Changing out wheels/tires on an inexpensive utility trailer

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

prfesser

Lifetime Supporter
TRF Lifetime Supporter
Joined
May 7, 2017
Messages
1,824
Reaction score
1,893
Location
Murray, KY
Hi all,

I have a small cheap utility trailer arriving today. Tires/wheels are 12" and rated only to 45 mph. I'd like to swap for 13" and take longer trips at highway speeds (65 mph). How practical is this? What pitfalls? I've seen info suggesting that the axle also must be replaced for high speeds. Not looking at increased loads, increased speeds are the quest.

I am not a mechanic, don't play one on TV, and didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I need info from someone who knows more than me about the subject. That should be around 99.97% of the people on this forum...:)

If you've done something like this, please input! Thanks in advance!

Best -- Terry
 

heada

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
4,007
Reaction score
1,182
Location
Indianapolis, Indiana
I went from 12" to 14" on a 14' boat trailer. I had to make sure the bolt-hole patterns matched. The only change I had to make was on the fenders. I had to raise them 6 inches for clearance. I did that by using 3/4" tubular steel bolted between the frame and the fender.
 

Peartree

Cyborg Rocketeer
Staff member
Administrator
Global Mod
Joined
Jan 6, 2009
Messages
5,429
Reaction score
898
Location
Alliance, Ohio
If it's cheap because it's used, or even if it's not, be sure to pump some grease into the grease fittings. People are notoriously bad about greasing trailer bearings and this will be particularly important if you plan to drive at highway speeds.
 

Bowman

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2014
Messages
192
Reaction score
116
Hi all,

I have a small cheap utility trailer arriving today. Tires/wheels are 12" and rated only to 45 mph. I'd like to swap for 13" and take longer trips at highway speeds (65 mph). How practical is this? What pitfalls? I've seen info suggesting that the axle also must be replaced for high speeds. Not looking at increased loads, increased speeds are the quest.

I am not a mechanic, don't play one on TV, and didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I need info from someone who knows more than me about the subject. That should be around 99.97% of the people on this forum...:)

If you've done something like this, please input! Thanks in advance!

Best -- Terry
Well the wheel will actually spin slower at 13" than 12".
But that does not indicate that your load can be any greater.
You should really try to get the specs on the axle and bearings to be safe. If there is a manufacturer tag on the axle itself they may be able to guide you.

The speed laws also come into play. "Vehicles with trailers.." frequently have a lower speed limit.
Just because you can pull it at 65 doesn't mean that you should.

I have had a trailer get loose at 55 and it is a scary situation.
 

heada

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
4,007
Reaction score
1,182
Location
Indianapolis, Indiana
As has been said, the bearings are the key. Good trailers match or under-rate the bearings. Cheap trailers over-rate the bearings. That was how I could go from 12" to 14" on that boat trailer, the bearings were rated to support up to 14"
 

lakeroadster

Lonewolf.... No Club
Joined
Mar 3, 2018
Messages
2,533
Reaction score
1,354
Location
Central Colorado
Well the wheel will actually spin slower at 13" than 12".
But that does not indicate that your load can be any greater.
You should really try to get the specs on the axle and bearings to be safe. If there is a manufacturer tag on the axle itself they may be able to guide you.
Well said.

Please be careful Terry and kudos to you for trying to do this the right way . I little time spent here "Dangerous Trailers" will be an eye opener.
 

TSMILLER

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Aug 31, 2014
Messages
745
Reaction score
358
"Vehicles with trailers.." frequently have a lower speed limit.
Just because you can pull it at 65 doesn't mean that you should.
↑ This...I can't tell you how many times I see they guys hauling their boats or massive 5th wheel "alternate homes" on the freeways in the fast lanes in excess of 70 mph (pandemic driving?)
I always give them lots of room, I don't want to be near it when it gets loose!
I've seen the aftermath several times.
 

DigBaddy

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Messages
83
Reaction score
127
Location
SE, WI
Hubs/bearings are covered; but a good radial trailer tire should (at least as far as I've experienced) have a higher speed/load rating than a bias-ply like you have and that come on most 13" 4-bolt wheel/tire combos sold by HF, NT and big box home improvement stores. You'll probably need to buy the rims/tires separately; and do so at a tire shop and have them balanced to keep the hubs happy. A spare is required, so keep an original for that, but I always carry a can of inflate and seal, air compressor and a tire plug kit when towing. Flats on trailers can be a whole lot of not fun. Be sure you have a jack that can lift the trailer when a tire is flat and the right size lug wrench.

A smaller vehicle at 65mph even with 1000# of stuff on a trailer is at a point that one should consider trailer brakes and an anti-sway kit. (especially any vehicle with a short wheelbase) Yeah, it's going to cost more to have a trailer with brakes and a controller installed though. I tow our Aliner camper around the US (about 1600# dry) with an Outback. Upgraded the axle on the camper with 10" brakes and good tires, installed an anti-sway kit. The difference having those brakes and anti-sway kit over something without them is pretty amazing and I do not ever want to go without them. But, the most important part is to just take it easy driving. No rush.
 

RocketTree

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2020
Messages
205
Reaction score
202
Location
Canada
Go for it!
There is nothing wrong with installing higher speed rated tires on your trailer, or any trailer. The fitment of tire and rim will be the determining factor. Make sure the hub bore and bolt pattern are correct for the axle if replacing the rims. Check for play and grease the bearing while you are in there. All the best.
 

SDramstad

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jun 26, 2014
Messages
768
Reaction score
630
I have been told not to put radial tires on a trailer. Dont remember the reason for this but the guy I was talking to knew his stuff.
 

OverTheTop

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
5,073
Reaction score
2,340
Location
Melbourne Australia
I have been told not to put radial tires on a trailer. Dont remember the reason for this but the guy I was talking to knew his stuff.
I wonder if it is due to more damping by the crossply compared to the radial? If you are relying on that to keep your trailer stable then your setup is wrong. It might help if it is marginal I suspect, but shouldn't be needed for a correctly setup towing rig IMHO. Don't take my word for it though, consult an expert!
 

Bowman

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2014
Messages
192
Reaction score
116
I have been told not to put radial tires on a trailer. Dont remember the reason for this but the guy I was talking to knew his stuff.
I have heard the same thing a long time ago, but searching I found that there are "Trailer Rated" (ST) radial tires.
I was told that trailer rating is pretty important for safety, not sure the specifics but I am sure you can find out. I know they are heavier.
They are marginally more expensive but might mean the difference between a claim paid and not paid in an accident, just speculation.

I would be surprised if there are ST tires in the really small sizes. I can't imagine that a trailer built with that small a tire is rated for much over 500 lbs anyhow so it might be a moot point. I have been wrong before.
 

Troy3003

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Feb 12, 2021
Messages
50
Reaction score
20
Location
Shelbyville, KY
Radial tires are actually better to fight sway on a trailer. If your tires are trailer rated (tire size begins with a ST then I'd reccomend going back with a trailer rated tire of whatever size you you decide on.
The bearings will be fine.The load rating of the trailer is determined according to axle used in its construction, etc, so stay under max load to be within weight specs.

Proper tongue weight and load distrubution is the main reason people have issue with the uncontrolled trailer sway/death wobble. I don't know how many people I see scattering mulch across the road in the spring when they decide to just mound it on and then can't control the trailer due to load dispertion/overweight.
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2019
Messages
13
Reaction score
4
Hi all,

I have a small cheap utility trailer arriving today. Tires/wheels are 12" and rated only to 45 mph. I'd like to swap for 13" and take longer trips at highway speeds (65 mph). How practical is this? What pitfalls? I've seen info suggesting that the axle also must be replaced for high speeds. Not looking at increased loads, increased speeds are the quest.

I am not a mechanic, don't play one on TV, and didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I need info from someone who knows more than me about the subject. That should be around 99.97% of the people on this forum...:)

If you've done something like this, please input! Thanks in advance!

Best -- Terry
If you are unsure hire a independent mechanic to look at this trailer.
Discuss the intended use with them.
 

MClark

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2009
Messages
2,734
Reaction score
816
Location
Glendale, AZ
My brother bought a sailplane on a trailer with 12” wheels, I picked it up for him.....Toronto to Phoenix at 55 mph!
 

cbrarick

Wildman CT
Joined
Jan 23, 2009
Messages
2,597
Reaction score
318
You just got to do towing right.

Load the trailer correctly
I love my radial tires, they seem more stable Check the pressure and grease the fittings
I use load leveling and sway control on my trailer.

Having the right tow vehicle is key, too.
Check your vehicle, make sure it's up to the task.
I don't mean "at the max" but able to really capable

for example, my 10k trailer is on a Ram Dulie Diesel with the HO engine.
It will pull 30k+ so my little trailer isn't a big deal
My towing setup was done by the book and checked by a local trailer shop

Every time I hook up, I do a walk around to check tires, lights, tow setup.
Stop for a break or fuel? Do another walk around before you get started again
 

Igotnothing

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2014
Messages
885
Reaction score
107
Actually the tires are less of an issue than the bearings, especially if its a "cheap" trailer like say Horror Freight.
I had the Harbor Freight trailer with the larger tires. Used it for moving furniture. Sold it to a friend and he went cross country with it. Nary a problem. But then, I am a farm boy, and I hit grease fittings like a crack monkey.
 

RocketRev

Lifetime Supporter
TRF Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 25, 2012
Messages
306
Reaction score
178
Bowman said, "Well the wheel will actually spin slower at 13" than 12"."

Unless my brain is missing something really big in this equation: this is true IF and only IF the actual speed of the vehicle remains the same. But Terry had already stated that he plans to drive it at 65 MPH rather than at the 45 MPGH that the trailer's original specs call for. So while the 13" will turn fewer times than the 12" to cover the same ground at the same speed, Terry is definitely planning on going a lot faster. Thus the spin rate at 65 MPH is going to be a great deal more that the spin rate at 45 MPH.

Brad
 

Sooner Boomer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 21, 2011
Messages
3,354
Reaction score
941
The forum ate this post last time around...

Just a suggestion, but what about replacing the axle with the rear end of an old junk car. Something along the lines of an old Pinto, Vega, etc., or maybe a Triumph. I've seen a lot of trailers made this way, just not this small (a lot of truck beds w/rear ends). You get the axle, bearings, wheels, everything you need, and you know it will hold up to highway speeds.
 

Troy3003

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Feb 12, 2021
Messages
50
Reaction score
20
Location
Shelbyville, KY
Ok since you have info on the trailer i assume you know its weight hauling limitations and its suitability for what you intend to haul so i won't go into that part.
As far as the speed rating goes, this would come from the tires that are included as part of the unit, since tires do have speed ratings. With the upsize and replacement of the tires by you that is now covered.
Bearings typically do not have speed ratings associated with them. If you want to do your due diligence you could always take the bearings and races to an auto parts store like Napa and get them matched up in a quality brand bearing like Timken.
While there also buy a high quality wheel bearing grease like Lucas xtra heavy duty grease. Clean and repack bearings seasonally, more often if you use the trailer extensively.
 

kbRocket

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
140
Reaction score
159
Location
Portland, OR
Maybe you can learn from my experiences:

I have owned a 4x8 Harbor Freight utility trailer for at least 15 years. It has 12" rims and the tires say Load Star, which I assume is Kenda. They are size 5.30-12 load class C which I recently learned is crummy. They are bias play tires. The trailer has about an 1800 lb load limit. I don't recall the trailer coming with any speed limit and have used it up to highway speeds.

Initially it was a simple trailer for hauling rocks and building materials. With a heavy load in the trailer I probably never went more than 5 miles and 45 miles an hour.

Later in life I built a plywood box on top and added shelving for hauling kites to the beach. I spent a decade or so involved in kite festivals. There never was much weight in the trailer, only lightweight contents, but routinely drove up to 65 or 70 mph without any problems. I probably only towed it about 500 miles per year. During this time period I added bearing buddies and filled them up with grease to give added protection against the beach. I occasionally also put a little grease in the original zerk fittings on the axel. The original bearings claimed to be sealed and maintenance free, but who knows. I have never had a flat tire or a hot wheel bearing. I bet there is < 8000 miles on the trailer/tires.

A couple weeks ago I had to use the trailer and started thinking about the tires being at least 15 years old. Seems like time for some new ones to ward off trouble 🤔. I did a little research and have ordered 3 Carlisle tires that should be here in a few days (two wheels + spare). They are radial tires ST145/R12 with load class E and an 81 mph speed rating. I read on the internet that these two tires sizes are pretty interchangeable. Allegedly the tire OD will reduce from a diameter of 21.9 inches to 21.3 inches and the width will increase from 5.3 to 5.7 inches. I have plenty of clearance on my trailer for this 0.4 inch width change and I am not concerned about the a 2.8% increase in RPMs due to the diameter decrease.

I discussed radial vs bias ply tires with the tire store (Discount Tire) and they didn't have concerns with radials on a trailer, as long as they are matched.

This summer I may load up the little trailer with rocket gear rather than kites and tow it from Portland to Brothers OR where it will do a little off roading. It may also end up at blackrock. I think these tires will serve well for that purpose.
 

rokit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2010
Messages
79
Reaction score
16
Hi all,

I have a small cheap utility trailer arriving today. Tires/wheels are 12" and rated only to 45 mph. I'd like to swap for 13" and take longer trips at highway speeds (65 mph). How practical is this? What pitfalls? I've seen info suggesting that the axle also must be replaced for high speeds. Not looking at increased loads, increased speeds are the quest.

I am not a mechanic, don't play one on TV, and didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I need info from someone who knows more than me about the subject. That should be around 99.97% of the people on this forum...:)

If you've done something like this, please input! Thanks in advance!

Best -- Terry
I haven't done something like this . . . but you might be able to find some info/ideas on the Teardrops n Tiny Travel Trailers forum. They have a whole subforum dedicated to Trailer and Chassis Secrets:

 

Peartree

Cyborg Rocketeer
Staff member
Administrator
Global Mod
Joined
Jan 6, 2009
Messages
5,429
Reaction score
898
Location
Alliance, Ohio
A bit of a different topic, but I also recommend that you have/create a box of things that you will need when you haul your trailer (especially if you are going more than a few miles from home). Included in this box should be:

A jack that will lift the trailer,

Some boards to put under the jack in case if snow/mud/uneven ground/etc.,

A lug wrench THAT YOU CAN USE and that works in your trailer lugs. Loosen your lugs to be sure that you can. I once owned a Ford Explorer that had some aluminum components and the lugs would self tighten enough that my regular four-way lug wrench wouldn't budge them. Ever since, I always carry a longer socket wrench just for that purpose. The lug wrench that you own will do you no good if you can't use it for some reason. Be sure to try it in your driveway before you find out on the side of the freeway.

I also recommend:

Wheel chocks

Ratchet straps

Rope

Bungee cords

A bungee cargo net

Tarps

A small tool kit, just in case.

And anything you might need to secure it overnight. I have an enclosed trailer so I have door locks and a hitch lock.

[edit]
Oh, and for any long trip, I also take along a 20 gallon air tank (filled to around 100psi from my garage compressor). When I had to change trailer tires, I found that the spare needed air. Having that tank with me saved the trouble of trying to reach the trailer with the tiny 12volt compressor that plugs into a cigarette lighter or pull the tire (again) to get it closer to the car.
 
Last edited:

kbRocket

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
140
Reaction score
159
Location
Portland, OR
I had the three tires mentioned above mounted and installed on the trailer. I'm shocked that three tires, load class E, all mounted could be obtained for $156 total. I asked if they had any 12" spinners, but they don't come that small. Brothers/Blackrock dust would probably screw them up anyway.

1616012179086.png


On the couple miles home on the freeway I didn't notice any problems with the ride of the radials compared to older bias plies. I tend to believe it is improved, but this could be psychological. The dealer pumped them up to 80 psi. The old tires were load class C, which max out at 50 psi so this could contribute to the road feel.

I asked the dealer to decipher the date code on the old tires. They were manufactured in January 2001: 20 years and 2 months old and never a flat. I was definitely on borrowed time.
 
Top