My Teardrop Trailer Wheel & Tire Choices

When choosing teardrop trailer wheels and tires you have the following things to figure out.

  1. Wheel size
  2. Lug bolt pattern
  3. Wheel type - trailer wheels, car wheels, aluminum or steel
  4. Tire size
  5. Tire type - special trailer tires or car tires

In the end I am happy with my wheel and tire choice, but I did make a small mistake.

Wheel Size
I decided on 13" wheels for my teardrop trailer for a couple of important reasons. First, they helped me get the correct ride height I was designing for. And second they were small enough that they could be pushed farther back into the door area of the trailer. This helped keep the axle farther back, which was important for balance and tongue weight. Plus I just did not like the look of 12" wheels and was a little concerned about going too small.

Once I had decided on 13" wheels for my teardrop trailer there were a lot of other decisions to make.

Hub Bolt Pattern
I decided to use a standard hub size of 5 on 4.5. That means five lug bolts, in a circle that measures 4.5 inches across. Lots of car and trailer wheels have this configuration.

Tire Size
The most common tire size for a 13" trailer wheel is 175/80/D13. I looked into getting a 14" wheel and a smaller tire to be the same height, but it would have been a very rare tire. So I stuck with the standard so that if I am anywhere in the country I can get a tire or wheel with ease.

Purchase Time
Now that I knew what bolt hole pattern and tire size I wanted it was time to make a purchase. Initially I had decided to just go with a standard white spoke trailer wheel. I plan on painting my trailer mostly white because of the hot desert sun here in Tucson. And so I thought the wheels would look pretty good. And the price is always right.

Teadrop Wheels & TiresBut then I came across an eBay auction for these 13" aluminum spoke wheel and tire combination that were the right size. They only cost $100 each shipped. That was the lowest price for a nice aluminum rim and tire assembly that I had seen, and so I jumped on the deal. I could have saved a little getting a white spoke steel trailer wheel, but these looked so nice, and almost matched the aluminum spoke rims on our Subaru, so it was a no-brainer.

Special Trailer Tires vs. Car Tires?
I had decided to use car tires on my teardrop because they are thought to provide a smoother ride and to last longer when used at highway speeds. A lightweight teardrop trailer in my mind has no need for a special trailer tire that is designed for a variety of heavy loads, but is not generally designed to go above 65mph.

Well, since I liked these wheels so much, and the price was so good, I caved. The wheels came with special trailer tires. So I guess I will try them out, and when it is time to replace them I will be in a position to make an educated statement about which is better for my teardrop trailer!

I found a spare 13" trailer wheel and tire on craigslist for $15.

Offset - Inset - Outset - Negative-Positive?
In addition to all the above choices, I also needed to figure out if I needed my wheels to have an offset. I should have done this before I bought them! And this is where I made a small mistake.

Basically a wheel offset is where the axle face bolts to the back side of the wheel. If they meet in exactly the center of the wheel width, that is considered a zero offset. If they meet more towards the outside of the wheel (away from the axle), that is considered an inset, or a positive offset. If it goes the other way, meeting towards the axle side, it is called an outset, or negative offset. I found that most wheel folks only know the negative and positive terms, and don't tend to use inset and outset. But if you get confused by it I found this rule of thumb below.

"Inset and outset are subsets of offset and the relationship is this : positive offset = inset. Negative offset = outset."

Confused? Just so you know, the majority of trailer wheels have a zero offset. While most car wheels, particularly front wheel drive car wheels, have a significant positive offset.

Wheel Offset Helps Control Wheel To Trailer Body Distance
When I purchased my axle I did my very best to figure out how much space I would have between the wheel and the side of my trailer body. I wanted it as close as possible. And you control this space by four things:

  1. how thick your wheel is,
  2. your axle hubface distance (how long they make the axle),
  3. by the amount of offset in your wheel,
  4. and if you have a torsion axle and use small wheels, the torsion axle arm will not swing within the wheel, so you must push your wheel distance outside the arm.

Here is the minor mistake I made in my wheel offset. When I ordered my axle I added electric brakes. And because of that the minimum distance between my trailer body and the hubface of the axle ended up longer than I really wanted. Really this is not a big deal. It created two minor problems. First I would have to have a wider fender. And second, it pushed my overall trailer width just past 80", and so I will now be required to have more lights on the trailer.

I looked into selling these wheels and getting some trailer wheels with an inset. Because of my torsion arm, I could only inset the wheels by a half inch each. And that would have got me just under 80" in width. But I could not find any wheels with an offset that looked as nice for anywhere near the price I paid. And in fact trailer wheels are not generally available in stock with an offset. I did find out that you can order white spoke trailer wheels to any offset you want for about $10 more a wheel. But I decided to just keep the ones I have and add some more lights. I told myself it would make the trailer safer. And the lights I have to now put on the fenders will keep people from sitting on them.

So there we go. That is pretty much how I decided on my teardrop trailer wheels and tires. Nice, aren't they!

Now I learn to weld my trailer frame