High-quality materials and manufacturing oversight promote safety and longevity
Towing a trailer comes with the responsibility of making sure the combo is safe for travel on public roads. It’s incumbent on all owners to ensure that their trailer or fifth-wheel is hitched properly using equipment that’s rated to handle the job, the brakes are in optimum shape, and the tires are suitable for the load and inflated to specifications.
Ask any owner what he or she worries about most when towing a trailer, and the answer will likely be “the tires.” Concern about tire safety is not unexpected; there are way too many tire-failure stories out there that don’t end on a happy note. The influx of poorly made tires from China, sporting unknown names, has made it more important than ever to pay close attention to wear indicators in an attempt to mitigate the frequency of blowouts and expensive collateral damage.
The number of top-of-mind companies that build and distribute Special Trailer (ST) tires is very small. Maxxis is one that is looking to provide the lion’s share of premium-grade ST tires to trailer owners. To learn more about Maxxis, we installed a set of ST225/75R15 LRE tires on a fifth-wheel for field-testing under varying conditions over a period of time.
First reaction to Maxxis might be, “These tires are also made in Asia.” True, they are made in Thailand, but the company has a technical center and marketing department in the United States, and its business model is quite different. Rather than contracting for tires from some obscure plant overseas, Maxxis owns the factory and hovers over quality control and production, which is counter to how most of the other “unknown” trailer tires are built in Asia.
Where many of these contracting factories prioritize production speed and are nowhere to be found when warranty issues arise, Maxxis’ approach is much different in that it is committed to the American market in a big way. The company has a 15-year U.S. track record and uses its tech center to follow up on problem areas on a timely basis, something that is very important to trailer owners who are often far from home and familiar service centers when a tire failure occurs. Maxxis focuses on the aftermarket, which helps facilitate communication between owners and service centers.
To understand how this company ticks, you have to delve into the motives of the founder. His mantra was and is to purchase the best possible materials, over-engineer the product and offer exceptional service. Maxxis owns the molds, and all manufacturing is done in-house. To ensure safety, Maxxis ST tires have an additional layer on top of the steel belts that reinforce the structure, which the company claims won’t be found in competitive brands. The gauge of rubber is different from other ST tires on the market, using tough textile materials like high-strength polyester, which is designed to withstand the load better and prolong longer storage times without compromising the tire’s integrity.
As part of the manufacturing process, antioxidants are employed to resist long-term exposure to ozone and UV rays, which is important for tires on trailers that are stored for long periods or even set up in campgrounds where warm weather and strong direct sunlight are common. This doesn’t preclude the use of a tire cover for increased longevity or the use of a good protectant that’s not petroleum based, but it does give owners a hedge against buying replacement tires sooner than expected. Maxxis even markets its own line of tire covers.
Regular maintenance is expected of the owner for maximum tire life. Maxxis recommends keeping the tires clean using a brush with mild soap and water. The company prefers not to pinpoint the number of years before the tires time out, which is generally accepted to be seven years industry-wide. Rather, it prefers that the tires are inspected by professionals when tread depth reaches 6⁄32 of an inch. These tires should be taken out of service when tread depth is reduced to 2⁄32 of an inch and, for better safety, replaced at 4⁄32, especially if the trailer is towed on wet roads.
It goes without saying that maintaining tire pressure is paramount — and definitely the owner’s responsibility. Maxxis recommends checking pressure at least once a month and before each trip. The test tires are rated at 80 psi to handle the maximum load of 2,830 pounds; we allowed the tires to sit for two months, and pressure loss was around 3 to 4 psi.
After towing the fifth-wheel close to 6,000 miles, the tread depth on the Maxxis tires was 8⁄32 of an inch, which represents a negligible loss. Maxxis recommends rotating the tires, and the wheels on the test trailer have been balanced. The tread is showing no adverse wear patterns. The sidewalls have been treated with a suitable protectant, and there are no signs of cracking or crazing. Proper axle alignment and the use of shocks can also improve longevity dramatically.
Tread design is always a critical element when it comes to building ST tires. Typically these tires take a lot of abuse because of undulating terrain, campgrounds with unpaved roads, and sidewall twisting when backing into tight sites. Maxxis uses a rib design that allows the tire to carry a lot of weight and, according to the company, prevents premature wear. Traditional rib blocks are individual, which means they can be squirmy and heat up faster. The Maxxis tires have no individual blocks, as the ribs continue around the circumference of the tire and are stronger — and restricted from too much movement. This type of design allows the tires to “stick” better to the road and limits flexing.
While the tires are engineered to run faster than 80 mph, the company limits its speed rating to 65 mph, in accordance with agreements with the Tire and Rim Association. Exhaustive testing assures confidence in safety, but should not be considered a free ticket to pull a trailer faster than 65 mph. Traveling at greater speeds is unsafe and not encouraged.
Maxxis offers ST tires in sizes that are most commonly used on trailers and fifth-wheels. They are backed by a five-year warranty with a replacement provision if a tire fails within the first 12 months of service and the amount of tread wear is no more than 2⁄32 of an inch (25 percent of service life). There are a number of stipulations, and owners should read the extensive — and very clear — warranty details carefully. The limited warranty and maintenance information is presented on the company’s website.
Outfitting a trailer or fifth-wheel with high-quality tires helps owners circumvent the frustrations of trip interruptions and the cost of repairing collateral damage when subpar tires blow unexpectedly, not to mention the cost of new tires. Proper maintenance and the use of better-grade ST tires, like those offered by Maxxis, tempers stress and allows you to focus on having a good trip.
Maxxis Tires | 800-462-9947 | www.maxxis.com/tires/autolt/trailer