result in premature failure.
Under or over-inflated tires is the number one cause of tire issues. Following the tire manufacturer’s recommendations for air pressure is critical to the longevity and performance of your tires. Checking air pressure before heading out with your RV in tow and periodically on long trips ensures your tires are able to perform as they should.
Along with a tire pressure gauge, having a small portable tire inflator ensures you can adjust air pressure on the go if needed.
Rotating your vehicle’s tires is another easy way to help the performance and extend the life. Towing can cause different tread wear issues due to the extra weight on the rear tires and slightly less weight on the front tires. Rotation helps keep the tread wear even all around.
Don’t Forget Your RV Tires
When it comes time to replace your RV tires, the same caution should be taken to ensure you have safe, legal tires on your RV. Trailer tires will have a load range, speed rating, and manufacture date to consider when buying.
A more in-depth look at trailer tires can be seen here. For those doing lots of travel, splurging on higher quality trailer tires will pay off in the long run as cheaper options often fail prematurely, potentially causing damage to your RV.
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Levi Henley is a freelance writer and has also been full-time RVing with his wife and pets since 2015.
1 thought on “How To Choose the right tires for towing an RV”
You might add that the more aggressive tire treads tend to collect larger stones. As you increase speed, these stones can be thrown against your trailer windows or sides causing dings or damage.
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