This is a question that trailer owners often ask, especially if they’re newer to hauling.
The answer really depends on your usage and the tires you have. Trailer Tires differ from vehicle tires in design, and there are distinct types suited for different needs.
To start, trailer tires don’t need to transfer power from the vehicle to the road. Nor do they need stopping power or the ability to swerve through quick turns. They’re designed from the ground up with load-bearing capacity and towing in mind.
The general answer is between 3 and 5 years, though a trailer tire can wear out sooner due to usage. They should always be replaced around the 5 year mark because of degradation of the materials. If you are in the market, then check out the best trailer tires reviews in order to find the correct set of tires.
If you’re not sure if your usage would wear out your tires before the 5 year mark, read on.
Trailer Tires: Bias or Radial ply?
The ply of a tire is the layers of material that make up its construction.
When constructing a trailer tire, there are two ways that the plies are layered. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Bias Ply tires are cheaper, and have lifespans of around 12,000 miles or 3-5 years. These tires are designed for load-capacity with stiffened sidewalls and extra plies. The tread wears down quicker on these, but if you drive less than 3,000 miles a year with the trailer - they provide an affordable option.
Radial Ply tires come on most trailers out of the factories these days. While they also last between 3-5 years, Radials are designed with more long-distance usage in mind and have a lifespan of about 40,000 miles. They also boast a quieter and smoother ride, though have a higher price tag.
Important note: Do not mix Radial Ply and Bias Ply tires on your trailer! They are incompatible in design, and mixing them could lead to problems with uneven wear and weight distribution during hauling.
Average Lifespan of a trailer tire
If you’re a long haul master, driving 5,000+ miles per year with heavy loads on Bias Ply trailer tires, the answer will be 2-3 years. Maybe less.
If you’re a trailer newbie who leaves their trailer out in the sunlight and only checks the tire pressure once a year when using the trailer - the answer is again going to be about 2-3 years, maybe less.
When properly maintained and cared for, a trailer tire can see usage of up to 5 years before needing replacement. It all comes down to usage and proper storage. Not everyone knows how damaging it can be, just leaving a trailer to sit for 6 months or longer.
Many trailer owners leave their trailer sitting in direct sunlight for lengthy periods of time, or in enclosed spaces where ozone emitting devices cause unseen damage. This damage is far more often a reason for replacing trailer tires than wearing out the tread through long distance.
By following these simple maintenance tips, you can ensure your trailer tires last:
- Park out of direct sunlight when storing the trailer to avoid damage from sun exposure
- Ensure the PSI of the tires is at the max rating every time you move the trailer
- Move the trailer every 3 months to avoid flat spots on the tires
- Visually inspect the tires every 3 months looking for cracks or deformities
Checking your trailer tires for damage
When visually inspecting your tire, there are a few things you need to keep an eye out for.
The tread on your tires helps provide grip and traction, to keep your trailer from sliding around during undesirable driving conditions. As time and miles wear the tread down, the tires become less reliable at providing grip and traction.
A good rule when measuring tread depth is to replace the tires at 2/32nds of an inch or lower. At this point, the tread is still safe, but any lower and you risk the tire losing traction during use. If you place a penny upside down in your tire tread and the rubber doesn’t cover the top of his head - replace the tire.
After the tread, run your hands along the outer and inner sidewalls feeling for bumps, cracks, or debris embedded in the tire. There are many causes to deformities such as these, and any of them can cause the failure of a tire.
Especially be careful for bulges in the sidewall. Bulges are caused by a tire hitting a pothole, breaking the plies within a tire without causing a flat. Riding on these tires is extremely risky - and asking for a blowout.
Every time you store your trailer, use chalk or a journal to write down what PSI each tire was stored at and the date of storage. Next time you move it, record the PSI (and adjust accordingly), and keep an eye out for any tires that lose more air than normal.
Over time, the sun’s rays cause a natural degradation of the rubber and other materials in trailer tires. Many trailer owners make the mistake of parking their trailer outdoors without UV protection, and don’t notice the damage until too late.
While minor cracks are inevitable due to heat and cold, you can minimize their occurrence by storing your trailer out of the sunlight.
Ozone producing devices, such as power generators, can also cause damage to the rubber of tires that results in these cracks. Don’t run these devices inside the same storage space the trailer is in.
When to replace
When inspecting your tires, there are a few surefire signs that a tire needs replaced.
In the following cases, replace the tire immediately for the sake of safety:
- Tire is 5+ years old: Past this age, you must pay special attention to all the above factors if you intend to keep the tire in service.
- Tire has major cracking: Minor cracking is normal over time, but if the tire has large cracks in the sidewall and air is escaping, it’s unsafe to use.
- Tire has bulging sidewalls: This is caused by hitting a pothole and separating the plies.
- Tire has less than 2/32nds tread depth: Past this point, the tire becomes a safety issue that can lead to loss of life and limb.
Trailer tires have a tread life of between 12,000 miles for Bias ply and 40,000 miles for radial ply
If properly stored and maintained, inside that tread life they can last from 3-5 years. After the 5 year mark, they should always be retired and replaced because of the degradation of the materials.
By keeping to these practices, you can make sure you are hauling your cargo safely.