“What tire should I buy?” I get this question almost every week. I have hesitated on giving an answer as there are so many variables and unknowns. However, there are a few suggestions on things to consider when shopping for tires.
- The Obvious: Load capacity. Your new tires MUST have equal or greater load capacity than the OE tires provided by the RV manufacturer. This applies to all RVs from 45′ Class A to 15′ pop-ups.
- Not so obvious: Load Capacity margin or “Reserve Load”. I have a post on my blog specifically on “Safety Margin” and how that can be misleading. I prefer the term “Reserve Load,” or the extra load capacity above the actual truck scale load. I consider 10% to be the minimum, with 15% to 25% preferable, if possible.
- Load Range (aka Ply Rating) selection. As with Load Capacity, I suggest an equal or higher rating. A higher rating would allow you to run higher inflation, which delivers increased load capacity (see #1 above). But before you increase your cold inflation level, be sure your wheels are rated for the cold pressure you intend to run.
- Now we get to the area that requires more thought: What “Brand” tire? Many people ask me about changing the tire brand. My first response is the question: What is wrong, or what don’t you like about your current tires? Why do you want to change the brand?
The answer will help me understand their objectives or goal for making a change, as they may not have formed a clear reason in their mind. The reason is usually one of two things: price or performance.
“Price” is not easy
While “price” may seem to be easy, it really isn’t easy. In different areas of the U.S. there are some major retailers selling different brands at significantly different (lower) prices than are available in other locations. I am aware of some large dealers in the far Northwest states with brands not available in other parts of the country. So it’s difficult for me to offer a suggestion on “what brand” when the answer depends on what state you are shopping in. Don’t even start with online pricing, as those numbers can change daily.
I do suggest that people not select a tire brand simply on price, but to do a little investigation to learn who makes the brand or brands they are considering. Over the last few years, we have seen a number of brands being bought by one of the “major” brands such as Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Michelin. Some of these older brand names may have essentially disappeared, such as the Dayton brand which is now owned by Bridgestone, or BFGoodrich which is now owned by Michelin. HERE is a link to help you learn who makes which brand of tire.
Brands to consider
As a side note, I think it is reasonable to say that the tires with brand name “ABC” that is owned by the company “XYZ” can, for the most part, be considered equivalent to all the tires made by “XYZ”. Also, in general, the “Top 3” on that page listing Michelin, Bridgestone and Goodyear can be considered the “Top Tier” using the latest technologies, and are my first choice along with the brands owned by those three. I would consider the other “owner” companies to be 2nd Tier along with the brands they own. If you can’t find the brand on the list, those tire brands would be my 3rd choice when selecting a tire brand.
You may note that there are a number of tire brands not found on that list. Those tend to be “price leaders,” which many times means the low-cost option. If shopping on price, you will probably find a limited selection of sizes and Load Range, or you may find little or no warranty. These price leaders may also have a limited number of dealers or locations to get any “service” you may need.
Special consideration for trailer and 5th wheel owners with ST-type tires
There are a couple of tire companies like Maxxis not on the list in the link above. In general, the tire volume is low enough that few major companies are interested in the “niche” ST-type tire market. I would suggest you use tire warranty as a guide to which brand to select. A longer warranty would be preferable.
There is one other item for people to consider when shopping for tires to put on their trailer or 5th wheel. That is the reinforcement material in the tire under the tread. I strongly suggest you only consider tires that list “Nylon,” “Kevlar” or “Aramid” along with steel and the body cord in the tread area. You may not find this information in advertising literature. It is also possible the salesperson doesn’t know, so it is up to you to look closely at the tires you are considering to see the materials used in the tire. ALL tires are supposed to list the materials and you should find wording similar to this example.
The Nylon will help address the higher levels of Interply Shear found in tires in trailer applications.