Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle tires

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Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle tires

Postby OTW » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:55 am

I need to replace the tires on my truck and got some recommendations from my "all-things-trailer-related" friend. Firestone HT Transforce was among the ones he'd been told were good performers. Those fit my current budget and other requirements, so I checked reviews. I was very surprised to find reviews either 5 star "Love 'em" or 1 star "Hate 'em" with not much in between. Same thing with some Michelins. Very mystifying! I researched this further and found an explanation which at first sounded to me a little strange, but when I ran it by my friend, he said "That would explain a lot!" I then called Firestone corporate's Tech Support dept. and he confirmed that my info was absolutely correct. It'll take a paragraph to explain, but then we will all know how it works.

When a vehicle manufacturer (e.g., GMC, Ford, Dodge) makes their new lineup of trucks each year, naturally they pick tires to go onto that model. In the case of Dodge, it just so happens that they picked the Firestone TransForce. Well, this is a gigantic order, obviously, and the vehicle manufacturer can choose an existing model name (TransForce) but then get to state its own specs for this huge purchase, and that version of that model is made for them. Naturally, the vehicle manufacturer will spec their tires to favor new truck sales, optimizing things like quiet ride, smooth ride, great cornering, etc. That spec combination, however, may come at the expense of longevity (the vehicle manufacturer cares little about that, they want to sell new trucks that ride nice). This version of the TransForce tire is called the "OE version," which stands for "Original Equipment" (on those new trucks).

Meanwhile, the tire manufacturer (still in this case Firestone) continues to makes their own normal version of the TransForce tire as well, this version being to Firestone's specs. It might typically have less flex in the sidewalls (stronger for towing) but with not as cushy of a ride, might be a tad louder, but this version gets a proper amount of expected tread wear. And this version is called the "Replacement Market" version. (Those are the buzz words within the tire industry -- OE ("original equipment") vs. Replacement Market -- two versions of the same named tire. And this can be the case with any tire manufacturer (Michelin for sure is included) who's lucky enough to get one of their tires chosen for a Vehicle Manufacturer's whole line of trucks.

Do they take a hit on some bad reviews for that model of tire... for a while? Yup, they might. But eventually that straightens itself out.

So this is why the reviews on a given tire can be great (the Replacement Market buyers) and can also be bad in terms of tread wear and how quickly they had to be replaced (those who got the TransForce on their newly purchased trucks). I did notice that the bad reviews always seemed to be on Dodge trucks, bought new.

How would you know the difference when buying your own replacement truck tires? Call the manufacturer (Firestone, Michelin, Goodyear, etc.) Corporate 800 number, tech support or "other questions" menu choice, and give them your exact size tire and the exact type you are looking at (AT, HT, etc.) and ask them if that exact size and type of tire has been used as an OE tire, and if so, when was it stopped being manufactured. If it has been made in the last x amount of time (the time of manufacture you're willing to accept as shown on the DOT date code in any event) then ask if there is any telltale code numbering on either the OE version or on the Replacement Market version so you can tell them apart at the time of ordering or buying in person. And only accept the correct version. If your parameter of DOT tire manufacture date is "in the last 6 months preferably, or at least by the last 9 or 12 months" as mine would be, and that OE tire version has not been made within that time frame, you'd be getting the correct and preferable Replacement Market version tire without having to worry about it.

Also note that any given tire model might have been made as an OE tire version in only one size tire, but not in other sizes (this is the case with my tire size, it was never made as an OE tire in my size). Again, in that case you wouldn't have to worry about it.

So that's it! OE (Original Equipment tire vs. Replacement Market tire.
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby Queen » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:09 pm

I've been on that merry-go-round a bit myself, tire shopping for a post OE tire isn't for the faint of heart.

In my case, 2016 NIssan Frontier 4x4, the manufacturer is marketing trucks to people who want the look of a truck but not the ride of a truck... so they put P (passenger) tires on it rather than LT (light truck). Makes it ride softer, quieter, and more car like, but makes it less usable as a truck and makes it feel really mushy when trying to tow. As a result, I'll end up replacing tires with under 10,000 miles on them if we order the camper we're looking at. Very frustrating. Add to that, places like Tire Kingdom and Walmart won't put LT tires on a truck with the P door sticker. arrrgghhh
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby SoCalGalcas » Wed Aug 09, 2017 1:47 pm

WOW! Thank you for taking the time for that very important, interesting message! Lyn
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby avalen » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:25 pm

Very interesting
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby JudyJB » Wed Aug 09, 2017 5:13 pm

Having worked in the automotive industry, this makes complete sense. I will ask next time I buy tires.

Also, when you buy tires, always check the date. You cannot assume that what you are buying is a tire that is fresh off the plant. My motorhome was built in August 2011, which was the start of the 2012 model year, so it was built on a 2011 chassis and titled as a 2012 motorhome. It came with Michelin tires that were made in 2011.

I had two blowouts--one in early December 2013 and one in January 2014. (Luckily, they were inner duallies.) I bought a new tire for the first blowout, but found out with the second one that there was a recall on several years worth of tires, so the dealer replaced five tires plus the spare, and Michelin reimbursed me for the first tire. All was OK, but in 2016, I discovered that the "free" tires I got from Michelin in January 2014 were made in 2012. Although they were the same size, they were not the exact models in the recall. Admittedly, they had a lot of trouble finding replacement tires because of the recall, but basically, I got tires that were almost two years old because they had to dig around in stock!!

In Spring 2016, I had some sidewall problems with one tire and so replaced it with a 2016 tire. By this point, I was very good at checking dates. I replaced all the rest of the tires in July and August of 2016 with 2016 tires because some were showing serious wear. You know how you usually sit in the lobby waiting for your tires to be installed? I was out in the shop with a flashlight checking dates!! Now I will be checking OE as well.

Oh, and if some dealer in California tells you they have to replace rear tires before front tires, they are wrong! I made the dealer call his corporate office.
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby OTW » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:57 am

Judy-- Wow, you've sure been through the wringer on tires! Michelin did have some issue with cracking or something (might have been 2 issues and not necessarily together) so it looks like you then got caught into that too.

What I didn't get to the bottom of with Firestone was... I asked him if the OE TransForce version, or the Replacement Tire version (either or both) were marked in some way to be able to tell one from the other, and he said no! No marking. I found that really strange because it just seems that could leave them open for liability issues, but I still find the whole thing strange that they're even willing to give any OE tire one of their own brand model names, yet for that batch, let someone else dictate specs for a completely different composition. It just seems it would compromise the tire maker's brand. Particularly even more so in that apparently it's just not publicly known that this even goes on behind the scenes, at all.

I did learn early on about DOT dates, and that when buying tires (from anyone actually, including your own mechanic), to specify the DOT date range you're willing to accept. Also that on some tires that DOT date is not even on the same side of the tire as all the other info. (On my trailer tires, the date of manufacture is on the inside - you have to crawl under the damned thing with a flashlight to see it.) And in some cases the makers bury it in a 12-digit code. Written really small. (??)
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby OTW » Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:19 am

Queen wrote:In my case, 2016 NIssan Frontier 4x4, the manufacturer is marketing trucks to people who want the look of a truck but not the ride of a truck...


Off Topic but I didn't realize how big that market is, and it's apparently huge. I've been looking at vertically oriented tow mirrors (rectangle, taller than wide) to replace my much smaller horizontal stock tow mirrors, and I usually get a lot out of reviews. OMG, few of these mirror reviews refer to glass quality, distortion, range of adjustment and fitment especially having to do with vibration/shake. Oh no. Most of their reviews seem to focus on "man, dem here mirs makes my truck look real badass, love em fiv stars."
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby Queen » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:49 am

OTW wrote:
Off Topic but I didn't realize how big that market is, and it's apparently huge. I've been looking at vertically oriented tow mirrors (rectangle, taller than wide) to replace my much smaller horizontal stock tow mirrors, and I usually get a lot out of reviews. OMG, few of these mirror reviews refer to glass quality, distortion, range of adjustment and fitment especially having to do with vibration/shake. Oh no. Most of their reviews seem to focus on "man, dem here mirs makes my truck look real badass, love em fiv stars."


Exactly, makes trying to set up a truck to use as a truck, a difficult endeavour. And I'm still on a rant for P rated tires on a truck set up to tow 6100 lbs, that's just goofy.
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby Bethers » Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:53 am

My last rig I switched to commercial tires. I'll probably do the same when I replace the tires on this one. I learned how bad it was for rv's to sit without being driven.... One of my (before commercial) tires had a flat spot that would have caused a blow out. They said the rv should be moved monthly... If not driven, move the rv 6-8 inches to get the tires resting in new spots. BUT the commercial grade tires didn't require that. I don't know how true that is, but another tire place agreed and the cost was not much different.
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby JudyJB » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:15 pm

My motorhome is built on a Ford E-450--which is a great vehicle, but it is basically a medium-duty truck. I have had several people ask me how the ride is because they have heard is it noisy and rough. Well, it rides like a truck. Because that is what it is. I WANT it to ride and behave like a truck! It is hauling 15,000 pounds, so I expect it to be tough and not mushy like a passenger car.

I have also been thinking about going up one step to commercial tires with at least my front tires next time. I was told that my tires have steel belting around the circumference, but that commercial tires also have steel belting around the sidewalls, which means less chance of a blowout. Having a rear tire blow out is not too serious because there is another tire to support some of the weight, although you should NEVER drive on a single dually. Front tire blowing out is really scary.
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby Bethers » Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:17 pm

My blow out was a front tire. Luckily, even though I was on an interstate where I usually try not to be, I was able to safely get to the side... But there was lots of damage... Yes, one of the duallies would have been better. I did not notice a heavier or worse drive with the commercial grade tires and they gave me just a tad more peace of mind.
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Re: Interesting info not-well-known if buying Tow Vehicle ti

Postby OTW » Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:34 am

As I understand it, side flex becomes really important when carrying weight and on commercial tires it's stronger. I did get the TransForce (Firestone) tires put on my truck Wednesday. Those were among the ones recommended by my "all-things-trailer-towing" friend (not the OE version) and he had bought some Michelin trailer (or maybe it was truck) tires and ended up hating them due to their side flex. I don't recall more detail than that, but he did recommend for my purposes, truck tires among which was the TransForce and since Firestone isn't an uncommon tire in case I had to replace one later, that's what I went with.

Here's something new though. My mechanic's price for 4 of those, mounted/balanced was $780. Firestone stores (at least some of them and the one in my next town over) is a full car care facility -- they do regular mechanical repairs as well as sell tires. I got all four tires, mounted/balanced/installed there for $503!! That is not "blems" or 2nds or whatever (have already ruled out concerns about OE's in my tire size) but just regular brand new tires, and with a DOT date of April 2017.

So let me tell you how that price worked out. Their original price quote was $663. However once there, chatting with the desk guy, he said if I opened a Firestone Visa and paid for them with that card, they are knocking 25% off first purchase from their facility, paid for with their card, and allowing a 6-month payoff with no interest or fees. I pay my credit cards off monthly so that wasn't a biggie, but the 25% off was. I went ahead and opened their account (no annual fees, etc. so why not?) That's how my out-the-door price ended up at $503.

He had expressed the offered savings in a dollar amount rather than a percentage off but had I realized it was a percentage off entire first purchase I might have gone for 4 new trailer tires as well.

So I'm not recommending TransForce because while I like the ride, I have no personal experience with them, and haven't towed with them yet, just going by recommendation of someone I trust. But if you are going to need tires, then see if Firestone has what you want because 25% savings off of an already pretty competitive price is a good thing -- assuming you want to open a new credit card. I was ready to go with them anyway though before knowing that bonus, because my mechanic prices parts high. I mean $780 vs. $663 is significant.
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