10 Things to Know About HD Truck Tires

3 toyo open country h-t OPHT3 callouts II


By Bob Carpenter

Building heavy-duty (three-quarter-ton and one-ton) truck tires for use in the U.S. is a tough job for tire manufacturers. There are a wide variety of road surfaces, temperatures and elements in our 50 states, and that creates some unique challenges.

Most use computer simulation, on-road testing and customer feedback to arrive at a design that can handle the extra loads an HD truck is expected to tackle with the least amount of compromise.

When you start comparing HD tires to standard tires you will see features such as three-ply polyester casings, deeper tread depths and less tread void (the spaces between the blocks of tread).

To choose the right tire you need to know the gross vehicle weight rating of your truck. The GVWR is the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle (the curb weight plus all fluids, cargo, passengers, optional equipment and accessories). And you should know both gross axle weight ratings, which is the maximum allowable weight each axle assembly is designed to support as determined by the vehicle manufacturer. This includes both the weight of the axle and the portion of the vehicle's weight that is carried by that axle.

To help you educate yourself about HD truck tires (ideally, it should be a never-ending process), we have compiled this list of 10 things you should know about HD truck tires before starting your journey.


1. Inflation Counts

Under-inflated tires allow for too much sidewall flex, and that causes heat to build up in the tire. Heat is a bad thing for all tires, but worse for an HD tire that is expected to do serious hauling. Typically, HD tires have less resistance to heat buildup compared to passenger-vehicle tires. Plus, for every 10 pounds per square inch your tires are low (most HD tires will run tire pressures between 60 and 80 psi), your fuel economy suffers by 1 percent.


2. Matching Tires Matter

2 Nitto Tire Dura Grappler II

If one tire needs to be replaced while the other three are still in good shape, mismatching tread depths can potentially cause a problem with your differential. Slightly different tire diameters means the diff gets worked harder than it should and can lead to overheating and eventual failure. If you don't want to replace all four tires, there are places that can shave your tire to match the tread depth of the remaining tires. It might sound crazy to give up tread life on the new tire, but you could be preventing expensive driveline repairs.


3. Rotation Is Right

If your truck has four-wheel drive, then tire rotation is even more important than on a passenger car. The front and rear tires are asked to do different jobs while accelerating, braking and turning and therefore they wear differently. Rotating the tires at the recommended intervals will give you more service life. Also, if you carry a full-size spare you should include that tire in the rotation so that all five tires wear similarly. That way when you have to use the spare it will be more closely matched to the other three tires.


4. Tires Can't Increase Your Payload Capacity

If you install tires that are more capable than the ones that came on your truck from the factory, that does not increase the load-carrying capability of your truck. Just because the tires are tougher doesn't mean that the axles, shackles, springs and other parts can handle the extra weight.


5. Tire Information Placard

IMG_7964a II

Inside the driver's door (usually), there's a sticker that tells you the GVWR for the whole truck and the GAWR for the front and rear of your truck, the size tires that came on the truck and the amount of tire inflation the manufacturer recommends. The manufacturer can't install tires that don't meet these minimum specifications. And you shouldn't either.


6. Tires Leak

Over the course of a month, most tires will leak about 1 to 1.5 pounds of air pressure. It's lost through the natural permeation of air through the rubber. If you go several months without checking your tires, we can almost guarantee they will be low. Additionally, they will have leaked at different rates so your numbers could be all over the place.


7. Cold Tire Pressure Check

Check the tire pressure on your HD truck tires when they are cold (meaning ambient temperature). For every 20 degrees increase in temperature of the tires, the inside air pressure can go up 2 psi. Our advice: Check your tire pressure once a week in the morning before you head out. Monday is a good day to start the week out with your tire pressure correct.


8. Replacing Two Tires

4 HD tire 2 II

If you are replacing only two tires, move the remaining pair of tires to the rear axle and put the new tires up front. You want the most tread on the front of the truck to avoid hydroplaning in bad weather. Plus, according to some experts, most people can recover more easily from loss of traction to the front tires (understeer) than they can from loss of traction to the rear tires (oversteer).


9. Tires Are Speed Rated

A "Q" rating means that tires should not exceed 99 mph. An "R" rating allows for up to 106 mph, and an "S" rating will get you up to 112 mph. There are higher ratings, but, really, do you need to know about them? Note that driving in excess of the tire's speed limitation (even if properly inflated) can lead to a catastrophic tire failure. Most truck tires are "R" rated.


10. Break-In Period

Tires are made out of different materials (rubber, steel, fabric, etc.) and when they are built in the molds, there's a release lubricant used to make it easier to get them out. All components need to break in over time, and the release lubricant needs to wear off before your tires can perform to their best levels. Some experts say you should drive the first 500 miles with easy acceleration, easy braking and smooth cornering. Also be aware that brand new (and stiffer) tread doesn't respond the same way as the worn (softer) tread you took off the truck. The tires may be a little slower to respond than you're used to since the tread is likely to squirm a bit until it wears in properly.

Cars.com photos by Bob Carpenter; manufacturer images

6 Toyo_M55_fr II





Number 8 is dead wrong. (or just poorly written) Hydroplane induced oversteer is considered unrecoverable by even expert drivers, hydroplaning understeer is easy, just lift off and wait for the vehicle to slow down.

New tires on the rear, period.

New tires on the rear for sure. Most tire places won't even put the new ones on the front, even if you ask.

I think you guys read #8 wrong. It's not saying hydroplaning is easier to recover from, it is saying the depth of tread will be better at preventing it from occurring. The part that is messed up is the 2nd half. It contradicts the first. Putting newer tires on the front will more likely induce oversteer as the back end will want to break loose.

Ideally you should rotate tires so they wear at the same rate. Matched tread depth is always better than two different depths. Especially on 4x4's.

Tire shops love to create tire myths. One once told me to be careful steering because the new tires would have so much grip I might crash from steering too quickly.

Regarding #8. Tire shops always told me to put the old tires on the front. I assumed that was to make the tire wear more quickly and make me return for new tires. I prefer new tires on the front.

#8 is wrong! new tires always go on the rear, and you could never get any tire shop worth its salt to put new tires on the front for fear of law suit! No mater what wheels are driven! new tires on the rear! But here is something that is sure to confuse most, and that is tires on any trailer or tandem axel tractor, the new tires should go on the front axel! and that is whether both are driven (tractor) unless the driven axel is on the rear axel and the bogie axel is on the front, or not (trailer), for may reason mostly cause when either braking or accelerating the tires on the front of the tandem will always need, and get the better traction due to weight transfer, and it would be best to have the newer tread there, and to help displace any water already on the road before the tire with less tread passes over in the following moment!

After all, what is best? To put the new tires on front or at the rear? Can anyone cite any references? Also, does it hold for passenger cars also?

VallAndMo: I have no link here for you, but just Google Michelin Tires, and go to "safety tips" and they will have a video there for you explaining the reason given is to prevent hydroplaning.

Best is don't be cheap and buy 4 new tires. If your tires are so worn they compromise traction that bad, they should be replaced also.

The answer: If you can only replace two tires, new tires on the rear ALWAYS. Source: My personal experience @ Michelin driving school.

This goes for pick-up trucks, passenger cars, front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, all wheel drive...

You can use any "rule of thumb" you want...but I drive a 4x4 and new tires ALWAYS go on the front. The front tires stop, pull, push, and steer the vehicle. THAT is where I want the best tread for the most safety.

And that's assuming you should even be running "good" and "worse" tires on the same 4x4...which you shouldn't.

Now, on a 2WD it's a different ballgame.

Not saying my way is the right way but because I do a lot of driving on gravel / dirt / mud I need best traction over the drive wheels. In a pickup that means new tires in the rear. I have had many a tire shop tell me they should go in the front due to hydroplaning but I guess I have different needs. Plus I generally like to wear down the new tires to make them as even as possible with the existing two in the hopes that the next trip to the tire shop will be for 4 new tires. Just my preference.

WXman: It's not a "rule of thumb." It's more along the lines of science and fact; specifically, laws of physics, and fluid mechanics. To each their own though.

A good friend of mine bought a new truck, he did not like the tires it came with so he traded them for different new tires, the road home was ice, and snow covered, he rounded a corner at a speed he should have no problem. He went of the road, It is always better to go off straight than sideways, he was lucky he did no damage. That was when I found out about the release agent.

What if you can only replace 1 tire?

Also how many licks does it take to get to the center of tootsie roll pop?

if you only buy 2 tires my tire shop only puts them on the front, because stopping & steering is more important. so that part of #8 is correct. now, it's a lot easier to control a vehicle if the rear breaks loose on rwd, because, if it wasn't, then driftcar just simply wouldn't exist. if the rear starts to slide, take your foot off the gas, counter steer into the slide & it straightens right up.

I say new tires on the front because
1) the front tires do like 70%+ of the braking when braking,
2) they steer the vehicle and wear faster so you want your best tires up front.
3) if you have a blow out at speed the vehicle is much easier to control if that blow out is in the reaf NOT the front.

Discount tire has tried to tell me what to do a few times, i tell them its my vehicle, either do as i ask or will go somewhere else. Think about it, the faster your tires wear out the sooner they see you again. I tell them to never touch my tire pressure when they do rotations because they always put in the minimum air pressure, again so they wear out faster.

Those Nitto dura tracs are Great tires. Im done with all the dumb off road bad & fast wearing noisy all terrains. Was just down in mexico in whoops, rutted sand and the dura tracs were awesome and they are like a quiet passenger tire on the street with minimal side wall flex. Best Tire IMO.

I would also like to correct the different tires don't increase your payload, actually if you buy lighter tires, that will increase your payload. if you really want to increase payload and have say 20" rims, knock them back to 17" or 18" rims and they will be lighter thus increasing the payload

@RamTruckGuy.... thanks for making my point for me. The laws of physics dictate that the front wheels get the most force applied to them. Therefore, the best tires should go to the front.

WXman and RamTruckGuy are correct, and all the others including Michelin Tire Company is wrong. New tires go on the rear guys, to help keep the front tires from over steering you into a spinout! Every DOT of every state in the nation will also tell you to put new tires on the rear.

I bought two new tires for my truck from the local warehouse store. Though I wanted them on the back they would only install them on the front. I had to move them myself.
The reason I prefer new tires on the back is that my backend is far more likely to break loose than the front with an empty bed. The front tires have a heavy Cummins holding them to the road. Also my truck has ABS on the rear only (Why not the front?-I suspect for the same reasons I listed above).

@ WXman: Actually, I was stating that the laws of physics and fluid mechanics suggest that when replacing two tires that they go on the rear. I was not stating that you were correct in any sense. You actually are incorrect in your theory, as is PUTC (partly.) They are correct in the sense it is easier to recover from an understeer situation, at which case would be generated by putting new tires on the rear. In a situation where your front tires are hydroplaning you simply need to let off the gas, AKA slow down to reduce the hydroplaning effect, and you will regain directional control. The tires are hydroplaning because your tires are beyond the limits at which they can evacuate water (fluid mechanics.) Before you say "well that's why new tires should go on the front," you should know that new tires hydroplane too. No, it is not just because of the mold release agent mentioned in this article. It once again rests upon exceeding the limits of the tires' ability to evacuate water. If you watch the Michelin video as previously mentioned in this thread, you will see that the vehicle will merely understeer towards the outside of the circle when the front tires hydroplane. Upon slowing down the vehicle's front tires regain traction, the driver regains control and continues on. This is a much more desired and safer situation. Contrastingly, it is much more difficult to recover from a situation where your rear tires are hydroplaning. You tell me, would you rather have an understeer condition that you can recover from with worn tires on the front of a vehcle? Or, would you rather have a snappy oversteer condition as illustrated by the second vehicle in Michelin's video with new tires on the front? It does not matter if you have front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, all wheel drive, or 4 wheel drive. Hydroplaning occurs the same way regardless of how you get the power to the ground. It occurs from pushing the tire beyond its limits of water evacuation. The difference in drivetrains is how you correct the condition once its initiated. In a rear wheel wheel drive vehicle, you counter steer and let off the gas. In a front wheel drive vehicle, you go against logic. You counter steer and give the vehicle more gas. Corrections with AWD/4WD is dependent upon how the torque is distributed front to rear.

@ sandman4x4: Michelin states that new tires should go on the rear.

New tires go on the back even if your vehicle is front drive.

Tires are one of the most important components of a vehicle when it comes to safety and performance and often are the most neglected.

If one is explaining tires, how about an explanation of the tire rating system for load, weather or terrain rating?

This article is a waste of bandwidth.

RamTruckGuy: I have stated that twice now above, read please.

I've had 4x4's for many years,still have one.I was,and still am a proponent of rotating the tires every oil change.When I have to get new tires,yes,I buy all 4.Too each their own,but that's what I do.

Cooper Discoverer A/T3 is all you need to know!
They are the BEST you can get for your pickup.

@LOU BC - "New tires go on the back even if your vehicle is front drive..."

How about replacing your tires when they need replacing regardless of front or back. If you can't afford tires, get your cheap ass off the road!

LOU BC is a waste of bandwidth...lol

I see some retailers crying the blue's and proposing tariffs and duties on Chinese passenger and light truck tire imports. American Tire Depot said that it would have to layoff 20 percent of it's work force is a farce. If American could compete they would and I welcome quality Chinese tires at a reasonable cost.

What about the American factory workers who would be employed to make those tires rather than a worker from some foreign country? I really have to laugh at any sentence that has the words “American” and “workers”. That’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one. Grow up America; have you forgotten the Ford Explorer/Firestone fiasco?

@ BOB ..."Also how many licks does it take to get to the center of tootsie roll pop?"
exactly 700 licks! old news.

@Bob - you should listen superscrew02; if anyone knows about licking it is him.

I've read a lot of ignorant comments in regards to this article. I believe there are several things that are the most important when it comes to HD tires:
1) Don't go cheap on tires, make sure they are more than well suited for the load you intend to carry and aren't made in china.

2) Keep your tires inflated properly and check the pressure often. Get rid of old and cracked tires even if there is plenty of tread left.

These 3 things are probably more important than anything else mentioned.

Heres a question for every commenter on here that said new tires to the front: how do you feel about tire rotations?
Lets think logicaly here. On a RWD vehicle the rear tires wear faster than the front leaving the front tires with more tread. The whole purpose for rotating tires is to keep tire wear even front to rear. So if you agree with number 8, then you must disagree with 3. New tires should be put to the axle that is driven to maximize tread life.

@Lou BC... good one, original. Took a lot of thought, hmmm. Next we figure out what BC is for?

@supercrew02 - this site does not control trolls. My blog name gets hijacked and so do the blog names of others. I have a typepad link that verifies the posts I make.

How long can you ride on 1 balding tire?

I admit, I love buying tires, going to a tire shop is like a candy store to a child to me, love the smell of the new tires, love the noise of the air impacts, touching and feeling the new tires excites me like touching a naked woman. After I get my new tires on I have to test them out by burning rubber, ( I always burn rubber in front of the tire shop ) then I have to test out the traction of my new tires either driving thru extreme snow or mud.
Then when I get home and get out of my truck I stand back and look at it and just stand there for a long time just so I get the picture of my new tires soaked into the memory of my brain.
Its a religious experience to me, I can't wait till my tires wear out so I can buy new tires.

New tires on front! Would much rather loose traction in rear than loose my steering. Especially in snow. New tires always go on front.

If you are replacing only two tires, assuming the two old tires are still serviceable, it might not matter too much which axle they go on. In extreme cases, new tires on the front are suicide.

My mother-in-law drove into an intersection on a slippery day and when she tried to turn left, the new tires on her front end caused her to go into a spin. It was the only time in many decades of driving that she ever lost control of a vehicle. She got new tires for the rear immediately.

My brother-in-law was driving a farm truck on a state highway, and as he was coming down a snow-covered hill, an oncoming driver spun into his lane. They collided, and she was killed instantly. The State Patrol said the accident was the result of the front-wheel drive car having studded tires on the front only. The resulting oversteer caused the accident.

I always try to replace all four tires at once. What I really hate is getting 30,000 miles on a set of tires and having a sidewall puncture in one of them.

If you do not religiously rotate tires, that is fine. You can always do a lesser tire rotation pattern: side-to-side to cancel tire feathering. (in lieu of X, front-back, 5-wheel, back/cross)

You will wear out the FRONT tires first, because most vehicles are front heavy, the front suspension on pickup trucks have toe-in steering alignment for stability, the braking & cornering loads are greater.

So, you ALWAYS put the new tires on the rear, and then move your old tires to the front axle.

When cornering in the wet, all four tires create their own arc in the standing water. If you hydroplane, while cornering OFF POWER, you want that to be at the front. Because you can't reduce the load past zero on that axle. (attempting to 'recover')

All four tires do the cornering. The old axiom of the front's do the steering, and the rear do the pushing isn't true. If the rears didn't do any cornering, the instant you turned, even on high traction surfaces, the rear would spin out.
The front axle is where the turning is initiated, but all tires generate lateral grip.

To install new tires on the front axle is criminal irresponsible & reckless.
Ken, WXman, cmon, Barry

Even bicycle tire manufacturers tell you put the new tire/tube on the rear.

+plus most every vehicle has EBD electronic brake-force distribution. (aka Dynamic Rear Proportioning)
That doesn't work exactly as it sounds, offering different pressures fore/aft coming from the pedal/master cylinder.

At first, equal pressure is applied front/rear, and when the rear tire(s) start to slip slightly versus the ground (and that is detected/recognized by better wheel speed sensors, magneto-resistive versus simple inductive and good algorithms), then the rear brake pressure is held from increasing-while maintaining an "acceptable" level of rear tire skid. If you push more, that means more front braking, more deceleration, and then it is time for the rear to enter full ABS modulation.

The point of this is to optimize braking performance-not based upon a fixed pressure limit of simple mechanical valves, or the more advanced height/load sensors PUs used to have, but on actual traction conditions.

Plus you can't use mechanical proportioning valves when you have ESP (which is required on all new vehicles)
The end result is that vehicles are meta-stable at intermediate braking levels, the vehicle can feel 'squirrel-ly', taking maximum advantage of every tires' grip, brake system thermal capacity.

So do your part, and put the new tires on the rear.

Wow, big big mistake by pickuptrucks.com. Love the site, but this whole article should be deleted immediately from the web. #8 is indeed very wrong and dangerous advice. Thank goodness for those that have already written in.

Folks, when you slam on your breaks, no matter what vehicle you drive, the rear must have the best traction and the newest tires to keep the vehicle stable and from spinning. The critical principle here is that you must keep the rear of the vehicle in the rear, and the front in the front. Basic, basic.

The hydroplaning argumetn is very foolish advice. you should not be driving fast enough to hydroplane to begin with!

Wow. Please get this article erased as soon as possible !!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am pretty sure it is illegal is some states to put new tires on the front. I will never be a big government person, but stupidity like this presented as expertise, makes me want to write a law or something.

Especially on a pickup truck where the rear many times has more difficulty getting grip. Wow, what an embarrassment for pickuptrucks.com! And to all you who wrote in with your half baked, incorrect ideas, I hope you see the errors of your ways. Please do not speak on matters of mass public safety until you really know know know waht you are talking about. I know, a little of what you speak is true, but all damned lies have some truth in them, sometimes even a lot of truth. Truth is tricky, so when life and death matters are up for question, pleeeeaaaase get a full and complete knowledge before making a decision.

Pleeeeeaaaaaaaaassssse, Pickuptrucks!!!! Banish this article forever and fire this writer or at least seriously censure them, and then publish a new article elaborating your wrongs and make good on it. 30,000 to 40,000 people die every year in the U.S. alone every year in automobile accidents. Soooo much of it is due to stupidity like this.

Its all about the sidewall design of the tires how it effects handling and tire wear, I can go into a deep technical explanation that nobody will understand about the sidewall but to make it simple the stronger the sidewall the better the tire.
You want to pick an un mounted tire and stand on the sidewall that its strong and feels like it could even hold up the trucks weight even with no air in the tires.
The sidewall is like the foundation on your house it has to be strong to support the weight of the house.
As you drive a tight curve at high speeds the tire sidewall will flex side to side that makes the truck feel limp and unstable, you want a stronger sidewall that doesn't flex as much for better handling.

All of this biased hate fueled by inexperience! So what I'm hearing in traction (rear) first and safety (front) second...
Of course the fronts get the new, this should be painfully obvious.

Does #6 (leaking) have anything to do with the expansion and constriction of the rubber during hot and cold months? Great article about truck tires. Thanks for posting.

Lily | http://www.tiretownnorth.net/services.html

Tires with the most tread should go up front hands down. They wear the quickest. They are the least likely to hydroplane. AND when it comes to rain, those NEW front tires disperse the water for those OLD rear tires, so that they have less water to travel thru. That goes for RWD or FWD. As for AWD or 4X4s, you need to replace all four and rotate on schedule. And in any case, when it comes to rain or snow or ice...JUST SLOW DOWN, regardless if you have good tires on the back or front.

Pleeeeeaaaaaaase DO NOT leave any more comments supporting newer tires on the front. You are leaving reckless information for low information people and making our roadways more dangerous!

THE BETTER TREADED TIRES GO ON BACK! You tell me what will happen when you have better traction on the front and you slam on your brakes. All of you above that left comments, why do you not address this very dangerous problem?????? You write in and address this problem please. It is Interesting that you have not addressed this problem that is more important by faaaaaaaaaaar.

I will tell you. Speaking to drivers collectively, if you have better traction in the front when you slam your brakes on, you will spin around and/or flip! It happens frequently, with grave results!

As for the hydroplane argument: That is very poor logic derived from inexperience. You should never be driving fast enough in water or slick conditions to hydroplane. Am I wrong? You know I am correct, and it is not just me. This problem has been well studied.

If all this sounds like hate, you are right! I hate all the death and destruction and misery caused by stupidity that is completely preventable. If anyone reading this does not HATE death and destruction and misery, then I cannot help you, you are too far gone for now.

PICKUPTRUCKS.COM, why have you not corrected this by now? You must publish a new article apologizing and re-educating the public. You may very well end up being the cause of deaths. You see how many people commenting above are misinformed. You have also lost credibility in the eyes of discriminating readers. If I seem harsh, I mean to be, because it is faaaaaar more important to report true safety procedures than which truck would be the best one to buy. You see that I am right in my evaluation. How can you not?

Now, those of you who want to put the newer tires on the front for slow four-wheel driving while off-road—go ahead. Who cares, you are missing the point. As soon as you get back on the road, PUT THE GOOD TIRES ON BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For goodness sake, take this article off the web!

I have two 10 plys on my truck can i match them with two 8 plys of the same mark ?

@cmon So you're suggesting that tyre shops put them on the driven front wheels because you'll spend more on new tyres? You might want to learn some basic maths there buddy!

i currently have a 6x10 haulmark transport trailer with 205/75d14 inch tires on it.my problem is my garage door opening height is 84 " the trailer height is aprox 86 1/2 " i got it into the garage just barely by flattening the tires.but this is not pratical for frequent use so its now sitting unused. the reg say 2990 . if i change to a 12 inch or 13 inch tire and rim with a d rating can i gain the clearence i need to get the trailer in and out without messing with the inflation? also can the tire ride safely on the smaller rim and tire

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