Can You Use Car Tires on a Camper Trailer?

If you own a camper trailer, the idea may have crossed your mind to put car tires on your camper trailer in a pinch, especially when you’re trying to avoid spending extra money on tires. But is it a good idea?

You can use some car tires on a camper trailer, but it is not recommended. You should only use trailer tires on trailers because they are better designed to handle vertical load more than standard car tires. Only a few Light Truck tires can fit on trailers, but even those may compromise safety.

The rest of the article will take a look at all you need to know about using car tires on a camper or travel trailer. Watch out for tips on how to make your camper trailer tires last longer.

The Difference Between Car and Camper Trailer Tires

Caravan or recreational vehicle motor home trailer on a mountain road in Canada

Car tires and vehicle tires are generally built differently. The variations can be seen in the structure, sidewalls, and the ply. Both tires will roll down the road when in motion, but they are designed to carry out different functions when in use to keep you safe and avoid breakdowns.

The major difference between both types of tires is the stiffness. Trailer tires typically come with a stiffer sidewall and are made with heavier material to limit trailer sway.

The material used also minimizes potential damage caused by impacts. They also run at a higher tire pressure because low pressure usually leads to tire failure while in motion.

Standard car or truck tires are designed to be installed on a lead vehicle. They come with thick thread designed to maintain traction while you drive down a slippery road and while you make sharp turns.

They are also designed to handle the demands of higher-speed highway driving. However, with trailer tires, the design is solely about keeping the trailer moving while attached to the following vehicle.

The sidewalls are thick enough to handle debris and are also equipped to handle any projectiles they may come in contact with while on the move. The treads on a trailer tire are not as thick as those found on car tires.

Therefore, they can’t maintain the same level of traction. Also, trailer tires are not designed for speeds higher than 80 miles per hour.

If you have a vehicle and a trailer of the same size, it may be tempting to use them interchangeably. With the information above, however, you can see why that is strongly discouraged.

Maxxis M8008

If you’re considering using your car tire to save money, you can shop around for some affordable trailer options that fit your trailer instead of putting yourself and other road users at risk. Maxxis M8008, Carlisle Radial Trail HD, and the Wheels Express Inc 15″ are some top models you can look at.

Is It Illegal to Use Car Tires on Camper Trailers?

There are no laws (that I can find) against using your vehicle tires on your camper trailer. However, as we’ve seen above, it’s not recommended. You may also run into problems with the law indirectly by adopting this approach.

Breaking speed limits or causing accidents directly or indirectly are just other ways to get into legal problems by using car tires on your camper trailer.

Can You Mix Radial or Bias-Ply Tires on your Trailer?

While trying to save money, some trailer owners combine radial and bias-ply tires. This is not recommended because bias and radial tires are fundamentally different in the way they are constructed.

Basically, bias-ply tires have cords running at a 32° angle in relation to the travel direction while the radial tire cords run at a 90° angle.

The construction means that radial tires have higher flex and also have better traction, stability, tread wear, and ground contact. They will also run cooler than bias ply, which makes them last longer than bias ply.

Radial tires are excellent for highway use, making them a popular option for the modern camper or travel trailers.

Bias-ply tires come with stiffer sidewalls, making them a good option for scenarios that don’t require spending a lot of time on highways. Mixing both types on your trailer can compromise your overall safety. It can also lead to tracking problems and cause uneven wear and tear.

How Long Should You Use Your Camper Trailer Tires?

To determine how long to use your camper trailer tires, you need to pay attention to the tires’ age and tread. If you drive up to 15,000 miles a year, the treads on your trailer tires will wear in less than five years.

However, if you typically drive less than 5,000 miles in a year, the tire will naturally start to age after a while, even with the treads still looking good.

Generally, it’s recommended that you replace all your tires every five years.

How to Know if Your Trailer Tires Are Old

Old tires will typically have cracks that may not be visible on the exterior part of it. Such cracks are a safety risk because they can trigger the separation of the steel belts, forcing you to lose control while driving on the road.

Aging tires will grow weaker with use, irrespective of mileage. Leaving your camper trailer parked in the garage most of the time is not a remedy for aging tires. The tires will still deteriorate and cause road mishaps when you bring out the trailer for use.

How Can You Protect the Camper Trailer Tires From Aging?

Kayme Tire Covers

There are a few ways you can keep your trailer tires healthy for as long as possible. 

  • You need to keep the tires away from excessive sun and heat. 
  • You need to avoid low inflation and use the tires from time to time.
  • You should get a wheel cover for the tires to protect them against dirt, water, and UV rays when the camper trailer is parked. Kayme Four Layers Tire Covers and Explore Land Tire Covers are options you can consider. 
  • You should jack your tires or park on plywood boards whenever possible to ensure your tires remain off the ground when the trailer is not in use. 
  • Remove the tires and store them in a dark place when you intend to park the trailer for a long time.
  • When you are about to use the camper trailer, you should ensure the tires are properly inflated. 
  • Always stay within the recommended pressure limits from the manufacturers. Don’t have a pressure gauge? You can use the AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure Gauge or the JACO ElitePro Digital Tire Pressure Gauge.

By taking good care of the trailer tires, they will last longer, and you’ll reduce the number of blowouts and similar scenarios that may tempt you into using car tires instead.

Conclusion

Car tires are different from camper trailer tires, so both shouldn’t be used interchangeably. In many cases, you’ll end up causing faster deterioration for the rest of the tires, or worse, cause a road accident.

Always replace your trailer tires with recommended ST tires. LT tires may also work if they are healthy and of the same size.

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