The Wheel Deal
Trailer Tire Safety
Your tires are the only part of your trailer that has direct contact with the road. Tires affect your trailer handling, ride, braking, and safety. For optimum performance, tires must have the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance and the wheels of the trailer must be properly aligned.
Checking your tires on a regular basis is an important step in protecting your safety and your automotive investment. Ideally, tire inspections should be performed monthly. If you drive over potholes and debris in the road, live in a cold climate, or drive long distances regularly, then you should inspect your tires more often.
Always inspect your tires before a long trip. The more often these inspections are performed, the easier it will be to find a small problem, such as a nail in your tire, and fix it before it becomes a more expensive and time-consuming issue.
Special Trailer Tires
There are differences in the driving requirements between the tires on your trailer and those on the car or truck you use to tow it. Therefore, there are distinct differences between the way trailer tires and tow vehicle tires are engineered.
Your tow vehicle is a leader, which means traction is a key focus in the design of its tires. Traction allows your tow vehicle to accelerate down the road, turn around the corner and brake to a stop. Another important consideration is tow vehicle tires are designed for ride comfort, which is achieved in part by allowing their sidewalls to flex.
Your trailer is a follower, which often makes tire sidewall flexing a negative. Sidewall flexing on trailers, especially those with a high center of gravity (enclosed/travel trailers) or that carry heavy loads, is a primary cause of trailer sway. Typical passenger radial tires with flexible sidewalls can accentuate trailer sway problems. The stiffer sidewalls and higher operating pressures common with Special Trailer (ST) designated tires help reduce trailer sway.
Trailer Tire Maintenance Checklist
Tire maintenance is one of the most critical safety components on any vehicle or trailer. Where the rubber meets the road affects sway, handling, steering, stability, and braking. Because of this, a sudden tire failure can have serious consequences, especially at highway speeds.
Sometimes, however, there are factors we can’t control. Highway hazards such as potholes and rogue nails are among the most noted. Plus, those heavier loads eventually take a toll. Even though the tread may show little wear it’s important to realize oxidation of rubber causes deterioration.
To be sure your trailer tires keep rolling, follow the directions in your owner’s manual. Coupled with those instructions and good sense, accidents become less likely. Also be sure to read the information on your trailer’s tire placard. You can find the trailer’s tire size, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and recommended cold inflation settings. Here is a list of some of the more common issues you may face with your trailer tires.
- Underinflation: Check your tire’s sidewall for recommended PSI (Max Permissible Inflation Pressure). If tire pressure is lower than recommended PSI, take note of the difference between measured pressure and correct pressure and then add the missing pounds of pressure to each tire.
- Check the Sidewalls: Check the sidewalls for any bulges or lumps, which are clear indicators of a cord (carcass) failure or perhaps a break from a side impact. If you find any of these issues you should replace the tire immediately.
- Valve Stems: The valve stem on tires is often the culprit in the case of a slow leak. To test it, use your finger to push the stem to the side and listen for a hissing sound. If you hear the sound, it’s time for new valve stems all around.
- Weather Checking: When a trailer tire is not used for weeks or months the tire’s surface can start to crack typically on the sidewalls or at the base of the tread grooves causing weather checking, or ozone cracking. If you see weather checking it is time to start thinking about replacing your tire(s).
- Overloaded: Always be sure to check tire placard and know your tire capacities. Your tires will have load ranges listed on the sidewall. The load range will tell you the maximum weight your tire can carry safely.
- Spare Tire: You should always carry a spare special trailer tire and inspect it regularly just like your other trailer tires.
Experts You Can Trust
The experts at USA Trailer Sales carry a huge selection of hitches, trailers and accessories. We are always here to help you negotiate the many options and possible customizations available when buying your trailer. Please contact us with any questions you may have or stop by one of our six Michigan locations to speak with a local trailer expert today.