We’ve all seen the camper-trailer or caravan getting dragged through the scrub with massive independent suspension under it, and some monstrous mud-terrain or all-terrain tyres planted on terra firma. The million-dollar question is, are the tyres all just for looks, or does a set of more aggressive tyres on a camper or caravan actually do anything other than make it look mean? Aren’t they just being skull-dragged through the mud? They’re not driven wheels and just follow along behind to become choked up with mud and muck, right? Well, not exactly. Let’s have a look at why a set of mud-terrain or all-terrain tyres might in fact be a worthwhile investment for your camper, caravan, or whatever you’re towing through the scrub.
The first thought that comes to mind when working out if it’s worth having more aggressive tyres on your trailer, is lateral traction. Let’s say you’re towing your trailer down some steep terrain, you’re sliding a bit on the clay, and you decide you need to stop suddenly. Chances are, whatever you’re towing is not going to want to stop, trailer brakes and locked-up wheels or not. So it does that one thing all trailers want to do; overtake you, and all of a sudden you’re in jack-knife land.
A set of mud-terrain or all-terrain tyres on your camper or caravan here will give the trailer with locked-up wheels or sliding sideways, the ability to bite. Sure, the tread blocks may be full of mud and crap, but any protruding rock, root or just about anything you can get traction on will dislodge mud from the tread, and bite into the rubber, hopefully arresting the slide of the trailer. Highway terrains, on the other hand, will most likely skip or slide right over without being able to gain purchase. It is the depth of the tread blocks, and gaps between them that will allow them to bite.
There’s the obvious side-biter, tyre shoulder and sidewall to think about as well, which will take quite a bit of impact should your trailer slide sideways into a rock or tree. Tyres flex and move around immovable objects, hubs and steel/alloy wheels don’t.
From here, you’ve also got to keep in mind the straight-line traction under brakes. If your trailer just starts sliding with highway-terrains on, then it’ll be up to your four-wheel drive or tow-rig with the more aggressive tyres to pull up everything. Whereas if you’ve got traction on your trailer’s tyres as above, with trailer brakes, worst case it can help pull your fourby up, or best case, work together and pull everything up. JB Caravans is just one of the current caravan manufacturers that come with mud-terrain tyres from standard.
The next solid reason on the list is protection from punctures. Thinking purely on the thickness of the tyre carcass, from the atmosphere to the inside of the tyre, a mud-terrain or even all-terrain is thicker than their highway-terrain counterpart. Besides the extra wear, you’ll get out of your set of tyres (the more off-road biased options have a much deeper tread thickness), they will save you more than a few punctures over the years.
Think of it like this; your average highway-terrain might have rubber and canvas 10mm thick, with about 3-5mm of tread depth; let’s call it 15mm total thickness (give them the benefit of the doubt here). Sounds decent enough right? Except when you think that your average mud-terrain has tread-blocks that are 15mm deep, added to the 10mm of rubber, canvas and Kevlar carcass. You all of a sudden have an extra 10mm of thickness.
So a nail, spike, sharp rock, or whatever is trying to screw up your whole holiday, has to penetrate a full 10mm further to actually puncture the tyre. So you’re going to have far fewer flats over the years. The technology and construction of the tyre will come into play here as well, however, it’s hard to go past a Light-Truck (LT) tyre, especially one with extra rubber to catch sharp debris.
The spare spares!
Most of us carry a spare, sometimes two, so we’re generally covered for spares on our tow rigs. But what about the extra spares on your caravan, or camper? Believe it or not, chances are you can get the same stud pattern, and fit the same tyres under your camper or caravan, too. (Unless you’re that bloke, or lady, running monstrous tyres on your tow-rig.)
If you’ve got the ability to run two spares on the back of your camper-trailer or caravan, chances are you’ll be able to run the same size and brand that you run on your four-wheel drive. This lets you use those spares wherever you’d like, without issue. Let’s look at the worst-case scenario for a second (plan for the worst, hope for the best, remember). Imagine you’re halfway across the Plenty Highway, and you get three flats on your tow rig. Because you’re running the same all-terrain tyres on your caravan as you are your tow vehicle, no problem. But imagine you’ve got highway terrains on the van in a smallish size, and bigger all terrains on your tow vehicle, if you use the smaller (or bigger) tyre on one side of your tow rig’s drive wheels, you’ll have bigger problems after a few hundred kilometres to the nearest tyre mob – we’re talking about your diff here.
Running the same tyres on your caravan as your tow rig, just makes sense, especially as you can rotate them all together, to get the longest life out of the lot of them.
The only negative…
The only real negative we can think up for running mud-terrain or all-terrain tyres on your camper or caravan is the increased rolling resistance. Sure, a pair of super-skinny highway terrains is going to be a touch more efficient to be dragging up and down the highway, so it is a bit horses for courses. Doubly so if you’re running highway terrains on your tow rig. And as far as the efficiency is concerned, it’s going to be in the 0.0’s of litres per hundred kilometres, so let’s not get too carried away.