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Monday, June 17, 2013

How to replace a tire in "Dual" application

First off if you have a towable RV and your tow vehicle only has four tires you can go get a cup of coffee as this post doesn't apply to you. However, the information here can still be important to know and pass on if you ever happen to be sitting around a campfire and hear someone talking about replacing a failed dual tire.

Now lets be sure everyone understands what is meant by "Dual" application vs "Tandem".

Tandem means one following or behind the other. Most trailers have either two or three axles in "tandem" and each axle has just two tires on it. This utility trailer has tandem axles.
Dual means two tires side by side on the same end of an axle. Most Class-C and Class-A RVs have Dual tires in the rear drive position. A drive axle with dual tires has four tires on it. This version of "Bigfoot" has dual tires on each axle.

 Ok we have definitions behind us. This post will address the proper way to match a pair of tires for dual application. This is very important, as mismatched duals can result in overloading and in extreme cases could lead to tire failure.

If you are buying new tires you should find that all the tires are almost identical in OD when first inflated. If you were to accurately measure the tires after a few hundred miles use you would find that the tires have "grown" or stretched out a bit as they were heat cycled, but again the tires would be very similar in dimensions.

If you were going to try and measure the OD of a tire you would also learn that it takes special tools to get a direct measurement. The best way to measure how big a tire is is to measure the circumference. You can do this with a standard tape measure. You don't even need to calculate OD from the measured circumference as I will give you the guidelines based on circumference. You just need to be sure you keep the tape at the center of the tire.

Here I have affixed one end of a standard tape measure to the center of an inflated tire using masking tape.

I next carefully roll the tire around, keeping the tape taught and in the center.

When the tape comes around I can get a fairly accurate measurement of the circumference. In this example I didn't use the end of the tape as the tang doesn't lay flat, so using the 3" mark I see 95" for an OC of 92.0 inches.

Now you should match tires +/- 3/4" of circumference in dual application. 

If placing new tires in dual application you do not need to do this measurement but if trying to match used tires or a new tire with a used tire this matching is important.

If you do not match the tires the larger tire will be forced to carry an increased load and in extreme cases can result in failure.


  1. Would I be correct in believing that the new tire would be best to be the larger, with-in the 3/4" tolerance? (Given both tires to be of similar construction)
    Or should the new tire be the smaller as it should grow due to heat cycling?
    Or, am I concerned over nothing? (3/4" either way is acceptable)
    Ken (RayJayco)

  2. 3/4 either way is acceptable. If you are rotating all 6 tires, as I did last year, you could match any pair of tires for your duals but will probably find that a new tire is smaller than slightly worn tire due to heat cycle growth. Now later in life it is possible to have a new, un-cycled tire about the same as older well worn tire but since you know the new tire will grow it might be best to place new tire on front till it has a few hundred miles on it and a number of heat cycles to get the growth out of it.
    It's really hard to predict the growth for all tires as there are many variables in design that can affect the amount of growth.


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