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Tires are engineered differently depending on their intended use. The tires on your car or truck are different from those on a travel trailer. Passenger vehicles need tires that allow for a comfortable ride, cornering, acceleration, and braking; these requirements are met largely by the design of flexible sidewall tires.
Towing Vehicle Tires vs. Travel Trailer Tires
Flexible sidewalls allow the tire to expand and contract outward, so that when you take a sharp right turn the tires on the right side of your vehicle will actually lean into the turn. This also allows for a more comfortable ride as the tires themselves have limited shock-absorbing capabilities.
Travel trailer tires, on the other hand, are designed only to follow the towing vehicle. Sidewall flexing would cause the trailer to sway back and forth. As the sidewalls flex with the contours of the road it results in the trailer leaning to the left and right; hence the sway, which is not only disconcerting, but it can be dangerous.
Windy conditions on the highway have a great impact on the amount of trailer sway. The flat sides of a travel trailer, even the folding models, are susceptible to high winds. It is considered hazardous to pull a trailer in sustained winds of over 35mph. Even in lesser winds, you should always be aware of sudden gusts. Keep both hands on the wheel and check the trailer in your mirrors often.
Trailer Tire Selection and Maintenance
Use only tires that are rated to comfortably carry the weight of your travel trailer. The camper manufacturer will supply a recommendation for tires and their proper inflation. Do not try to cut it too close. Make sure to account for the extra weight of luggage and gear inside the camper.
It is better to purchase tires that are over the weight rating than to risk the possibility of the rubber and wheel components wearing faster. Pushing tires to the full extent of their weight limits will result in lower efficiency, and more difficult handling on the road.
Most travel trailer tires will have the designation ST stamped on the sidewall. Some models may just say “for trailer use only”. The sidewall of the tire is where you will find all the important information you need. Such as its weight capacity, type, dimensions, and inflation recommendations.
All of the tires on your trailer should be of the same size and type. Do not mix tires of different dimensions, or radials with bias-ply tires. You may hear bias-ply tires referred to as polyester. So which type of tire is the best for your travel trailer, radial or bias-ply?
Always go with the manufactures’ recommendation when possible. Bias-ply sidewalls are stiffer and less expensive than radials and should be used if you don’t take a lot of long trips. Radials are better for those long excursions because they do not get as hot; heat will cause tires to wear faster and are at greater risk of blowouts. Radials are also superior in load capacity and make less of a humming noise going down the road.