Which Tires Are Best for Trucks?

September 17th, 2020 by

There’s no such thing as a one-type-fits-all tire, especially for pickup drivers. Tires vary not only in size but also in strength and purpose. The next time you’re due for a new set of tires, don’t just settle on ones that fit your truck — choose ones that fit your lifestyle.

Before we get into the types of truck tires you might choose, here’s how you can tell which tires fit your truck:

Homework: How to Read Tire Sizes

gmc sierra red truck tires

Image via Flickr by truckhardware

Before you start shopping for a new set of tires, it may be helpful for you to know how to read those series of numbers and letters you find on tire sidewalls. These codes tell you a lot about the tire — most importantly, whether they fit your truck.

Let’s use the code “LT 265 / 65 R 18” as an example.

The letters at the beginning of the code tell you what kind of vehicle the tire is meant for. “P” stands for “Passenger vehicle.” “LT” stands for “Light Truck.”

The next three numbers — 265 — are the tire’s width in millimeters. Our example tells us these tires are 265 millimeters wide from sidewall to sidewall.

The first two numbers after the slash symbol indicate the aspect ratio. This is the ratio between the tire’s height and width. In our example, the tire is 65% as tall from the center out as it is wide. This essentially tells you how large the sidewall is.

The letter that comes after will most often be “R.” This tells you how the tire was constructed. “R” stands for “Radial,” which means the tire is made up of layers that run across it.

Finally, there are the last two numbers. In this example, those numbers are 18. This is the diameter of the wheel that your tire fits: 18 inches. If you only know what one of these numbers and letters mean, this is the most important one. Know the size of your wheels so you can look at these final two numbers and know that you’re getting tires that fit your truck.

Did you get all that? Good. Let’s get down to business. Here are some of the most common types of tires you might consider putting on your truck:

All-Season Tires

Odds are, when you drive your truck off the lot for the first time, you’re sitting on all-season tires. These entry-level tires are not bad by any means, but they are more limiting than your other options. All-season tires focus on maintaining your truck’s grip on pavement, including when it’s raining.

The benefit of all-season tires is that they’re some of the cheapest options available to you and your truck. If your drives keep you on the city pavement — if you don’t plan on off-roading, mudding, or tackling very wintry roads — all-season tires may be perfect for you.

All-Terrain Tires

If you want an all-around good set of tires that you can trust in multiple situations, consider equipping your truck with all-terrain tires. Tires designed specifically for off-roading are often bumpy and uncomfortable on the road. Standard, run-of-the-mill road tires are more likely to spin out on slippery roads. All-terrain tires sit in that Goldilocks zone between the two extremes.

Unless you’re an avid off-roader, all-terrain tires should suffice for most pickup drivers. They’re versatile, ready for slick roads and slippery surfaces, and they should be tough enough to last you for a decent amount of time.

High-Performance Tires

If you’re trying to show off your souped-up truck on paved roads, you might consider high-performance tires or even ultra-high-performance tires if you’re trying to go professional. These tires are for street use only and are designed to perform at high speeds. Their tread is shallow and their rubber is sticky.

High-performance tires are not practical. They’re for fun. There are such things as high-performance tires that are designed to fare better in inclement weather, but they’re not as secure as all-season or all-terrain tires. High-performance tires have short lifespans and lower your truck’s fuel economy. But if you’re trying to get to the finish line before the truck driver next to you, these are your best options.

Off-Road or Mud-Terrain Tires

You probably guessed it from their name: Off-road tires are for drivers who expect to leave the pavement often in their trucks. These types of tires are specifically designed to improve performance and traction on slippery and rough terrain. They have a deeper and wider tread that improves their grip on the ground. They’re also built tougher in order to avoid punctures.

If you don’t plan on doing much off-roading in your truck, consider skipping these. Yes, they are cool and tough, but they make for rougher riding on pavement — especially at highway speeds. Consider all-terrain tires if you want a good balance of off-road grip and road-ready smoothness.

Winter Tires

This is pretty straightforward stuff: Winter tires help you drive confidently through the winter. All-terrain and all-season tires are designed to give you decent levels of traction throughout the year’s seasons. Winter tires are designed to give you the best traction during winter. It’s a jack-of-all-trades versus master-of-one kind of situation.

Winter tires are made with rubber that doesn’t freeze hard when the temperature drops outside. This pliability improves the tires’ traction on slippery and icy roads. These types of tires will also feature studs that help maintain your grip on the road. In a perfect world, you would have two sets of tires: one set for the kinder months of the year — such as all-terrain tires — and one set of winter tires that you can switch them out with when the thermometer drops.

We put together this guide to give you the know-how you need to build the best truck for you. Whether you’re looking for new tires or a truck to sit on them, Sweeney Buick-GMC in Youngstown, Ohio, has what you need to take your driving experience to the next level.

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