Light Trucks & Their Tires: Bigger Than You Think!

Peter-James Gregory is President of Atlas Tire Wholesale Inc. (Photos: GM)

You’re probably servicing more light trucks than you think.

In addition to the traditional pick-up truck or van, most SUVs and minivans in the market today are classified as Light Trucks by their makers, and/or the accepted industry classifications. Honda CRV, Acura MDX, Dodge Caravan, BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade; they are all classified as Light Trucks. Surprised?

Some are unibody and you may ask how a unibody vehicle is a Light Truck. Well is a Ford Transit Connect a van or a car? Some Light Trucks may be based on a car “platform” but many things are different from the car, including, importantly, the weight capacity of the vehicle. In most cases, Light Trucks can carry more and tow more than a car.

Carry more and tow more are two very important points in the choice of tires for Light Trucks. While many of today’s Light Trucks are equipped with P-Metric or Euro Metric tires and not full LT or Euro Commercial tires, the OEM has taken great care to ensure that the tires meet the specification required to carry more and tow more.

Customers who customize

Now that you have the expanded definition of Light Truck, you will realize that Light Trucks are a huge share of the vehicles that enter your shop. Some of these vehicles will require winter tires and some owners may want to do Plus 1 or Plus 2 aftermarket wheels and tires to customize their vehicle. Always pay attention to the load capacity of the tires and also the wheels. Remember, just because it looks good doesn’t mean that it is good for the vehicle–it must be able to carry more and tow more.

As noted above, many pick-up trucks are equipped with P-Metric tires. Some owners may request an upgrade to full LT designated tires as they feel the P-Metric tires are not “strong enough” for their load requirements. In this case there are two very important points to consider:

1. The OEM installed P-Metric tires are “strong enough” to support the GVW of the vehicle, at their correct inflation pressures.

2. If you change to an LT tire, to carry the same load as the P-Metric tire, the LT tire must be inflated to higher pressures. This is a technical fact of LT tires; they can carry higher loads but this only happens at higher inflation pressures and the tires are specifically built for higher inflation pressures–it is the air that carries most of the load.

Note the Load Index on the P275/65R18 is 114 and the Load Index, in single application, on the LT275/65R18 LRC is 113; lower than the P-metric. Also, to meet the GVW requirements of the vehicle, the LT tire must be inflated 5 psi above the P-metric in this application.

While there will be some “heavy duty” advantages to the LT tire (better able to handle continuous operation at maximum GVW, better impact resistance), these advantages come at the expense of reduced ride comfort and increased tire cost.

I will use the 2013 Ford F-150 FX4 as an example. This Light Truck was offered with a standard P-metric tire or an LT option in the same size. Below are the specifications taken from Tire Guide

I will use the 2013 Ford F-150 FX4 as an example. This Light Truck was offered with a standard P-metric tire or an LT option in the same size. Below are the specifications taken from Tire Guide


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