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The best truck tire

Check tire pressure every time you get gas. Properly inflated tires steer and brake better, and improve fuel consumption.
Check tire pressure every time you get gas. Properly inflated tires steer and brake better, and improve fuel consumption.

Buying the right truck tire can be a complicated task. There are lots of brands vying for your money, and a fair amount of technical jargon. Our short but informative review is designed to give you the information you need to pick the right model. We've examined the two most important criteria – structure and tread pattern – and looked at prices, too. Our top choice, the Nitto Terra Grappler, is one of the best all-arounders on the market, equally at home on the dirt or the highway.

Considerations when choosing truck tires

Structure

Must SUVs and trucks are heavier than a standard sedan, so the tire needs to be stronger to support that weight. That usually means harder rubber and a thicker sidewall. The downside is that it's less flexible, so truck tires don't give quite so smooth a ride. In general though, truck suspension has more give, so the difference is minimized.

Though compounds vary from one manufacturer to another, as a general guide you can look at ply:

A 2-ply tire is cheaper, but likely to flex more. A 4-ply tire is firmer and more durable. 6-ply tires are the toughest of all, and also offer good puncture resistance, but because of the additional material used, they are quite a lot more expensive.

Tread pattern

Tread pattern is the other important aspect when choosing a truck tire.

If you have an SUV that you rarely take further off road than a campground parking area, road-focused tread patterns that look much like you find on a sedan will be perfectly adequate. If you drive your pickup or jeep to work, then hit the hills on the weekend, there are tires designed with dual purpose patterns that won't quite give you all-terrain 4x4 ability, but will get you up a dusty trail. If you spend a lot of time off road, then big chunky tread is what you want. They work well in dirt, mud and over rocky terrain. They're also good in snow. However, their grip on asphalt, particularly in the wet, is not as good as a dedicated road tire. They're perfectly safe at ordinary highway speeds in the dry, but you'll want to modify your driving if conditions deteriorate.

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Tire size

There's no need to buy from the brand that was fitted on your vehicle when it left the factory, but we do recommend sticking to the same size. Larger or smaller tires might fit, but you'll probably mess with the handling and braking, and could upset the calibration of the speedometer.

Your tire size (and rating) should be on the sidewall of your existing tire. Confirm that these are the size suggested by your vehicle manufacturer by looking in the owner's manual. There should also be a plaque on the frame of the driver's side door. Some vehicles have it on the gas tank filler cover.

Truck tire prices

You'll sometimes find very cheap truck tires available from street outlets, usually from no-name brands. They might be legal, but durability could be a problem. We wouldn't take the risk. You can buy good budget models from trusted manufacturers for around $60 to $70 per tire. High quality all-arounders – particularly for larger vehicles – cost around $110 to $180. That's the sweet spot for most drivers. Those focused on off-road performance cost more, and you can pay more than $300.

FAQ

Q. When do I need to replace my truck tires?

A. Although six states have no law governing tire wear, the legal minimum in most states is 2/32" tread remaining. However, many expert groups feel that's dangerously low – particularly on truck tires, which have deeper tread than a car tire to start with. Many would like to see 4/32" adopted.

Q. What's the easiest way to check tread depth?

A. For many years, people have stuck a penny in the tread, it's 2/32" from the edge to Abraham Lincoln's head. If you'd rather measure 4/32", use a quarter – it's the distance to George Washington's hairline. If you want to be really accurate, spend five bucks and buy a tire tread depth gauge.

Truck tires we recommend

Best of the best: Nitto Terra Grappler G2 All-Season Tire

Our take: High-performance all-surface tire at a mid-range price.

What we like: A great example of how modern tire technology can deliver superb traction on any terrain, in all weathers. Strong, long-lasting construction. Fits most SUVs, trucks, and 4x4s, and is very popular.

What we dislike: Not much. Can be louder than some at high speed.

Best bang for your buck: Goodyear Wrangler Tire

Our take: It has become something of an icon, and offers terrific value.

What we like: Excellent all-around, on- and off-road. Wide range of sizes. Durable. Ideal for light trucks and jeeps. Surprisingly low cost.

What we dislike: A few reports of sidewall failures after a couple of years.

Choice 3: Firestone Destination M/T Mud Terrain Tire

Our take: A top quality choice for those who regularly transition from road to dirt.

What we like: Chunky tread designed for off-road traction in all conditions. Good road performance. Fits a wide range of pickups, jeeps and SUVs.

What we dislike: Expensive. Not recommended for full-time highway use.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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