Report on our change to Rickson wheels and 19.5” tires

Updated December 2017

If you have not already done so, read our “What’s Gone Wrong” page for the explanation of why we made the change to Rickson wheels.

After 5-1/2 years and over 80,000 miles of service, we have now replaced our Rickson wheels, not due to any failure of the wheels, but due to other considerations.  Go to our newest article, The Envelope Pushes Back, to read about this change.


DSC 9552 - Version 2

So, how are our new Rickson wheels working out?  

In short, the wheels are terrific and every bit the high quality product we had been led to expect.  They appear to be industrial strength and are very serious looking.  We are now traveling with complete confidence that we will never suffer another wheel failure on our Tiger and that was certainly our primary goal in making the change.

However, if that’s all I wanted to say I wouldn’t have needed a special page to say it would I?


Introduction:

While the wheels are great, the necessary change to commercial truck tires has proven to be a bit of a mixed bag, with some side effects that I really did not anticipate.  If you are not already aware, American pickup trucks, and therefore Tigers, come with Light Truck (LT) tires in either 16, 17 or 18 wheel sizes depending on the truck make and year.  Our 2007 Chevy Silverado came with 16 wheels and we ran 265/70 LT tires.  Rickson wheels are all 19.5 in diameter and all 19.5 tires are truck tires.  When you make the switch to truck tires you find that they generally come in either Drive tires (for the rear) or Steer tires (for the front).  You always have the option to choose the same type for all four wheels, but the manufacturers’ recommendation is to use the proper designation for best overall performance.  The Rickson website has lots of good information explaining all this.  

See 40,000 mile update sidebar below for an update on how this choice has worked out.

The tires we chose are Bridgestone M729 rears and R250 fronts in 225/70x19.5 size, load range G.  Naturally I have no way to compare these to Michelins or any other brand, nor can I comment on what differences I would have experienced had I gone with Drive tires all around rather than the Drive/Steer combination.  As a result, my comments are limited to these tires only.  We chose the smallest available tire size, the 225s, based on Rickson’s recommendation that on our Chevy 2500 HD truck they were the only ones that would not create clearance problems on the front.  Friends who got their Rickson wheels with 245 tires can confirm this as they had to modify the fender liners on their 2010 Chevy 3500 HD despite having a 2 suspension lift all around.  We have no clearance issues with the 225 tires.  I will also mention here that the 225/70x19.5 tires have almost exactly the same diameter and circumference as the 265/70x16 combination we had before.  As a result no speedometer adjustment was necessary.

Before proceeding to my thoughts regarding the change in tires, first let me say that before making the change I had driven our Tiger just over 117,000 miles on LT tires, followed by over 5,000 miles with the Rickson wheels and truck tires prior to writing this report.  We had used three sets of LT tires - BF Goodrich AT/TA, Goodyear Wrangler and Michelin LT/2.  

Comments on the change to truck tires:

I’ve noted four areas where I feel that the performance of the truck is not as good with the truck tires as it was with the LT tires.  However, it is important to note that the behavior of the truck tires has proven to be somewhat sensitive to tire pressures.  Based on the Tire Inflation Chart and given the front and rear weight loadings of our Tiger, I expected to run tire pressures of 65 psi front (the minimum recommended pressure) and 80 psi rear.  We started out with these pressures, but immediately noticed each of the four characteristics listed below.   After driving for awhile at these pressures I decided to bump everything by 10 psi and was very pleased with the improvement.  The characteristics are still there, but are considerably less noticeable than they were at the lower pressures.  I am not tempted to increase pressures even more due to concern that it might adversely affect tire wear and/or ride harshness.  I find that at the increased pressure, each of these issues, while still noticeable, is reduced to an acceptable level.  2017 Update: see this information below regarding tire pressure research.

  • Steering: I find the steering to be lighter in feel, but also less precise.  The truck now has a tendency to wander just a bit.  There is no pull to one side or the other or even what I could refer to as a drift; it just requires more of my attention to keep the truck going straight than it did before.  It’s as though the front end were now too light, carrying a lower percentage of the total vehicle weight than before, but this is not the case, as the wheel/tire combinations are now considerably heavier than before and I mount my spare tire on the front of the truck.

  • Reaction to the Road Surface: The tires follow grooves or uneven surfaces such as ruts from heavy trucks much more noticeably than before.  This is most bothersome if I have to move very close to the outer edge of a narrow road, which is a common situation driving in Europe.  Before the change I could do this quite comfortably but now the tires tend to grab the drop off and suddenly move the truck further than I wanted or needed to go.  This specific problem may be related to my choice of a Steer tire for the front, with its circumferential grooves, as opposed to a Drive tire, and also to the narrowness of the 225 tires.

  • Handling/Cornering: The truck simply is not quite as sure footed and secure feeling as it was on the LT tires.  We drive primarily on secondary roads and enjoy curvy mountain roads.  Our Chevy Tiger has always been an excellent vehicle in these conditions, while now it’s still good, but not as good as it was. 
     
  • Tire Noise: The new tires set up quite a howl going down the road.  While not really objectionable, it is noticeable and not a positive trait.  I went with the Bridgestone tires primarily because they were reported to be quieter than the Michelins and they may be, but they are certainly noisier than any of the LT tires were.  I can only assume that the noise level would be even higher had I gone with drive tires all around.  The tires also tend to transmit noise and a slight roughness caused by variations in road surface quality more than did the LT tires.  Update 2015:  I am happy to say that following our change to Hankook drive tires all around we have not had any significant increase in tire noise.

Other considerations:

  • Ride Comfort:  This is almost not worth mentioning.  In fact, I include it because I was relieved to find that there is little difference in the ride of the truck as compared to the LT tires; some, but not much.  Harshness in the rear suspension when going over sharp bumps has always been an issue with the stock Chevy suspension.  With the truck tires it is perhaps just a bit worse, but only a bit.  I mention it here primarily because this was a real concern before making the change and I am pleased to be able to report that the change is so slight.  I also should mention here that on smooth roads, our truck has never ridden more smoothly than with these wheels and tires.  Whether this is due to Rickson’s extra cost Match Mount and Balance service or simply to the quality of the wheels and tires I cannot say; but given a good road surface to work on, these wheel assemblies are smooth.

  • Higher Cost: The truck tires cost more than twice as much as the LT tires but this may be made up by the higher mileage they are expected to deliver.  At the time of our purchase, the front tires cost about $350 each while the rears were just over $400; while the last set of LT tires I got, the Michelins, cost about $160/tire.  I got 40,000 miles from a set of five BF Goodrich AT/TAs and estimate that I would have gotten 50,000 miles from both the Goodyears and the Michelins had I worn them out completely.  The truck tires will therefore have to be good for more than 100,000 miles in order to even out the cost difference.  This is reportedly possible, but we’ll have to see.  Since we travel with our truck outside of the US for several years at a time, having to mount new tires only half as often would be a benefit all by itself even if in the long run the truck tires cost more.  (See 40,000 mile update for more on this)
     
  • Better Puncture Resistance:  With their deeper tread and stronger construction, the truck tires should be better able to resist road damage and especially punctures.

  • Unable to Air Down for Traction: The truck tires have a minimum recommended  tire pressure of 65 psi.  This means that they cannot be temporarily aired down in order to improve traction in sand.  This may or may not become important, but it is certainly a consideration if you contemplate driving in sandy conditions.  (Note the information below in our 2017 update regarding this topic).

40,000 Mile Update:

Well, the fatal flaw in my original tire choice has come home to roost.  By choosing to go with the Drive/Steer tire combination as recommended by Bridgestone - and all other tire manufacturers - I knowingly put myself into a position where the front tires could not be rotated.  Leaving the steer tires alone on the front might work fine if most of your driving is under highway conditions, but we like winding mountain roads and in our driving, the two front tires wore down to the core on the inside edge in a bit under 40,000 miles and had to be replaced.  Given the cost of these tires, this was a major disappointment.

Conclusions:

It is unfortunate for us that we found ourselves in the position of having to find stronger wheels due to the failure of not one, but two previous sets.  Rickson’s product is an excellent one and based on the customer comments shared on their website it seems to work wonders for folks who are really carrying or towing heavy weight with their pickup trucks.  In these conditions, it seems that the heavier construction of the truck tires provides a significant improvement in both handling and tire life. 

48,000 Mile Update

After a further 8,000  miles on the front of the truck, I have now had to replace two more of the Bridgestones, leaving one as the spare.  For a set of four tires costing over $1,500 this rate of wear is a major disappointment.  I am now running a matched set of four Hankook DH05 245/70x19.5 drive tires that can be rotated front to rear. Time will tell whether this will give me better overall mileage out of these tires.  I certainly hope that it will. I am pleased to report that I experienced virtually no negative results from going with the drive tires on the front wheels. This will be my recommendation to others. The truck handles and steers just fine with drive tires all around. 



With our Tiger, we did not experience either poor handling or short tire life with the LT tires.  In our case, I am convinced that the problems we’ve had with wheel breakage haven’t been caused by too much weight, but by a combination of weight and the kinds of roads we drive on, which have always included unpaved and poorly paved secondary roads.  Our Tiger, fully loaded including driver and passenger, weighs just over 10,000 pounds.  While this is overweight for the chassis, as most motorhomes are, it is over by only about 10% of the truck’s GVWR and that should not be enough to break wheels. 

In our situation, the Rickson wheels may be an overkill solution; they may be more wheel than we need.  The problem is that it is not easy to locate wheels that are rated for higher weights than stock while retaining the ability to continue to utilize LT tires.  In researching aftermarket wheels, you quickly find that it is difficult to find manufacturers who even provide weight ratings for their products.  In fact, it is impossible even to get Chevrolet to tell you what the stock wheels are rated for.  When you do find a site that shows weight ratings, our experience shows that those ratings may not prove to be accurate.  There may well be some other wheel choices out there that would provide all the weight capacity needed without requiring the switch to truck tires, but they are not easy to find. 

After a lot of looking and asking around, it seemed to me that switching to Rickson wheels would be the one choice that would address the root problem of our wheel breakage concerns at a reasonable cost.  Rickson builds a superior product that far exceeds the strength of the stock wheels as well as the vast majority of aftermarket wheels available, and does so at a very competitive price.

Despite being less than thrilled by some aspects of the change to truck tires, I am very pleased with Rickson’s product and overall am very happy with the change we have made.  In exchange for small losses in tire performance we’ve gained a tremendous amount of renewed confidence in our vehicle.  Certainly a case of one step back but at least two steps forward.

2016 update at 180,000 miles overall - With four plus years and 63,000 miles using the Rickson wheels I can report that over time I’ve become accustomed to the driving feel of the larger than stock wheels and commercial truck tires.  I now feel that the minor handling and comfort issues we’ve experienced are easily offset by the peace of mind given by the strength of the wheels and the greater durability of the more heavily built tires.  While I remain disappointed in the tread life of the truck tires (see sidebar updates) their greater resistance to punctures and superior sidewall strength are undeniable benefits for the type of rough road travel that we do.

August 2017 update at 190,000 miles overall - Now we have more than five years and about 73,000 miles on our Rickson wheels.  The wheels continue to hold up great and the story continues to be about the tires and tire pressures.  Since June 2017 we have been traveling in Australia with much of our time being spent on the dirt/gravel roads of the Outback.  It has been a revelation in more ways than one and we continue to learn more about our truck and our tires.  The corrugations (washboarding) in places on these Outback roads are worse than any we’ve experienced before.  We can drive for miles and miles easily accomodating the road surface and then come to a section that has not been so recently graded and the truck will bounce and shake all over the road.  Not fun.  After this happened a couple of times I began talking to anyone I could find who might know something about tire pressures. Namely, are 19.5” tires truly limited to a minimum pressure of 65 psi?  As described early in this article, I had continued to run pressures at 75 psi in the front and 90 psi in the back because I felt that the truck handled the best at these pressures on paved roads.  In the dirt I had lowered pressures to 65 front and 75 rear and watched the tires carefully for any sign of overheating or other problems.  After talking to several people who said they knew of no reason why the 65 psi minimum pressure should be necessary, I happened upon an article online by the people at All Terrain Warriors, an Australian company that manufactures overland vehicles and their own 19.5” Single Wheel Conversion wheels.  As with Rickson, ATW uses the 19.5” wheel size so that they can use heavier duty truck tires instead of light truck tires in order to take advantage of their greater load capacity in applications where they are replacing dual rear wheels with singles.  After reading their well written article on the topic of truck tires and tire pressures, I followed up with a phone call just to be sure that I was understanding their findings correctly.  They were most helpful and could not have been nicer in discussing the particulars of our application.  While I am continuing to experiment, I am currently running pressures at 50 psi front and 75 psi rear on the highway and ten psi lower on dirt/gravel.  The difference in handling and ride on rough roads is a marked improvement and while I think the rear tires are about where they need to be as judged by sidewall deflection, I do intend to drop the fronts a bit more the next time we’re on an extended gravel road.  As a final point in this update, some of these road sections are really rocky and flat tires are not at all uncommon.  Serious off roaders are encouraged to carry two spare wheels and tires and many of them do.  One anticipated advantage of truck tires over LT tires is their sturdier construction and to date, knock on wood, we have not experienced any problems with ours.  I will continue to update this page as to both pressures and any problems we may experience.

Update 2017: Both in 2016 and again in 2017 we have managed to bend the rear axle housing on our truck.  While this was not directly caused by our use of the Rickson wheels, their added weight in combination with the weight of the 19.5” truck tires was a concern as to why we had now bent our axle for the second time.  Go to our newest article, The Envelope Pushes Back, to read an analysis of this problem and the repair steps we’ve taken, including the replacement of our Rickson wheels.


© Rick & Kathy Howe 2001-2017