The writing on the sidewall.
Looking at a tire sidewall can feel like you’re trying to read hieroglyphics. Don’t worry, our tire visual (or Rosetta Stone) will help you decipher it. In a nutshell, a tire’s sidewall includes the tire’s size, max load per tire, tire construction (plies per tread and sidewall), manufacturing date, special warnings, country of manufacture, load range/ply rating, DOT code, brand name, and tread design name.
Okay, that’s a lot of information. The good news is, there’s really only two numbers on the side of your tire you need to pay close attention to. You’ll see them listed as max load single (or dual) and inflation pressure (single or dual):
- The first is the max load per tire (single or dual usage). These numbers on the sidewall are smaller than the others, but you can find them fairly easily because you will see the load range written in both kilograms (kg) and pounds (lbs).
- The next most important number, inflation pressure (single or dual), follows max load. This is the pressure the tire should be inflated to. You will see this written in both kilopascals (kPa) and pounds per square inch (psi). You’ll want to use the psi number in the U.S.
The other numbers on the tire visual can also help you determine which tire is right for your RV.
RV tire types: What’s yours?
Once you get past the tire markings, you’ll discover that there are two main RV tire types—ST and LT—that concern most RV owners.
ST (special trailer) tires
ST tires are made for handling heavy loads but are not designed for superior traction. That’s because trailer tires don’t have to worry about steering or providing drive. They just have to roll correctly. Trailer tires or special trailer (ST) tires are specially built to handle the pressure massive tractor-trailer loads put on them. In order to handle this, these tires have a stronger sidewall than other car or truck tires.
That said, these tires aren’t meant for steering, transferring power from the engine to road, or handling quick movements to avoid dangerous obstacles. Instead, trailer tires are meant to keep your trailer from swaying side to side and becoming an issue for you or other drivers on the road. In short, these tires are strictly for vehicles that have no engine and are being towed by other vehicles, like fifth-wheel trailers or travel trailers.
LT (light truck) tires
LT tires, on the other hand, are what you’ll find on Class A, B, and C vehicles. They have to handle steering and acceleration, so they are made from different compounds with different tread patterns. Light truck tires are specifically made for any vehicles that weigh significantly more than a small pick-up (3/4 ton) truck. They’re built with more material to enhance the sidewalls because these vehicles need more load-bearing capabilities. Both rugged and durable, these tires can help keep your RV in pristine condition.
Check out our tire visual to see the location of the ST and LT markings.
Radial tires vs. bias tires.
Okay, you’ve weighed your options between LT and ST options and made your choice. Now, you’re ready for the next decision—radial or bias? Both LT and ST offer the each of the two options, so you can’t dodge decision-time. So let’s go over a few differences and the pros and cons of each.
A radial (or radial-ply) tire has its steel belts (cord plies) run at a 90-degree angle to the direction your vehicle is travelling. The radial-ply belt construction is what gives your radial sidewalls that slightly bulging look. It also makes your tire more durable, extends its life, and gives you better fuel economy.
A radial tire’s ability to provide a softer ride makes it the best option for RV drivers who want to take longer trips or plan to use their RVs more often. However, all these great pros lead to a big con: because people tend to see them as superior to bias tires, they’re often more expensive.
Bias (or bias-ply) tires, on the other hand, are less expensive, though that does come with a cost. Their belt construction consists of nylon belts that run at a 30–45-degree angle. This makes their sidewalls stronger and capable of handling more significant weight loads than radial tires. The problem, though, is that this greater strength reduces the flexing ability of the tire. That means a shorter lifespan than a radial.
Without the flexible sidewall, a bias tire’s average lifespan is around 12,000 miles, where you can expect a radial tire to last upwards of 40,000 miles. In other words, the bias tire is better at handling the pressure of heavier loads, but you’ll need to replace it more often than a radial.
The choice is yours. But if you’re like many RV owners towing large fifth wheels or trailers, a bias tire might be right for you—especially if you’re taking short trips or adventuring on rough back roads.
What’s in a brand name?
When it comes to the brands that sell RV tires, you’ll hear some pretty familiar names. That’s because a good tire manufacturer should be able to make quality tires for an RV just as well as for cars.
So, it’s not surprising to see the names Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone, and Dunlop in the mix. Of course, there are also tire companies that specialize in RV tires. These include Trailer King, Taskmaster, Sailun, Hankook, Yokohama, Samson, Cooper Roadmaster, and Deerstone. While these companies specialize in RV tires, that doesn’t necessarily mean their tires are going to be superior to the tires from the other companies listed. It just means it’s a category they like to serve more than the others.
Best RV tires to buy.
We’ve broken it down for you—here are some of the best RV tires to buy for your motor coach (Class A, B & C) as well as the best RV tires to buy for travel trailers.
2019 Top five light truck (LT) tires*
#1: Boto Tyres BT926 Radial Tire
This tire provides a noise-free environment along with complete control and stability. Its tread pattern makes sure the tire’s performance doesn’t suffer in a rainstorm and it offers reliable mileage for both short- and long-haul applications. The only drawback is it’s kind of pricey.
#2: Goodyear Wrangler Fortitude HT All-season Radial Tire
This tire’s tread keeps the noise down, offers lower rolling resistance to enhance fuel efficiency, and provides a high degree of comfort. It also offers excellent traction with an affordable price. Its downsides are that it comes in a limited range of sizes and it’s not all that great on snow and ice.
#3: Goodyear Wrangler Silent Armor Pro Radial Tire
With an affordable price, this tire is excellent on snowy, wet roads. Its thick treads and sidewalls add toughness and reduce road noise, and the rim protector helps reduce accidental curb damage. In addition, the Durawall technology on its sidewall helps reduce tears and punctures. The downside is that on certain RVs, it has been known to provide a bumpy ride.
#4: Michelin XPS RIB Truck Radial Tire
The strong, durable steel casing on this tire helps to provide longer wear life, and its steel reinforced construction makes it very durable and sturdy. The low rolling resistance helps with fuel economy and the tread design provides both stability and traction. The downside here is that it’s not very good on snow and ice.
#5: Hankook AH12 Radial Tire
The grooves in this tire’s tread help expel water to enhance the tire’s grip and prevent hydroplaning during rainstorms. The sipes incorporated in the tire help improve all-weather traction, and the belt structure reduces heat generation. Additionally, the optimized carcass structure ensures better handling. The downside here is that while this is an outstanding tire, it comes with an equally expensive price tag.
*Source: Ryan, Stephen. 10 Best RV Tires Reviews 2019, The RV Web Network Website, Feb. 1, 2019.
2019 Top five special trailer (ST) tires*
#1: Sailun S637 Trailer Radial Tire
At around $150 on Amazon, these tires come at a great price. Their wide tread face offers better stability and handling as well as better fuel efficiency due to low rolling resistance. The tire also offers excellent traction in wet conditions and the multi-sipes help keep the tire’s temperature low, which promotes longer life. The downside here is that the sidewall has been known to bulge outan>
#2: Goodyear Unisteel G614 RST Radial Tire
These tires can withstand the pressure of even the most significant and demanding trailer applications. They come in a wide variety of sizes and the shallow tread pattern helps reduce the risk of heat damage. They’re also great in tough driving conditions such as heavy rain or snow. The downside is their hefty price.
#3: Trailer King ST Radial Trailer Tire
The center groove on this tire allows it to track and remain consistently stable. It also provides a smooth ride that can handle just about any weather condition. Its strength and durability ensure that it can withstand adverse driving conditions, and the shoulder design helps dissipate heat exceptionally well. The downside is that with heavier loads they can wear out faster.
#4: Carlisle Radial Trail HD Trailer Tire
This tire works for a wide range of applications, and its distinctive tread pattern encourages even wear and tear. It offers a long tire life and reliable performance, and helps to limit road noise. In addition, it offers added protection against heat with built-in weathering and ozone protection. The downside is that on certain RVs, they can be difficult to install.
#5: Freestar M-108 Radial Trailer Tire
For a decent price of around $70, this tire offers a complex rubber compound which makes it stronger and more durable than most. It also has a refined tread and cooling layout as well as deep grooves to help expel water. It also offers outstanding traction and grip. The downside is that the tire’s sidewall has been known to bulge.
*Source: Ryan, Stephen. 10 Best RV Tires Reviews 2019, The RV Web Network Website, Feb. 1, 2019.
The rubber meets the road.
Hopefully, this article has given you everything you need to know to make a confident tire choice—or at the very least talk like a pro at the tire store service counter. If you’re looking for more information, be sure to check out our RV Tires Buying Guide.