Whether you plan on using your truck primarily as a passenger vehicle or will need it to power through some heavy-duty hauling or off-roading, your tires are going to make a huge difference in how your vehicle performs. With weak tires, hard work is even harder and off-roading will be mostly unsuccessful but beefy truck tires are going to make casual driving stiff and uncomfortable so the tires you choose will be largely dictated by your intentions.
Of course, your needs aren’t the only thing that might influence your decision and other factors to consider when buying tires include:
- Size of the vehicle
- Weather conditions in your area
- Appearance goals
- Available warranties
- Mileage goals
With tires, you often get what you pay for and a good set of tires not only lasts longer but also improves the safety and performance of the vehicle. With the right information, picking truck tires may be a little easier. The following lays out some of the things you should keep in mind.
Passenger Tires vs. Light Truck Tires
The tire markings on the sidewall of the tire will tell you a lot about the tire itself, from the dimensions to the load capacity, but they also tell you what kind of vehicle the tires are meant for. A passenger tire will have a “P” on the side whereas a light truck tire would have an “LT”. These letters are placed there for specific reasons.
Generally speaking, LT tires should be used for any truck over 3/4 ton. LT tires are designed to carry heavier loads and are manufactured with more durable materials. They can also handle a higher inflation pressure and, as a result of these differences, they are typically more expensive. However, they are ideal for a lot of pickup trucks and commercial vehicles, especially those performing heavy-duty tasks.
Understand the Other Metrics
When you are picking truck tires, it’s also important to understand the other tire marks that tell you useful information about the tire. You want to know about the thread width, internal construction, and the load rating, among other things, and understanding what these mean for your vehicle will help you make a more informed decision. The following are some of the things that you can learn about your tire just by looking at it.
- Load Index: The load index tells you how much weight your tires can handle. Load indexes can range from 70 to 126, which indicate load capacities of 739 pounds and 3748 pounds respectively.
- Speed Rating: The speed rating will be a letter that indicates your vehicle’s speed capability under perfect conditions (proper inflation, good vehicle conditions, good weather). Speed ratings range from “L” to “Z”. Off-road tires typically have lower speed ratings and high speed ratings often mean better handling and maneuvering on the road.
- Tire Type: In addition to “LT” and “P”, you might also see “T” or “ST”. Special trailer (ST) tires are built with thicker side walls for trailer loads. Temporary (T) tires are generally spare tires.
- Dimensions: Your tire’s sidewall will also tell you the width and height of the tire, the ratio of sidewall height to width, and the rim size. All of these will tell you whether or not your tire will fit on your vehicle.
- Internal Construction: Radial (R) construction is the most common and describes a tire with steel and nylon cords that have been placed under the tread in a radial pattern. There are also Bias-Belt (B) tires and Bias-Ply tires, where cords are placed diagonally. Bias-ply tires are denoted with a “-”.
- Treadwear: Your tire has a treadwear grade that tells you how quickly your tire is expected to wear. A tire with a grade of 100 will wear three times as quickly as a tire with a grade of 300.
The typical order for these metrics on the sidewall is tire type, size, load index, and speed rating. Treadwear grade is usually written above these measurements.
Consider Your Intentions and Goals
Generally, the more off-roading you do, the bigger your tread will be and this is for both performance and longevity. Deeper treads and thicker sidewalls will provide better traction in mud and snow and they will also ensure that your tires last as long as possible in rough conditions. Off-road vehicles often have a distinct look that includes beefy tires and treads that might be a bit exaggerated. While they will certainly get the job done, they aren’t entirely necessary, especially if you won’t be spending a lot of time off-road.
When you are picking truck tires, you want to make sure that you get the right type based on your intentions or goals. Whether you intend to do some intense off-roading or simply want tires that are going to last a while and provide a comfortable ride, you will have all of the following types to choose from.
- All-Season Tires: These are a basic type of tire that can fit a variety of pickup trucks. While they aren’t meant for off-roading, they will give you traction and a comfortable ride.
- Performance All-Season: These tires are a slight step up. They offer better grip and handling throughout the seasons.
- Ultra-High Performance: These are commonly used for upscale vehicles where appearance matters. They are designed to give you greater control when handling, turning corners, or braking but they are not meant for snow or icy conditions.
While the above tires might suit a variety of light-duty pickup trucks or SUVs, the following types of tires will be better for heavier vehicles and rougher conditions.
- All-Season Truck Tires: These are well-performing tires that will get the job done in a lot of cases. They can handle heavier loads and are reliable in most conditions.
- All-Terrain Truck Tires: These tires typically have a different tread pattern that is designed for light off-road use. They are more rugged and durable and they provide a more balanced performance so you can rely on them on unpaved roads and deep snow.
- Mud-Terrain Tires: Mud-terrain tires are more specialized and offer an aggressive look with deep treads. They can handle considerable off-roading; these days, off-road tires are designed with comfort in mind as well so they will also be better on the road than they were before.
- Mud and Snow Tires: Some manufacturers have a distinction between mud tires and those intended for both mud and snow. These tires will let you know that your vehicle can handle both muddy and snowy conditions well.
The Drawbacks of Heavy-Duty Tires
If you don’t intend to go off-road, you might think twice about buying heavy-duty tires with tough sidewalls and deep treads. While they have advanced over the years in terms of comfort, casual rides are still going to be a little rough and rigid and this isn’t the only drawback. These tires are also notorious for decreasing fuel economy and creating more noise on the road so unless you really want or need that “off-road” look, there are plenty of other tires that will work for your truck.
Look for a Treadwear Warranty
If you are primarily concerned about longevity and how long you can go before buying another set of tires, you might look out for tread warranties. A tread warranty says that your tires are guaranteed to last a certain number of miles, which could be anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 miles. If your tires wear out evenly well before the expected limit, you may be able to get a replacement under this type of warranty.
However, keep in mind that tires designed for off-road use typically don’t have these types of warranties, which would be another reason to avoid them if you don’t plan on off-roading.
Other types of warranties that you might see when you are picking truck tires include road hazard warranties, workmanship and material warranties, manufacturer warranties, and uniformity warranty. Whether or not these are available will typically depend on who you buy from and from what brand.
Consider Sticking with the Same Model
If you still have the original tires on your vehicle, you might consider just sticking with the same tires. Generally, factory tires are designed to be perfect for your vehicle and what it’s made to do; if you have been satisfied so far, you can simplify the buying process by choosing the exact same tires. The same could be said for any tires that you have whether they are original equipment or not.
Of course, if you have been experiencing problems with your tires or have found that your original tires don’t perform well under certain conditions, you can find a variety of other tires that will suit your vehicle.
Deciding What You Want
The easiest way to narrow down your options is to decide what you want out of your vehicle. Do you want something trendy such as beefy, off-road tires or low-profile tires? Do you want something practical that will last you for years while giving you excellent control over your vehicle? Some things, such as load capacity, are absolutely vital but most other things will be all about your personal preference. By knowing what you want first, you can make an easier decision.
When you have a idea on what type of tires you like. We suggest you head over to tirerack.com and use there online tools to find the right ones.