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Types of truck tires every pickup driver should know

Keeping a truck on the road is like keeping a toy in its package—no fun at all! From muddy trails to rugged backroads, trucks go where other vehicles can’t. To drive yours to its full potential, you’ve got to outfit it with the right tires for the job. Learn all about the different types of truck tires and how to pick the right set for your ride.

Max Traction Truck Tires: For Weekend Off-Roading

Your truck’s tires are responsible for maintaining a firm grip (traction) with the road. Tires that supply reliable traction can help you travel over loose gravel, icy roads, and slippery surfaces. Though most tires provide some road grip, max traction tires are built for it.

All-Terrain Truck Tires: For a Truck That Does It All

If you know you’re going to be driving under particularly challenging conditions, you’ll need a set of tires that are specifically built for the challenge. On the flip side, if you use your truck for everything from your daily commute to your yearly adventures—you need highly adaptable all-terrain tires.

All-terrain tires are rugged yet versatile. They smoothly (and pretty quietly) transition from dry highways to snow-dusted roads and wet trails.

Highway Truck Tires: For Easy Travel

Life isn’t always fun and games. Often we need a ride that will get us to and from our daily routines. Do your weeks mostly include driving to work, school, and family events? If so, consider highway truck tires. Models such as the Primewell Valera H/T LTR offer impressive handling, a quiet ride, and long mileage.

Why pick highway truck tires? If you do most of your driving on the highway or open road—you want tires that offer comfort, maneuverability, and long mileage. On everyday streets, mud and max traction tires can wear out quicker, be louder, and feel “clunky.” Highway tires, on the other hand, can enhance your truck’s on-road performance for a safe, quiet ride. Plus, most highway tires can also handle heavy loads.

Understanding the Seven Key Parts of a Truck Tire

The Inner Liner

The innermost part of the tire is a liner which is primarily designed to hold in the tire’s air.  It’s composed of synthetic rubber specifically created for strength and longevity.  (In fact, up to 70% of a modern commercial truck tire is synthetic rubber.)

Carcass

The carcass is a layer of cords which create a semi-rigid frame around the inner liner, helping the compressed air within retain its shape.  The carcass will also largely determine optimal tire pressure and the overall amount of load the tire can handle.

Bead

The bead is a thin layer of wire, steel, and rubber which directly bonds the tire to the rim.  It also provides some structural support, further helping maintain the tire’s shape.

Sidewall

The sidewall is one of the most critical components.  Made of flexible crack-resistant rubber, it’s located between the bead and the outer tread, and is there to protect the carcass – and the inner liner – from damage.

Belts (also called Breakers)

Belts are made from steel cords which are embedded into rubber and connect the tread to the carcass.  Belts’ primary purpose is binding the tire’s layers together, but it also provides some protection from puncture.

Undertread

The undertread is a layer of rubber made from synthetic and natural rubber. This layer helps keep the tire cooler when driving and it is necessary when retreading a tire. The undertread is the rubber layer that the retread rubber bonds to.

Light truck tires vs. passenger car tires

Which type is right for you?

A tire comparison between passenger car and light truck tires—looking at performance, tire size, speed rating and load capacity.

Light truck (LT) and passenger (P) tires are not interchangeable. Each type differs in its design, construction and intended applications. The automotive manufacturer took all of this into consideration when it specified the original equipment (OE) tires that came with your vehicle. That said, there might be applications for which a different type of tire would perform better. Or be less expensive. Here’s what you need to know.

Light truck tires are built to work hard

There are four basic differences between light truck and passenger tires:

  • LT tires are designed to carry greater loads than P tires.
  • LT tires are constructed with stronger, more durable materials, so they tend to be heavier and stiffer than P tires.
  • LT tires are designed to operate at higher inflation pressures than P tires.
  • LT tires are generally more expensive than P tires.

These differences make LT tires a good choice for more demanding applications (think pickup trucks, commercial vehicles, towing, and off-road).

Passenger tires are built for comfort and speed

Passenger tires or touring tires are the right choice if your vehicle is not going to be carrying or towing heavy loads. The rubber components in these tires are more flexible than those used in LT tires. This results in a smoother, quieter ride with good year-round steering and handling properties. They are original equipment tires on most sedans, hatchbacks, minivans and wagons.

For a sportier driving experience, consider high-performance tires. Optimized for speed and handling, they provide enhanced control and a stiffer, more precise ride.  If you have a passion for the road, high-performance tires won’t disappoint.

How to Determine Tire Load Capacity

To roughly determine the load range capacity for each individual tire, take the vehicle’s gross weight and divide by four. If the vehicle gross weight is 4,500 pounds, each tire should be able to safely support at least 1,125 pounds.

However, the gross vehicle weight does not take additional load, such as the weight of the driver, into account. So you should never select a tire that only meets this minimum weight capability.

Always select a tire that offers a greater, or “reserve,” load capacity, which will help the vehicle handle and respond to higher-stress emergency situations when loaded.

Understand Max Tire Load Range

How are tires rated? The tire’s load rating, or “max load,” indicates the individual tire’s safe maximum load-carrying capacity when inflated to its recommended pressure.

Never exceed a tire’s maximum load rating (the limit that is molded into the tire sidewall) or the maximum vehicle load limit shown on the vehicle tire placard, whichever is less. The tire is designed and constructed to handle a specific maximum load, and overloading will result in a buildup of excessive heat in the tire, which could lead to tire failure.

The tire load index number, which appears on the tire sidewall, is an assigned number that corresponds to the tire’s load-carrying capacity. Alphanumeric tires will display an alpha code that indicates maximum load. The letter can range from “A” to “N” (the higher the letter, the greater the load-carrying capacity at a given inflation tire pressure).

The max load and maximum inflation numbers found on the tire sidewall indicate the maximum load that can safely be carried and the maximum allowable tire pressure. The construction of the tire (belts, bead, carcass, liner) dictates the tire’s ability to withstand pressure. The stronger the reinforcements, the greater pressure the tire can hold.

How to lift a truck’s suspension

There are two basic ways to lift a truck: a suspension lift and a body lift. You can use these two methods independently or together to get the right height. Take care, however, if you’re thinking of lifting your truck’s suspension yourself.

A body lift increases clearance for larger tires without affecting suspension height or alignment angles. Body lift kits are usually made of plastic or urethane and typically range from 1 to 3 inches. Body lift kits might include parts to correct the steering-wheel angle, brake lines or transmission linkage.

A suspension lift pushes the wheels down from the frame. Suspension lift kits come in many varieties, like coil-spring bushings, leaf spring shackles or full suspension kits. Suspension lifts require longer shocks and other components to correct driveline and alignment angles, along with brake-line length.