These Darn Trailer Tires!

I, like many, many others have been through a long series of problems with tires on our living quarters trailer.


We have a 2000 Featherlite 3 horse 8’ wide, 8’ tall, 28’6" on the floor. We’ve had it since it was new and have been through several tires and sets of tires, but I ‘think’ I have found the answer.

A little history.

The original tires must have lasted 5 or 6 years. Now during that timeframe we really didn’t go very far with it, by that I mean our longest trips were maybe to the Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence, MO or Shawnee National Forest in Illinois and really didn’t have any issues. After that we had a blow out or 2 in the next few years and always just replaced them with the tires my ‘Tire Guy’ had on hand.

We started traveling further, and we started having more and more blow outs. As you know it is never at a good time or good place when you blow out a tire and my ‘concerns’ kept getting bigger and bigger.

The ‘Tire Guy’ tells me, "I can fix this for you, but it’ll cost you about $1,000.00. I will change your 16" wheels to 17.5" wheel and put better, 16 ply tires, with steel belted sidewalls, that can hold 110# of air. The unique pressure put on tire sidewalls on a tandem axle trailer when you turn is the problem. The sidewalls get weak and give out. It’s not a matter of the miles you are putting on, but it’s the time that goes by and the sidewalls get weak. You travel down the highway at 70 – 75 m.p.h. then the tires get hot and the sidewalls give out. Steel belted sidewalls will be a huge advantage."

I really like this guy and what he was saying made sense to me, so we talked it over and went to the 17.5" wheels and 16 ply tires ‘Joy Lin’ was the brand … Chinese…. Spent $1,000.00 but … We had fixed the problem! No more blow outs on the Interstate in the middle of the night! I told Loren all I had learned and he was excited about it! We travel together a lot and kinda’ ‘take turns’ having blow outs. He said, "I’ll wait and see how this works, but it makes sense."

The first part of June we head off to the Big Horn Mountains to ride and then on to Jake Clark’s Mule Days Sale in Powell, WY and made it without any problems. Loren had bought new ‘same as always’ tires and we didn’t have any problems! Yep. We have it made now!

A couple of months later we head off to Clinton, AR to the National Championship Chuckwagon Races on Labor Day weekend. (GREAT time, by the way! HIGHLY recommend it!) Like I say, Labor Day weekend and it was HOT! Like 100+ degrees hot! We headed back on Sunday night and while cruising through Springfield, MO … BOOM! .. it sounded like a rifle shot! (Evidently 110#s of air makes a big noise when your tire blows out!) …. but … here we were again, changing a tire, on the Interstate, in the middle of the night… Needless to say I was very disappointed and disgusted! I called the ‘Tire Guy’ and left a ‘cryptic’ message in his cell phone!

He called me the next morning and we went through possible scenarios that might have caused my ‘super’ tire to blow out. "Are you sure the tire wasn’t low on air when you left down there?" "I don’t think so, but ????"

He gave me a new tire and we went on our happy way… until we had another blow out a couple of months later! This time I was even more … animated … when I went directly to the 'Tire Guy’s' Shop.

"What is the problem with these ##@@!!## tires" He responded "What can I tell you Tim, they’re junk! All trailer tires are junk now! The Government put a 30% tariff on car and light truck tires made in China a few years ago, but not ST trailer tires. As a result China has been making and making cheap trailer tires because that is their only US tire market and they are junk! Let me look around and see what I can come up with." We weren’t headed anywhere for a while so we left it at that.

I went home and kept thinking and thinking about it and got on the Internet and searched for "living quarters horse trailer tire problems" and found a bunch of articles and forums that talked about all the same issues we were having and everything kept pointing the Goodyear or other "American made" tires. A while back, I sold my big team to Don Wright, in south Texas, and I asked him one day about trailer tires. He said the only thing they can find to stand up to the heat down there is American made tires with steel belted sidewalls.

I found an article that talked about ‘speed ratings’ on tires. I didn’t realize tires even had speed ratings, but sure enough, they do. I went out and found the speed rating on my ‘super doper 16 ply tires, "J", I think it was, and looked it up on the chart….. Let’s see …. Here it is …. "J" - 62 mph …. 62mph!!!! … wait a minute, that can’t be right!!! … So I found a couple other charts …. Yep, 62 mph speed rating!

Now it’s important for you to know "how" we travel when going on an adventure like Wyoming, or make a ‘mule delivery’ trip that we sometimes do. We will ‘normally’ drive at or a little over the speed limit, and we switch drivers at every fuel fill up if it’s Loren and I, or every 3rd or 4th tank fills our wives will drive one out when we have them with us and are taking 2 trucks and trailers … but we keep going. We traveled back from Jake’s sale this year and it was a 20 hour trip stopping only to get fuel and eat a little. Loren and I have done 4000 miles in 4 days! My point is that when we go … we GO, for extended periods of time. So, when in places like South Dakota and Wyoming, we are traveling 75mph speed limit. Hour after hour.

And here am I with 62 mph speed rated tires and nobody can figure out why we have blowouts!!??

I told the ‘Tire Guy’ what I had found and he laughed at me. "That’s crazy!" There aren’t tires rated at 62mph for anything other than agricultural." I had my latest blowout in the back of my truck so we went out, found the speed rating, "J", and he looked it up on HIS chart … Let’s see …. G, …. H, …. "There isn’t a "J" speed rating!" I said, "Yes there is, look it up on the internet" Long story short …. He found it and it was 62. He called me a few days later and was sitting with his Tire Salesman and that guy’s Supervisor, neither of which had any idea the trailer tires they are selling had a 62 mph speed rating!! I need to tell you my ‘Tire Guy’ is a really sharp kid (probably 40 yrs old now) and has had his own tire store since High School and is very serious about staying ‘current’ on tires and training.

I found that Goodyear makes a steel belted sidewall tire, G614 trailer tire, that’s 75mph rated, 14 ply, 110# pressure but doesn’t come in 17.5" and it’s G114, steel belted sidewall, 16 ply, that is also 75 mph rated and is for 17.5" wheels.

The ‘Tire Guy’ gave me full credit back for my ‘crappy’ (that’s my "technical" term) tires and I got my new G114 tires at his cost … of $400.00 each!! But … my problems are fixed …. I HOPE! So far. A year later and several long trips, no problems ….

Here’s my thinking on this.

The way you travel and the distance you travel can and will make all the difference in the world, but it’s important to find, ask, and know the speed rating of the tires you have or are buying. If you look at your tires you will see a place that says ‘123 / 120L’ or a variation of that. The letter, ‘L’ in this example, is the speed rating. Switching to heavier ply, 14, 16 can help, and steel belted sidewalls make all the sense in the world to me, but you need to make sure the wheels you are putting those heavier ply tires on are rated for higher tire pressures that goes along with them. The load rating on the tires is also important, certainly with living quarters trailers, The Goodyear, 14 ply, G614 tires are 75 MPH speed rated, steel belted sidewalls and, 3750# load rated at 110# pressure, or 15000# for 4 tires. My 16 ply Goodyear G114 tires are rated at 4805# load rated@ 125# pressure or 19220# for 4 tires.

If you go to 17.5" wheels / tires your lug bolts may have to be changed to 5/8" to match the bigger wheels.

I am sure there are some exceptions and I’m about as far from an Expert as you can get, and I may have some of these numbers / letters incorrect, but it appears that most ‘trailer tires’ you buy at the local tire shops are Chinese and have a 62 mph speed rating. Jeff Smith, Diamond J Trailer Services, and I have talked about this at length and keep looking at tires on trailers. We saw a ‘Geo Star’ (Chinese) tire the other day that has steel belted sidewalls, 14 ply, and says 123/120L on the sidewall, which is a 75mph speed rating and seems like it might be a less expensive alternative. However, when I looked it up on the ‘internet’ I saw the speed rating was ‘J’ (62 mph), so be sure to check it out yourself. I also noticed at a local LQ trailer sales place that several of the big new trailers are coming out with Goodyear G614’s or even 17.5" wheels and G114 tires. That tells me that ‘they’ are looking at the problems we have been having with tires and are willing to raise the new price a little to give us GOOD tires and kudos to ‘them’.

Happy Traveling!

Tim Cross