Tires tend to be a heated topic of conversation amongst avid RVers. Opinions are plentiful and information is abundant, but sorting through all the opinions and making sense of the information isn't always the easiest endeavor. To help clarify some of the confusion, while being as objective as possible, we've gathered up some insights for choosing the right tires for your RV so that you can better understand the differences and the options that are available to you. Let's get started!
ST Tires vs. LT Tires
There are two main types of tires typically used on RVs, either special trailer tires (ST tires) or light truck tires (LT tires). ST tires are specifically designed for trailer-position axles only and they should never be used for drive or steering axles. These types of tires are built with bigger polyester cords and stiffer sidewalls to increase strength and better handle the stress of higher load capacities. Unlike the standard passenger car tires used on tow vehicles, which are designed for traction, ST tires are designed for durability to withstand the wear and tear of extended towing. LT tires are also designed to be stronger than passenger car tires, but when compared to their ST tire counterparts, they're more flexible and less durable which makes them more prone to swaying and blowouts. The main benefit of LT tires is that they have a higher speed restriction than ST tires, which typically maxes out at 65 mph. You can distinguish between the two types of tires by looking at the letters that precede the number set on the sidewall. Special trailer tires will begin with ST, while light truck tires will begin with LT.
Radial Tires vs. Bias-Ply Tires
You'll notice that a lot of the newer RVs being manufactured today come standard with radial tires rather than bias-ply tires. The main difference between the two tire types is the direction of the internal cords. Radial tires feature steel belts which run at a 90º angle from the thread's center line, whereas bias-ply tires feature nylon belts which run at a 30-45º angle from the thread's center line. The implications of these differing cord directions are that radial tires tend to have a tougher overall construction, a longer tread life, and a wider footprint. On the flip side, bias-ply tires are less expensive. When deciding between the two, your choice should really depend on your traveling tendencies. If you take your RV on long trips and use it consistently, radial tires will work best. If you go on short trips and use your RV infrequently, bias-ply tires will get the job done just fine.
Nitrogen Fill vs. Air Fill
Nitrogen-filled tires seem to be all the rage right now amongst the RVing community, and many new RVs come standard with them. The benefits of nitrogen when compared to air is that nitrogen isn't affected by outside temperatures. As a result, there is less pressure fluctuation and the tires run cooler. Another benefit is that nitrogen tends to escape the tires at a slower rate than air which can be helpful for RVers who don't check their tire pressure regularly. However, if you are the type to routinely check your tire pressure using a high-quality and accurate gauge, you probably won't notice much of a difference between the two. Tires filled with nitrogen are recognized by a green valve stem.
Best Available Options
There are plenty of generic tires available that are ideal if you're looking for a cheap price tag, but you get what you pay for. And when your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the safety of other drivers is on the line, you should go with a tire that offers good quality over a good bargain. Here are some of the best brand-name tires available on the market today:
- Goodyear Marathon Radial
- Michelin XPS Rib
- Bridgestone Duravis
- Maxxis ST Radial
For specifics on tire size, sidewall strength, weight, and load rating, consult your owner's manual. And remember, just because you've chosen the right tires doesn't mean you don't have to maintain them! You'll still need to make sure that you're not exceeding weight limits and that you haven't over/under-inflated your tires. As always, inspect your tires often, drive carefully, and stay safe out there! What tires do you use on your rig? Drop us a comment and let us know!