Some advice on trailer hitches, wheels and tires
Several years ago Auto Restorer published a series of articles that addressed several aspects of the selection and use of a vehicle-transport trailer. I don’t recall that they included anything about loadequalizing hitches (which I have found to be essential) or about tires. The tires on my old trailer have long been in need of replacement. The trailer is built on mobile home axles so the tires are the 7x14.5 eight-ply tubeless bias ply that were originally used under a mobile home. Even when loaded these tires “telegraph” every bump in the road back to the tow vehicle. I plan to replace the axle springs with something lighter and I’m considering replacing the tires with an LT radial. The 14.5” wheels have a 5 on 51⁄2” bolt pattern (not the open-style wheel) so I believe that I can use Ford truck/van wheels to mount 15-inch LT radial tires.
I’m hoping that these changes will improve the trailering experience with a smoother ride and easier pull. Do you have any advice?
Based on my own experience pulling a car-carrying trailer I agree that a load equalizing hitch can be extremely beneficial, especially with shorter wheelbase tow vehicles and single rear wheel axles. I did quite a lot of towing with a long wheelbase dually pickup and found the combination of the long wheelbase and the dual rear wheel axle to be extremely stable, obviating the need for a load-equalizer.
With regard to your wheels, there are numerous vehicles that have used a 5 x 5.5-inch bolt pattern, including Chevrolet, GMC, Daihatsu, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Kia, Jeep, Geo, Mitsubishi and Suzuki trucks, SUVs and vans.
While the bolt pattern for your axles is easy to accommodate you also need wheels that are the right width, diameter and offset, and with sufficient clearance for your brakes.
As far as what type of tires to use, you will hear widely varying opinions from different experts. I’ll share my own experience with you and let you draw your own conclusion. When I bought my Wells Cargo enclosed single-car hauler it had its OEM bias ply trailer tires. I put several thousand miles on these with no problem other than fairly frequent flat tires.
One day I commented to a tire dealer that I got an awful lot of flats with my trailer tires and he offered me two bits of advice that turned out to be quite helpful. First, he said that in his experience most trailer flats occur on right-side tires because people pulling a trailer tend to stay positioned farther to the right on the road than they otherwise would with the result being the right-side tires frequently get out of the normal path of travel and onto the very edge of the lane or even onto the shoulder where tire-cutting and puncturing debris tends to accumulate. As someone who got far more flats on the right side than the left I paid close attention to what he said. When trailering I normally stayed in the right lane and for an added margin of safety I did tend to bias my position toward the right side of the lane, giving people passing on the left more room to get by. The second thing the tire dealer said about flats is that bias ply tires are simply more susceptible to puncture than are modern radials and that too made sense.
Sadly, I’m old enough to remember the days when bias ply tires were in widespread use and flats were a common nuisance. Nowadays nearly every car on the road is riding on radials, and flat tires are relatively uncommon. I drive about 40,000 miles per year and can’t remember the last time I experienced a flat tire.
So, the tire dealer’s remedy for my frequent trailer flats was to stay centered in the lane and switch to radial tires.
He suggested mounting radials on rims designed for radials and choosing tires with at least 25% more load rating than the weight of my fully loaded trailer.
Besides cutting down on flats, he opined that the radials would stop better (especially on wet roads), last longer, and track better with the tow vehicle, which was riding on radials.
I did what he suggested and lived happily ever after, with far fewer flats, less wander and squirm in the trailer’s tracking, and a more compliant ride for the trailer on bumpy roads.