CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/12/21 12:07 p.m.

We are planning a big life change and this “rig” is going to help us explore different areas and ways of living. It’s built out with a sink, oven/stove, fridge, bed, and solar. Extended body with a high top conversion. I’m loving it so far.

But, the tires are trashed and steering is wonky.

I’m thinking of getting something that can handle a little bit of off road work. Nothing crazy. Looking at the Continental Terrain or whatever it’s called or the Falken Wildpeak. Any others? 

Questions:

1. Do I need the E load tires for my uses? I won’t be towing. Mostly highway use with some steep dirt roads probably being the most extreme use. Noise is a factor.

2. 245/75 or 225/75? Tire rack lists them both as options. I like the idea of less weight for efficiency/acceleration, but I get nervous about 225s on a 5k + pound vehicle. It currently has 245s.

3. Alignment. Who should I use? I am aware the Econoline can be tough to align. Can my local BigO handle it? I’ve had pretty good luck with them, but maybe the Ford dealer would be better?

 

drock25too
drock25too Reader
3/12/21 12:53 p.m.

I have a  Chevy Express 2500 and I run Cooper Discoverer 245 E load range. I  do tow with it but I had tires that were not E load, and it just felt weird. These things are heavy to start with, and its got all the living quarters equipment. I would want the best tires available for it. Tire problems on the interstate are bad enough, but somewhere off the beaten path is  much worse. 

As far as the alignment, you just need to check around and get feedback on different shops. I  did alignments for over 20 years in a major tire shop and had guys  in our shop in the next town no one would use. In fact one of the salespeople in that store would bring his cars to me on his day off. Some guys get it and others don't.  E250's can be a lot of "Fun" to get right. 

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/12/21 2:35 p.m.

In reply to drock25too :

Good to know, thank you!

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/12/21 4:01 p.m.

In reply to CyberEric :

In for more details on your van!

I'd definitely go for E-rated tires. The sidewall stiffness will definitely help the van feel less sketchy, and the build may have added 500+ lbs to it's original weight. 

jimbbski
jimbbski SuperDork
3/12/21 4:08 p.m.

I had an older Ford van and it had E load range tires in size 215/80X16.

They were tall stiff tires with 60 psi max pres.

I replaced them when one threw a tread due to age.

I went with 225/75X16 size.  The load cap. dropped from 3,000lbs per tire down to around 2250 lbs.

The van rode better, handled better, and I noticed no difference in handling when towing my open trailer.

In fact the van performed better due to the shorter tires changing the final drive ratio and fuel mileage actually increased since the air dam I made  now worked better since the van sat almost 2 inches lower. Less total air drag offset the shorter gearing. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
3/12/21 4:20 p.m.

It's going to come down to how much it wieghs with everything and everyone in it.  

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/12/21 5:04 p.m.

I usually do E-range tires on my vans, even the 1/2 ton.  Usually the van weighs so much and they have relatively compliant suspensions that E-range doesn't add much if any harshness to the ride.  It's also nice to have the built-in wider range of cargo capacity.  With passenger and normal-load LT tires, you typically have to chase psi based on the load as the sidewalls tend to deform the contact patch.  E-range tires typically maintain more even contact with the road over a broader range of inflation pressures and loads, so you can find a happy pressure and just leave it there.  D-range is a good compromise as well, but almost no one makes a D-tire any more.

E-vans are particularly helpless in traction-limited situations... at least my E-vans were.  Check your door sticker for the axle code.  That will tell you if you have posi or not.  Its usually a two digit code, or a letter/number code.  Google it and it will tell you.  Your door sticker will also tell you which tires yours came equipped with originally.  The main reason to stick with the same size is speedo/odo accuracy, but as long as you choose a tire that is the same overall diameter as the original spec, you're good.

For light off-road stuff, I think you will be pleased as punch with Continental Terrain Contact A/Ts.  They were designed for soccer-mom SUVs - something that looks right on an SUV and performs well in light off-roading and snow, but is quiet on the highway.  I experienced them on Dad's K2500 and loved them so much I bought some for my Ranger.  Unstoppable in light off road and snow (I have 4x4 though) and - not exaggerating - as quiet as the H/T tires on my Express Van.

In general, skinny tires will shine in snow and rocks.  Fat tires shine in mud and sand.  Few things are more hopeless than M/T tires in snow, and few things are worse than skinny tires in the mud.  With snow, you want the tires to sink in. With mud you want them to float on top.  Also (a big generalization), large tread blocks do well with rocks and mud, small tread blocks with lots of little sipes do better in snow.

The the alignment/sloppy steering... The twin I-beam front you have is brilliant.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  But they do have parts that wear out just like any other.  A comprehensive look at bushings, kingpins, and steering links will get you back in shape.  Ford is also notorious for steering boxes that wear out and get play in them.  The only solution there is a reman box, but do your homework.  90% of remanufactured boxes are junk.  They put new seals on, paint them, and sell the back.  They don't take the time to replace the gears which is what wears out in the first place.  If you have steering wheel play, there are some adjustments you can make, but it may or may not help.  Those steering boxes are finnicky things.  

marcosv6
marcosv6 New Reader
3/12/21 5:49 p.m.

I run Kumho Road Venture AT51 Load Range E on my 1997 E250 Coachmen van. Size LT245/75R16. Quiet and good out in the sticks. Nice looking tire also. If you go with them, make sure you get the LT version. They also make them in P series.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ SuperDork
3/12/21 6:46 p.m.

If that's a Powestroke I officially hate you.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/12/21 7:41 p.m.

In reply to jimbbski :

So are you saying you went from E load to not E load when you made the switch to the 225s?

For at least one tire application that I can find that offers tires in both, the overall diameter difference between the 225 and 245 is . 29.3 for the 225, and 30.5 for the 245. So in this case, the van won't sit 2" lower. There is a weight penalty though. 5 lbs heavier for the 245. 

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/12/21 7:47 p.m.

@Curtis, reading your comments on the Contis in previous threads are the reason I have them toward the top of the list. Thanks for the info, and I'll look into all of the steering and other points you recommended. I'm going to start with the alignment, as I know that is off, then go from there.

In reply to marcosv6 :

Thanks for the recommendation, I hadn't considered them yet. Added to the list. 

Can someone explain to me LT, is that the same as Load Range E? I'm new to these hauling vehicles.

___

Pete and CJ, more details about the van. It's got a TON of miles (300k) and it's just the 5.4 motor. No Powerstroke, so no need to hate me. :D

The motor was replaced about 100k miles ago, the trans a bit before. The original owner used it as a wheelchair van and sunk a lot of cash into it as he used it to transport his son, who used a wheelchair. The repair bill for the engine was $5,400!

The second owner converted it to a camper, removed the wheelchair lift and added the interior storage, wood, sink, counter, fridge (which is under the bed on sliders), solar panels, lead-acid batteries and inverter, fan, etc. and lived in it. We bought it from him.

It looked pretty clean and these things are selling like crazy right now, so I jumped on it. It's got a few little issues, like the shifter which I mentioned in another thread, the tires, the steering, A/c was hacked up, slight valve cover gasket leak, what looks like a slight oil pan leak, and a few weird little things (the dome light only works occasionally, the radio not at all, ABS system light comes on sometimes which seems to be related to the position of the key in the ignition.)

It's one of the few extended and high top vans I came across. I paid $6,500 for it. I figure it's a pretty good thing to spend money on as we are planning to live in it for a time as we explore a different life.

I am loving it so far. The first night we had it we took it camping on Highway 1. There's something so cool about just parking and staying the night. It actually did much better in the twisties than I expected. It's no Miata, but I thought it was going to be a chore to drive. It wasn't.

We are going to ditch the stove and propane, so that will cut down on the weight a bit, but I'm sure it's still pretty saddled down. Wouldn't surpise me if it's close to 500 lbs of fridge, solar panels, insulation, wood, cabinet, etc. Anyway, thanks for the help everyone. Pic from the maiden voage (sorry it's huge!)

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/12/21 9:06 p.m.

LT is Light Truck.  Opposite of P for passenger.

Passenger tires are all designed for things like comfort, noise, and a narrow range of potential weights.  A car that weighs 3000 lbs empty might have a GVW of 3700, so the tires are designed for that narrow range.

A truck that weighs 4500 might have a GVW of 7200, so LT tires have the "ranges."

SR = standard range for trucks that lean toward the luxo street side
XL = xtra load for a little more
C, D, and E range are for the 1/2 ton-1-ton crowd.  There are F and G range tires which you might see on an F450-500.

The "range" tires are constructed differently with an emphasis on containing pressure.  The tire itself doesn't suspend anything, it's the pressure inside.  Build a tire that can hold more pressure without exploding and you've built a tire that can carry more weight.  The side-effect is that holding more pressure tends to make the sidewalls stiffer which helps prevent towing sway (at the expense of a bit stiffer ride)

The other side effect is that something like an E-range tire is less sensitive to the sidewalls and contact patch deforming with changes to load or pressure.  If you have a passenger tire and add a bunch of weight, it squishes the sidewalls and puts more pressure on the outer edges of the tread.  The squishy sidewall also adds heat because the carcass is bending back and forth as it rotates.  Contrast that with the E-range on my Express van, I can set them to 70 psi, and if I run the van empty or full of a pallet of bricks, the sidewalls don't deflect much (less heat) and the contact patch doesn't change (no abnormal wear)

jimbbski
jimbbski SuperDork
3/12/21 11:04 p.m.

In reply to CyberEric :

You got it wrong.  I went from 215/80X16 to 225/75X16 and it may have been 70 series. I can't remember as I sold the van over 3 years ago.  

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/13/21 12:01 a.m.

@Curtis, super helpful, thank you!

@Jimbbski, gotcha. Do you recall if the new tires were also E range? 

sergio
sergio HalfDork
3/13/21 12:22 a.m.

On the alignment, try to have them put 5* positive caster with some Specialty Products adjustment cams in the upper ball joint. This gives it better stability in cross winds and passing 18-wheelers.

WillG80
WillG80 GRM+ Memberand Reader
3/13/21 12:31 a.m.

C rated tire - 6 ply (50 psi Max)

D rated tire - 8 ply ( 65 psi Max)

E rated tire - 10 ply (80 psi Max)

E rated tires are typically rated around 3,000-3,300 lbs per tire. This varies from tire to tire, but if you search for tires on Tire Rack you can see the load rating that specific tire.

I think C rated tires are around 2,500 lbs and D rated tires in the middle. 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/13/21 8:52 a.m.

With the alignment, it's kind of a slam dunk.  You can add caster with special cams on the ball joints, but honestly I never saw the need on my E-vans.... but then again, I've never driven one with corrected caster.  It might make a big difference that I never experienced.

Static camber on a twin I beam is fixed, and so is caster unless you go with those adjustable cams.  The only thing an alignment shop can adjust is toe.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/13/21 9:02 a.m.

In reply to CyberEric :

You stole that for $6500. The only high top vans I found for less than that needed an engine - and none of them had any conversion work done. 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/13/21 9:19 a.m.

Eric, not sure if you saw my buy last month.  06 Express with AWD with 89k.  My plan is to overland/offroad/camp with it, so it will have a similar setup to yours.  Since mine will be a daily driver and work van, it will probably be more like a coleman stove, a cooler, and an air mattress, but as soon as I start the build I'll make a thread.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/13/21 9:45 p.m.

@Sergio, good to know, I might try that. Thank you.

@WillG80, awesome, thanks!

@Pete, wow, I thought it seemed like a good deal, so we acted VERY quickly. It was posted on a Thursday, and I drove over there immediately even though it was dark. I hate test drives in the dark, but I'm glad I did. It has a few issues, but overall I'm very happy.

@Curtis, so I have heard it's hard to align the twin I-beam, is that just internet BS or is there some truth to it? Someone definitely messed up the last alignment, or didn't rotate tires. Tires are to the cords on the inside and the steering wheel is crooked!

And yes, I was watching your search/buy as I was shopping Chevys too. Congrats, looks great! Looking forward to seeing a build thread. Let me know if you have any questions on what my van has. I am LOVING the ability to just park and sleep!

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/14/21 9:54 a.m.

It's mostly internet BS.  I've owned two; one E250 and one E350.  Neither one had a single issue with tires getting chewed.  I also did fleet maintenance for a large Utility company with about 75 of those vans.  All of them were lovely in the maintenance department.

The front is easy to align.  Everything is fixed except toe, so set toe, inspect bushings and joints, and enjoy your day.  When parts start getting worn, they are probably more likely to tire wear than a double-wishbone would be, but they're actually a super-beefy suspension setup.  

My guess is that toe is way off.  Check your camber.  If the camber is off, it means you likely have sagging springs.  It's not common, but at your mileage it's a possibility.

 

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/21/21 10:22 a.m.

Ended up with the Contis. They were tops in almost every category in the Tirerack comparo, on another YouTube channel, and Curtis loves them. It was back and forth between them and the Falken, which i noticed Pete has on his E250. The Falken is cheaper, and looks more aggressive, but I was worried about the noise. Hopefully I don’t regret it when driving on dirt/mud. 

Ordered from Tirerack, and three tires showed up, but not the fourth. No notification via text, which I signed up for, just appeared in my driveway yesterday afternoon. For a second, I was confused/angry as I thought someone stole one tire! I then checked the order and saw that three had gone through one warehouse in Oakland, and one had not, so hopefully that's my missing tire. Weird. I wish TR would have notified me. 

In other news, I got the van registered. It was registered commercially, which I didn't want due to the cost. The DMV had to do an inspection, and it passed as a "Van Camper." It was surprisingly thorough. I thought the guy was just going to check some boxes, but he really went through the van and asked a lot of questions. 

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/21/21 10:34 a.m.

We also bought a latex mattress on Craigslist. It’s natural (I don’t like the off gassing from the synthetic materials) in a King size. It was just a bit too big, so we cut it too fit. We had to un-do the stitching and used a fish knife (long and sharp) to cut the mattress. It’s comfortable!

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