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Pickup truck tire care: How to increase the lifespan of your tires

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Your pickup truck is your pride and joy—and quite possibly also vital to your ability to earn a living. You may have spent considerable time and money upgrading your truck’s engine, suspension, appearances, or tires.

Just like any other part of your vehicle, your rig’s rubber requires regular maintenance to function properly. The more effectively you care for your compounds, the longer they will keep doing their job. But not everyone knows how to care for their truck tires or when to replace them. Hell, most people don’t even know which tires are best for their pickup and its specific needs!

Off-road and utility vehicles are designed to carry heavier loads and navigate much tougher terrain than passenger cars. In consequence, your truck’s tires will differ considerably from those of regular vehicles and maintaining them will likely be more of a challenge.

To help you get the most out of every mile, we’ve compiled this short and simple five-part guide to the essentials of proper tire care for your pickup truck.

1. Choose the right tires

Do you drive a one-tonner for towing and carrying heavy loads, a fully tricked-out rig for off-roading, or a factory-standard pickup to get you from A to B on or off-road? Depending on your needs, the ideal tires for your pickup truck will vary.

To choose your tires correctly, check your truck for the manufacturer sticker that’s usually found inside the driver’s door jamb as well as the marking on your existing tires’ walls. This indicates the specs— gross vehicle weight rating, recommended tire size and pressure, and so forth—to use as your basic tire-selection criteria. You should then expand these criteria to account for any post-purchase alterations you’ve made, as well as other relevant particulars, such as the terrain on which you will be driving and the typical climate in your region. Collectively, these criteria necessitate tires with particular attributes in terms of size, tread pattern, load capacity, sidewall strength, and the like.

Armed with this information, you or the tire shop assistant can identify the perfect tires for your pickup. But having the correct tires is only the first step in ensuring that your wheels will keep rolling safely and effectively for as many miles as possible. Keep these criteria in mind as you apply the subsequent steps involved in extending your tires’ lifespan.

2. Check your wheel alignment and balancing

Correct wheel alignment and balancing are vital to a safe ride and minimal tire wear and tear. Misaligned or unbalanced wheels lead to uneven tread wear—evenly worn tires last much longer than those with irregularly worn tread. Wheel alignment is particularly important if you’ve had your pickup’s suspension raised. Remember that factory alignment specs no longer apply to modified vehicles. Update your alignment check criteria accordingly.

3. Check tire pressure often and adjust to changing terrain

Consult your pickup truck’s owner’s manual to identify the ideal pressure level for your tires. If you’re transporting light loads and avoiding rugged terrain, then the standard specs are best. Be sure to check your tire pressure at least once a month to maintain optimal inflation. Note, however, that standard tire inflation specs are not usually ideal for off-road travel or heavier loads.

If you are switching from tar to gravel, it’s likely best to deflate your tires somewhat. This will increase traction, thus improving handling and reducing wear and tear as a result of slippage. Do a little research to find out how much to deflate your tires before you hit the trails. Just remember to re-inflate before you return to the tar. Also, be sure to drive slower and more carefully over rugged terrain or speed humps.

4. Watch your shocks and don’t overload

In addition to poor wheel alignment and balancing, faulty shock absorbers can significantly diminish your tires’ lifespan. This is particularly relevant to pickup trucks that often go off-road, where their suspension takes much more of a pounding than on regular roads. This is because bum shocks can cause tires to develop peaks and depressions along their tread—a phenomenon known as cupping—resulting in uneven wear and tear and making flats more likely. So, it follows that extending the lifespan of your shocks will help you to enhance your tires’ longevity as well. This brings us to a related point: don’t overload the truck bed. In addition to directly causing your tires to wear out faster, overloading also damages your shock absorbers, further accelerating the wear of your tire tread.

5. Rotate tires regularly (and include your spare)

Finally and you probably already know this, but we’ll say it again because it is important. Rotate your tires regularly and correctly. How often you do this depends on what type of tires you have, what pickup truck you drive, and how you use it. Do a little homework on which rotation method and frequency are best for your vehicle and its usage. Be sure to include the spare in your tire-rotation regime so that it has even tread wear. Just a small difference in the tread on a pickup can put extra strain on the drive train, which is not something you want.

The bottom line on keeping tabs on your tread

With the proper maintenance, you can extend the lifespan of your pickup’s tires considerably and save a lot of money. But correct tire care is not just good for your bottom line; it’s essential for your safety too. Be sure to keep a very close eye on the condition of your truck’s tires.

As you might have guessed, a particularly important indicator of a tire’s condition is the state of its tread. When tires begin to wear out, their tread becomes shallower. Your tire tread depth should be no less than 1/16th of an inch and should wear out evenly over time. Not only are slick tires dangerous as they have no traction on the road but they can result in damage to your pickup’s brakes and suspension too.

Ultimately, as your tread nears its minimum depth, accept that it’s time for new tires. While looking after tires can extend their lifespan, it won’t make them last forever.

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