Racers are usually laser-focused on the performance of their race vehicles, so it’s easy to neglect the other parts of the racing operation. One area that can easily be ignored is the tow vehicle, and specifically, the tires. We talked with the team at Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels and learned a few things about the kind of tires you want to outfit your tow vehicle with.
Most weekend warrior drag racers are using a pickup truck to pull the flatbed or enclosed trailer that hauls their operation to the track. That same truck is probably used for other tasks besides pulling a trailer, so it needs to retain its multi-purpose capabilities. Not all tires are the same, so that’s why you really have to pay attention to the ratings and features of the tires you put on your truck.
Tire Ratings And Features
The size of a tire is just the first thing to think about when it comes time to equip a tow vehicle with new shoes. You need to think about the load you’ll be pulling, the kind of driving experience you want, and the type of performance you expect from your tires. If you don’t consider all of these factors, there’s a good chance the tires you select won’t be the best fit for your application.
Heather Tausch, Director of Product Management at Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels, talks about a critical number to be aware of when buying tires for a towing application.
“One of the most important items to consider when selecting a tire for your on-road vehicle is the new tire’s load index. The load index shouldn’t be confused with the tire’s load range rating. The load index of the new tire needs to meet or exceed the load index of the tire originally equipped on the vehicle. This helps to keep the tire from being overloaded.”
You’ll want to select a tire with a load index that’s equivalent to or greater than the OE tire used on the vehicle. – Heather Tausch, M/T
So, what is a tire load index and why is it so important? The tire load index is actually the rating for how much load a tire can carry when fully inflated. This number isn’t the actual weight the tire can carry, it’s the number that represents the load index on a tire load index chart. The chart is what you want to use to find the right tire for your application. As the load index number goes up, so does the load capacity of the tire. You’ll want to look at tires with a load index of 119 or higher for towing. The load index is typically the last number on the sidewall of a tire and is followed by the speed rating letter.
The load range of a tire represents the durability of a tire, along with the air pressure it can hold and the weight it can carry. Tire load range also references the ply rating of a tire — the more plies, or layers, a tire has, the stronger it is. The ply rating system has changed with modern tires since they’re made of fewer and stronger plies. The load range of a tire is represented by a letter on the sidewall and is followed by the maximum recommended air pressure. An example of this would be a tire having a load range rating of D1, which corresponds with a ply rating of 8, and a max load carrying air pressure of 65 psi.
The tire speed rating is another item to keep in mind when looking at tires. The speed rating of a tire is the maximum recommended speed it can travel. So, the tires you use for towing not only need to be rated for the load you’re going to haul, but they also need to be able to operate at the speeds you plan to drive.
There are numerous tread patterns available for truck tires. The tread pattern is going to have an impact on how your truck handles while towing, and how well it will navigate different surfaces.
“Because Mickey’s All-Terrain Hybrid tires have a tread-to-void ratio between a traditional all-terrain and mud terrain tire, and has a tread block count closer to a Mud Terrain, the tread blocks are massive. The large surface area tread element helps to provide stability during lane changes and cornering, which is beneficial when pulling a trailer,” Tausch explains.
Just because you’re pulling a trailer doesn’t mean how your truck’s ride needs to suffer. The tire’s sidewall plays a big role in how a vehicle rides, so a tire with a soft sidewall that has plenty of flex will help the vehicle ride better. That soft sidewall will also improve the amount of available traction, how well the vehicle will behave under braking, and how the vehicle will turn. Truck tires that are optimized for towing will provide the benefits of a softer sidewall tire while still being able to tow a trailer with ease when inflated to the correct pressure level.
After talking with the tire experts at Mickey Thompson they recommended a set of the Baja Boss A/T LT265/75/R16 tires for the 2008 Chevy Avalanche owned by Rick Doerr. The Baja Boss A/T is a hybrid all-terrain tire that’s designed to provide solid on-road handling while still being able to deal with off-road conditions. The asymmetrical tread pattern cuts down on road noise while still allowing the tire to achieve a high level of all-weather performance. A silica-reinforced rubber compound makes up the Baja Boss A/T — this gives the tire an outstanding on-road tread wear rating, effective wet road handling, and improved braking performance. Mickey Thompson recommended these tires for Rick since he uses his truck to tow a race car trailer as well as other truck activities.
Rick’s Avalanche weighs in at 5,700 pounds and his 28-foot trailer tips the scales at around 6,000 pounds fully loaded. The new tires made a noticeable difference in how the truck drives and tows.
“The truck feels more responsive when I’m driving it around without the trailer and the road noise isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The towing experience with the new tires is really good. As I was driving down the road everything felt stable and smooth, exactly the kind of experience you want when towing your race car to the track,” Doerr says.
Tire Maintenance, Care, And More
Truck tires are going to cost significantly more than passenger car tires, so you’ll want to take care of the rubber investment you just made. It may seem like common sense, but the first step is to have a competent service shop mount and balance your tires. These tires are big and heavy, and if they’re not installed correctly, they won’t wear properly and can cause damage to your suspension.
One complaint people have about aggressive truck tires is the excessive road noise they can produce. Road noise can be mitigated if the tires are installed correctly and properly maintained.
“There are a few ways you can reduce the amount of road noise a set of tires will produce. You should run the appropriate inflation pressure and rotate the tires according to the manufacturer’s suggested intervals. By keeping the steering and suspension components in excellent condition and ensuring that the vehicle is aligned properly on high-quality equipment by a reputable shop, you can reduce the amount of road noise a set of tires generates,” Tausch explains.
Tire pressure is one of the most important things to monitor on your race car, and the same is true for your tow vehicle. If you don’t inflate your tow vehicle’s tires to the correct pressure, the contact patch will be reduced and this will affect how the truck handles. Incorrect tire pressure will also have an impact on how your tires wear, too.
The tires you select for your tow rig will directly impact how well it tows and drives. If you take the time to research the right tires for your tow rig it will save you a few headaches and maybe even avoid being stranded on the side of the road. Remember, you can’t win a race if you can’t get to the track, so get the right tires for your tow rig.