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Used Light Truck Tire Buyers’ Guide: Top 10 Things To Look For

In the off-road hobby, tires are everything. Not only can they make or break the look of your 4x4, they can completely alter its performance. Even when purchasing a vehicle, tires are a major selling point for many. After all, tires are not cheap, especially the larger light truck tire treads that are so popular today. This has led to places like Craigslist, eBay and enthusiast forums across the globe to become flooded with used tire listings.

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Buying used light truck tires might sound crazy to some, but it’s actually a big business. It’s also a great way to save some serious coin over buying new. As the only part of your vehicle that’s designed to be in constant contact with the terrain below, your tire investment is an extremely important one.

We say buy new if you can, but if you do go the way of secondhand treads, here are some tips to make sure you’re actually getting a good deal:

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Always check the tire’s load range and weight rating.

This will be plainly marked on the sidewall of the tire. In most cases, the maximum load carrying capacity number is what you want to see. For example, you wouldn’t want a load range C tire with a max capacity of 1,500 pounds on a heavy 1-ton truck. For that, you’ll look towards something in the D or E load-range category, which will typically support higher weights.

Look for choppy or uneven tread.

This usually means the vehicle it was on had some sort of alignment issue or wasn’t properly inflated. A slight feathering or tread-depth differences can often be evened out by rotating them to the back of the vehicle and inflating them properly. If the chop is significant, we would walk away as it will cause diminished tire performance and increased noise.

Double check that all of the tires are the same.

Many brands can differ in size. What one company offers as a 33-inch-tall tire, might not be the same as the other. Mismatched tire sizing can wreak havoc on full-time 4x4 vehicles and rigs equipped with automatic lockers.

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When looking at tread depth, use a gauge, not a coin.

A tread-depth gauge measures tread depth in 32nds of an inch and is a very inexpensive tool to own. To have a number to compare the reading to, go to the manufacturer’s website and check its original specs. In most states, a tire is considered legally “worn out” at 2/32-inch.

Look for patches, plugs or any other signs of deterioration on the sidewalls.

Just as important as the tread is the sidewall. Sidewall plugs and patches are a no-no. A plug or two in the tread isn't a huge deal if done correctly.

Distinguish deal-breaking marks from normal wear-and-tear.

Going off-road is hard on tires, especially rockcrawling. Any gouges, bubbles and exposed belts are definite signs that you need to walk away. Small cuts are common on a tire that has been off-road, as are rounded leading edges on the tread blocks.

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Perhaps the most important piece of information you can find on the sidewall is the born-on date.

Since the year 2000, all tires have a four-number date code stamped on the sidewall. The first two digits are the week; the second two represent the year. If the tire’s date is over five years from the current date, we would pass – even if the tires appear to be in good shape.

Sitting in the sun can cause a tire to deteriorate in rapid fashion.

A dry-rotted tire may look new from a distance, but upon closer inspection you will be able to see the bevy of cracks. Again, this is one of those times where it is better to pass.

Sometimes tire damage can occur without the seller even knowing.

Removing an older tire from the wheel can sometimes lead to damage to the bead bundle. It only takes one quick mistake on a tire machine to rip or tear a chunk out of a bead. Any bead damage is something to shy away from.

tire-balance-machine

 

This last one is more of a buyer beware: not all tires spin true and round.

This is why we have our tires and wheels balanced. Unfortunately, some can be too far out and cause handling issues. If you have this trouble when the tire is new, you can simply swap it out. On a used set, you are probably stuck.

 

If you prefer buying new light truck tires, Nitto Tire might have just what you're looking for. Check out our review on their latest hybrid creation, the Ridge Grappler.

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