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Tips to keep your trailer tires fresh and in one piece

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on January 13, 2016
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Nobody thinks about trailer tires until it’s time to actually use your trailer. And naturally, when it’s time to use your trailer, there’s usually no wiggle room in the schedule for unforeseen problems. But because trailers just sit around between uses, these inopportune moments are usually the time your trailer tires choose to let you know you’ve neglected them for one trip too long.

Diligent preflight tire pressure and wheel bearing checks will help prevent on-road tire blowouts, but improper long-term storage, sun damage, dry rot, improper inflation, insufficient load-carrying capability, bad bearings, and damage from physical contact are all regular players in early tire demise. For us, neglectful storage and old age finally caught up with out 7,000-pound flat-bed, and the last time we pulled it out to get a project to a show at short notice, we discovered one of our tires had finally died and the other three were about to follow. Out trailer tires were just flat-out tired. So what’s a hauler to do?

We searched for some rugged, strong, long-lasting replacements and found everything we were looking for in the Maxxis ST Radial M8008. The radial construction will roll truer and with better carcass stability than a squirmy bias-ply tire, and the specially designed rubber compound and tread design actually reduces rolling resistance for increased mileage and towing performance. Furthermore, Maxxis offers the ST Radial not only in a wide variety of sizes for 13- to 16-inch wheels, but it offers several higher load-range capacities for each.

Our old tires were a D load range that offered 2,540-pound load-carrying capacity at 65 psi. And although Maxxis offers a 225/75R15 with those same specs, it also had an E load range that supports 2,830 pounds at 80 psi and features a burly 10-ply construction. Sold! We ordered up a quartet of these and brought our trailer down to our local Discount Tire to have the new rubber professionally installed. Now our trailer is a lot safer because the tires are actually under-stressed for our loaded trailer weights and will handle with more stability. Follow along as we show you some tips on how to get the most life out of your new trailer tires.

After a long, hard life, this is the sight that greeted us the last time we pulled our trusty trailer out for a project rig delivery. After nearly 10 years of neglectful use, our old radials had thrown in the towel. Although trailer tires have more UV inhibitors to help combat dry-rotting and damage than automotive tires, they will eventually fail with nothing more than time.

Always check your trailer wheel bearings, tire pressure, and overall tire condition before hitting the road. In this case, even though our old trailer tires had plenty of tread life left, old age and UV exposure had led to severe weather checking between the tread and sidewall that could result in carcass delamination.

Sun is a tire’s worst enemy, as the UV rays will actually begin decomposing the rubber. Because they sit outside for long periods of time, most trailer tires have extra UV inhibitors added to the rubber compound. Even still, note the sandpaper-like texture of our old tires’ sidewalls that indicates the rubber was starting to finally break down and become unstable.

Trailer tires will almost always outlast the cheap rubber valve stems most tire shops use. Void of the extra UV-inhibiting material found in the trailer tires, we suffered multiple rotted-out valve stems on these sets of tires during their 10-year lifespan on this trailer. As part of your preflight check, give the valve stem a quick flip with your finger and listen for the hiss of escaping air. This one was thoroughly bad.

If your tire springs a flat because of a puncture, bad valve stem, or other reason, fix it quickly rather than letting your trailer sit on the flat tire for extended periods of time. Otherwise, cracks in the sidewalls may develop that may not be evident from a quick inspection. This is a blowout waiting to happen.

It’s easier said than done, but if you have to store your trailer for long periods of time, it’s best not to leave it loaded. Ideally, we would’ve dragged the CJ-6 project that’s been fouling the deck of our trailer for nearly two years into a parking spot somewhere on our property, but instead we left it loaded…so we could fit even more non-running projects at our house! Still, the additional weight lends strain to the tires, so if you must store your trailer loaded, periodically check to ensure your tires are at max pressure. Even better, move the trailer every now and then so the tires aren’t sitting on the same tread patches.

If you do upsize your trailer tires to gain ground clearance or a higher load-carrying capacity, make sure you have enough tire-to-fender clearance. Just like on your 4x4, flex the suspension its full range of movement and make sure there’s no metal-to-rubber interference. Keep in mind that the tires and wheels may camber in or out a bit when making tight turns, so as a general rule of thumb, you want to see at least a finger-width of clearance between the fender and tire to account for any lateral play.

Other than a little additional price, there’s no really good reason not to step into the highest load-capacity tires that will fit your trailer. Maxxis offers its M8008 in several sizes and load ranges, but we were stoked to find PN TL15713000, which is an 80 psi Load Range E 225/75R15 that can support 2,830 pounds per tire and has a burly 10-ply construction.

The Maxxis M8008 features a special compound that resists squirming, decreases rolling resistance, and increases stability. Likewise, the tread features a low-resistance design on a stable, very round radial carcass.

Discount Tire installed these high-pressure valve stems that can better cope with the higher loads and max pressure of 80 psi these tires will routinely see.

Wheel weights on a trailer tire? Yeah. Balancing your tires, whether on a vehicle or your trailer, helps ensure they roll true and round. An out-of-balance tire will effect uneven tread wear, cause early suspension component wear, decreased stability, and increase vibration. In short, it’s cheap insurance to have your trailer tires balanced. The additional life you’ll get out of the tread will more than make up for the minor cash outlay.

Each load and trailer combo will be different, but running your tire pressure too low will cause the outer tread blocks to wear prematurely and will make the tires run hotter, risking blowout. Running too much pressure will cause the tread to crown, prematurely wearing out the center tread. Based on the weight and position on the deck, every load will require a different pressure to get the perfect balance, but we always start off at maximum pressure and then dial it back based on the contact patch of the tire.

Keep in mind most tire pressure gauges for regular automotive use may not go high enough to accurately read the pressure of most load range E tires. Any gauge is better than no gauge, so check your auto parts store for a high-pressure tire gauge if you don’t have one. We’ve used just about every gauge out there and have found the 0-255 psi Power Tank PN TIG-8340 Digital Tire Inflator to be one of the most reliable and accurate options out there. It’s what we always carry and use in the garage.

Log on to etrailer.com or just visit your local RV store for a set of dedicated trailer tire covers to keep the sun off your new purchase. In lieu of that an old drop cloth, barbeque grill cover, or even a sheet of plywood is better than just letting your tires sit in the sun, literally getting the life baked out of them.

Sources

Discount Tire
888-544-9235
http://www.discounttire.com
Maxxis
Suwanee, GA 30024
800-462-9947
http://www.maxxis.com
Power Tank
Elk Grove, CA 95758
209-366-2163
http://www.powertank.com

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