Updated Jul 21, 2022 9:53 AM
Boat trailer tires quickly change from a small consideration to a time-wasting headache when a fishing trip is derailed by a blown tire. Instead of cruising down the road to the launch with your fishing boat, looking forward to the day, you’re fretting around on the shoulder, digging out the jack and putting on the spare tire…and you’d better hope that it’s in decent enough shape to get you there.
If you had added preventative trailer tire awareness and periodic replacement to your annual pre-boating-season checklist—tracking the tires’ age and condition and proactively replacing tires before they fail—that scenario would never come to pass. Allow us to help you determine the best boat trailer tires for your rig to keep you off of the roadside and on the water.
Things to Consider Before Buying Boat Trailer Tires
Tire type, size, load range, and speed rating all factor into the best type of trailer tire for you. Understand these elements and you will find the best boat trailer tires for your rig.
Trailer Tire Types
The sidewall of the tire is where to find specific information regarding the tire—dimensions, capacities, and purpose. Tires designed for trailer use will be marked as “ST” (Special Trailer) or Trailer Use Only.
There are two basic trailer tire types, radial and bias ply. Radial tires have plies (internal layers) that lay perpendicularly across the tire and belts, but don’t extend around the tire’s circumference under the sidewalls. The plies of bias ply tires run at an angle across the tire’s belts, from one bead to the other, throughout the entire tire.
Radial tires have superior tread wear and run cooler on long trips. They are also less prone to developing flat spots when parked in the same position for an extended period of time. Bias ply tires have stiffer sidewalls. That can be an advantage if your trailered load sways excessively, and/or when carrying heavy loads. They also tend to be less expensive than radial tires.
Width and height are the two most important elements in determining correct tire size. Make sure it’s compatible with the trailer and the tires being replaced. Consult the manufacturer specifications and information found on the sidewalls of the tire being replaced. It is also important to have proper spacing between the fender and the top of the tire; otherwise the mobility of the trailer can be affected.
This is the maximum weight (load capacity) that the tire can handle safely. The load range is represented by a letter designation, from B to F. The higher the letter, the greater the capacity or load it can carry. If your tires have a maximum capacity of 900 pounds and your trailer is single axle, the total load capacity for the trailer would be 1800 pounds.
It’s critical to keep in mind that load is defined as everything the trailer and tires will be carrying: boat, motors, fuel tanks, trolling motors, trolling motor batteries, and any other gear in your boat or on the trailer.
Tires manufactured before 2015 may not have a specific speed rating listed. If you happen to be considering the use of these older tires, be aware that the maximum speed is 65 mph. Newer tires should have one of the following codes located on the sidewall of the tire at the end of the tire size:
- M – 81 mph
- L – 75 mph
- J – 62 mph
Be aware of your tire’s designation and adhere to the maximum speed rating.
Why It Made the Cut: Available in a variety of sizes, this Carlisle tire’s superb 8-ply design is strong and dependable over the long haul.
- Construction: 8-ply Radial
- Available in 15 sizes
- Wear-resistant tread compound
- High-tensile design for puncture resistance
- High-speed trailer tire for the long haul
- Long tire life
Carlisle is a company that understands the needs of boaters when it comes to transporting watercraft. The unique tread pattern found on their HD Trailer Tires provides excellent traction on the boat ramp and even wear throughout the life of the tire. This design aspect maximizes the tire’s lifespan.
The radial construction of these tires provides superior heat resistance. This prevents warping and further facilitates even wear. The high-tensile, 8-ply design increases the tire’s puncture resistance, overall strength, and durability. This well-thought-out design allows you to pull your trailer over rough or uneven ground, often found on and near boat ramps and the service roads leading to launch sites.
Carlisle HD Trailer Tires are designed and built for either short or long distance transport. They can easily handle 10,000 miles or more before showing signs of wear and tear, so the prospect of a long haul is not a concern.
Additionally, these tires are compatible with a variety of popular boat trailer brands.
Why It Made the Cut: A set of four premium tires that will get you from coast to coast.
- Construction: 8-ply radial
- Available in 8 sizes
- Full nylon cap ply
- Available in pairs only
- Nylon cap ply overlay makes for a very strong tire
- Scuff guard ring protects sidewall
Grand Ride’s Free Country boat trailer tires are worth the initial investment. These 8-ply radial tires are among the most durable on the market. An additional nylon cap ply (a nylon overlay across the entire tread area) enhances their durability. To complete the tank-like construction, Grand Ride has added the sidewall “Scuff Guard” ring on the tire wall to further protect the sidewall and rim. Made to endure, these tires have been proven to withstand the roughest terrain, from rocky farm lanes to potholed stretches of gravel and packed earth road.
Grand Ride’s Free Country boat trailer tires can be expected to provide 10,000 to 20,000 miles of trailered travel for your boat, and exceeding this base range is not uncommon.
Why It Made the Cut: These tires are reliable, come mounted on rims, and fit a range of boat trailers.
- Construction: 6-ply bias ply
- Available in numerous sizes and wheel configurations
- Available singly or in pairs with wheels
- Excellent price
- Easy installation
- Not appropriate for trailering larger boats
eCustomRim tires are an excellent rim and tire choice for smaller boats. With a maximum load of 990 pounds per tire, these rims and tires are compatible with a wide range of popular boat trailer brands, including Alumacraft, Crestliner, Lund, Mako, Tracker and Triton.
The diagonal bias ply construction makes for strong sidewalls and a solid foundation when transporting a boat over rough terrain. I’ve found this style tire to be an excellent choice for my drift boat trailer, which I haul over rutted farm two-track lanes better suited to tractors, to dirt, gravel and grass makeshift takeouts. These eCustomRim tires get the job done.
Take a good tire, include solid rims and you have an elegantly simple solution for replacing your trailer tires. When a tire is purchased as a tire-only, you do not get a ready-for-installation unit. The old tire needs to be removed from the rim and the new tire needs to be mounted on it. If you don’t have the tools required to do this, tire mounting can become time consuming. Enter the ECustomRim two-pack of tires with rims. In fifteen minutes, you can have the new tires installed and ready to roll for their maiden voyage.
I’ve trailered boats throughout the eastern United States, on multiple fishing trips to Ontario and most recently, from New York to Colorado. I’ve learned to begin each and every outing, whether a short trip to the local river or the long cross-country haul, with a trailer and tire inspection. I’ve worked with tire sales people, mechanics and boating professionals, all of whom have helped me learn plenty about trailer tires.
Along with all that experience, I considered dozens of trailer tires from 18 different companies, using the following criteria:
- Tire construction and design: Is the tire radial or diagonal bias? What is the ply rating? Is the manufacturer known for quality products and a sound understanding of what boaters need?
- Durability: The effects of oxidation and U.V. exposure limit trailer tire longevity. I looked for tires with a strong track record in this category. Can they stand up to cross-country hauls? Are they capable of handling hundreds of days driving to the water and home again, without incident?
- Price: My basic premise with all gear is that it’s an investment. That doesn’t mean I want to spend money needlessly. Find good tires at a reasonable price and you can then afford that new fishing cooler you’ve wanted but couldn’t afford.
- Availability: Due to a wide range of factors, some tire products, though excellent, are currently hard to get. Though this aspect of supply and demand changes constantly, I tried to identify quality tires that are currently available to the consumer.
Q: How do you choose boat trailer tires?
To choose boat trailer tires, check the tire code provided by the manufacturer or found on the tires you’re replacing. The problem for most of us is that this number and letter sequence is a bit like Egyptian hieroglyphics. To make matters worse, there is some variability in the way different companies identify their products. To help you understand, here’s a breakdown of an ST205/75R14 105M tire:
ST – denotes the tire as being a “Special Trailer” tire
205 – the width of the tire measured in millimeters
75 – the height of the tire as a percentage of the tire’s width. In this example, the height is 75% of its width of 205mm
R – tire construction designated as either R (Radial) or D (Diagonal Bias, also known as Bias Ply)
14 – the diameter of the rim in inches
105 – Load index rating. This number corresponds to a maximum load weight in pounds.
In this case, 105 equates to a maximum load of 2039 pounds per wheel. Sometimes you will find this marked on the sidewall as “Load Range B (the lightest), C, D, E, or F (the heaviest).
M – maximum speed rating for the tire; in this case, M denotes a maximum safe speed of 81mph.
Q: How long do boat trailer tires last?
Trailer tires generally need to be replaced after three to five years of use. Though they may appear to have plenty of tread remaining, trailer tires first succumb to the effects of oxidation of the rubber and UV radiation from sunlight. The UV radiation causes exterior damage to the sidewalls, and oxygen from pressurized air creates unseen damage from the inside.
Q: What size should boat trailer tires be?
The size of your boat trailer tires needs to be appropriate for the load they will carry and fit the trailer properly. If you began with the original tires used by the manufacturer, it’s a fairly safe bet that you can use the details from those tires to determine the correct size for your trailer. All the information needed can be found on the sidewall of the tire. If unsure of the appropriateness of the tire being replaced, check with the manufacturer for their recommended specifications.
Q: What are the best boat trailer tire brands?
There are a number of quality boat trailer tire brands to choose from. These include Goodyear, eCustomRim, Carlisle, Grand Ride, Roadstar, Trailer King, MaxAuto and SuperCargo.
Q: Can I use trailer tires on my car?
Trailer tires are specialized and not intended for use on your car or truck. “ST” (Special Trailer) tires are designed for trailer wheels, typically narrower than those on a car. They also have shallower treads so they wiggle less and in turn improve the tow vehicle’s fuel economy.
Boat trailer tires are not sexy like the boats that often ride on them. However, that same beautiful boat looks quite sad when sitting along the interstate, off-kilter because of the blown tire that should have been replaced. To minimize the likelihood of this scenario, add trailer tire knowledge and awareness to your off-season program. If you’ve gotten three to five good years from your current tires, consider replacing them before the elements force your hand. Use the tires being replaced and the trailer manufacturer’s specifications to guide your decision-making process. When your new tires are installed, you’ll have made a wise investment to maximize your time on the water.