Are you looking for new tires?
Or are looking to extend the life and safety of your existing RV tires?
RV tires play a key role in keeping you on the road and their failure can cause great damage to yourself, as well as to your RV.
Tire safety starts by choosing the right tires for your RV, keeping them in good shape, and knowing when it’s time to replace them.
Purchasing RV tires can represent a significant cost, which will seem very little when stuck on the road with a blown tire.
Let’s see how you can give your RV tires some TLC so that they stay with you for as long as possible. I’ve gathered here the tools you need to help you make smart decisions that will keep you and your family safe.
They’ll also help you to avoid damage, blow-outs, or accidents.
Learn How To Read A Tire Sidewall
As a first step, take out your manufacturer’s manual, as it contains all the information you need to know about your tires.
If you’ve owned your trailer for some time and cannot find the manual, you’re not lost yet!
The sidewalls of your tires contain very useful indicators. It may seem coded at first sight, but you will soon realize that the information is very easy to comprehend: dimension, maximum weight load, inflation, manufacture date, and many more details are indicated here.
The Tire Industry Association guides you step by step on how to get the most from this information.
Choosing The Right Tires
By selecting the right tires for your RV, your tires’ safety starts before even hitting the road.
Here are a few tips on how to select the best and safest tires.
- Don’t select tires solely on price. Many RV owners are tempted to save money by purchasing non-branded tires or tires that are slightly smaller than needed. Don’t do it! One way or another, these will wear out much faster.
- Check the tire’s age. Your tire’s production date is written on its side. The first two digits indicate the week the tire was manufactured, and the second two indicate the year.
- Always buy from a reputable and authorized seller. Tires deteriorate over time. If a tire sits on a shelf for a year, it has already lost a year of its life expectancy.
- All tires should be of the same brand, with the same specifications and size.
- Each RV owner will have their own favorite brand, however, Toyo, Firestone and Bridgestone tires are extremely well made and are able to carry heavy loads (sidewalls are stronger than other brands).
- Make sure to distinguish RV tires from truck tires, they are not the same and you should not replace one with the other.
Tire inflation is one of the main causes of tire damage and RV accidents.
Each tire has a different maximum pressure allowed, and it’s crucial for any RV owner to check the RV’s tire pressures regularly while traveling.
Over And Under Inflation
Over or under inflation can cause unusual tread deterioration and tires will wear down faster or even explode while on the road.
Over inflation will cause the tires to wear off in the center. It will also reduce traction, impact braking ability, and create a very uncomfortable ride.
Under inflation, on the other hand, causes the tires to wear off inside and outside. It decreases fuel efficiency, and could cause structural damage to the tire.
What Is The Correct Air Pressure For RV Tires?
In order to get the right inflation for your own tires, check the specifications in your owner’s manual.
If for some reason you cannot find it, don’t panic. You can usually find this information on the driver’s door pillar placard.
Tire Pressure Check
A pressure check can be carried out on your tires using a basic tire gauge, which is a readily available and very affordable product.
Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are electronic devices that monitor your tires and issue warnings as soon as something goes wrong or when tires need to be replaced.
The TireMinder A1A can monitor up to 22 tires, sends blow-out alarms, and displays each tire’s pressure and temperature.
It’s important to check tire pressure only at cold temperatures. Because hot air expands, checking air pressure right after driving (unless you drove less than one mile) will make the reading inaccurate.
Tires that look exactly the same can still have a difference of up to 20 PSI.
If a tire has lost 20 percent or more of its regular air pressure, it’s considered flat.
- Just before and after storing your trailer.
- While the RV is stored, check the tire pressure once a month.
- While on the road, a pressure check should be done every morning.
- For shorter trips, a pressure check should be done just before leaving and once you return home.
Best Solutions To Inflate Tires
- Air Compressor Inflation: This is extremely convenient, as the device stays in the vehicle, so there’s no risk of leaving it at home. Keep in mind, however, that the engine needs to stay on while inflating the tires as it uses the vehicle’s battery power, and the process can take some time. The indicator is also not always accurate, as compressors can cause pressure fluctuations.
- Nitrogen tire inflation system: This is becoming more and more popular as pressure is not lost through the rubber as quickly as in normal air, keeping the tires correctly inflated for longer. It reduces the amount of moisture in the tires too, so the wheels are less susceptible to corrosion.
Don’t worry if you need to top up the tires and nitrogen is unavailable, because air can be used instead.
Proper Load Distribution
In order to maximize your tires’ life expectancy, your safety, and avoid emptying your wallet on replacements, it’s very important to learn how to load your RV properly within the maximum weight allowed.
- You’ll first need to know how much weight each axle can carry. This information can be found on the owner’s manual or on the sidewall of your tires.
- Go to a truck stop and weigh your empty trailer on a certified scale.
Appliances, slide rooms, generators, water tanks, and the engine are going to be the heaviest items in the trailer.
Weighing your RV empty first allows you to know which axles are carrying the most weight.
- While packing your RV, place the heavier items at the bottom, and spread out evenly all around the trailer.
- Go back to the truck stop and weight it again.
- You can then make any adjustments as needed.
Distributing weight properly will not only keep your tires around longer (overloading will also cause the tires to wear off from one side), but it will also avoid turnovers and accidents.
You will quickly notice that you’ll be tempted to regularly add and pack additional small items—souvenirs, handy organizers, decor, and more.
Be careful — before you know it, you will have surpassed the RV’s maximum allowed weight.
Routine Tire Inspection
Have your tires inspected every 90 days by a competent tire dealer who will check both sidewalls, the tread area, the valves, and the caps.
Tires should be checked for debris, nails, cuts, cracks, and weathering.
The inside of your tires should also be inspected for unusual wear, potentially caused by overloading or under inflation.
Proper Vehicle Storage
You might think that your tires are safe while they’re in storage as they are not being used.
Wrong! There are many tips and tricks to employ while your RV is not in use, to keep your tires in prime condition.
- While in storage, it is recommended to remove the tires and keep them in a dry, cool, and clean storage until the next use. It’s best to stack them on top of each other. This is not often practical, so follow the remaining rules below.
- Store your trailer on wood, concrete, or gravel, never on dirt or frozen ground as this can cause the tires to crack. A piece of wood can be positioned between the ground and tire if needed, just make sure that the load on each tire is distributed evenly.
- Avoid parking on a petroleum-based surface such as asphalt, as this can interfere with the tire if kept for a long period of time. Asphalt also absorbs heat which can damage the tires over time.
- Protect your tires with tire covers, they are not very expensive and work extremely well. This is even more applicable if the RV stays outside under the sun, as UV exposure will damage the rubber.
- Never lift your trailer trying to keep pressure off your tires. Doing so can damage the structure of the RV itself. Instead of replacing the tires, you might find yourself having to replace the entire trailer.
- Always keep your tires inflated preferably at a higher pressure than you usually would (based on the manufacturer’s recommendations).
- If you are not planning to use your trailer for a long period of time, try to unload your motorhome in order to keep as much weight off the tires as you can.
- Finally, if possible, move your vehicle every three months; exercise is beneficial for your RV as well.
Cleaning Your RV Tires
Wash your tires regularly to clean them from dirt and debris.
Only use water and soap, with a soft brush if needed.
Stay away from solvents—alcohol and kitchen cleaners, for example—which can cause them to deteriorate prematurely.
To clean your tires safely, use a tire cleaner. It cleans the tires without damaging or accelerating the aging of the tire.
Driving Patterns & Environments
Consider the environment you will be in.
Hot Weather And High Temperatures
If you’re driving in very hot weather, tires can blow out due to overheating.
When the outside temperature increases by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the inflation pressure increases by about two percent (and vice versa).
Try as much as you can to restrict your driving hours to early mornings and evenings. If you need to drive in the middle of the day, make sure to stop regularly to give your tires time to cool off, and hose them down with cold water.
Altitude will also have an impact on your tire’s pressure—the pressure increases by about 0.48 PSI for every 1000 feet of altitude (and vice versa).
If you’re planning to drive at high altitude, it is important to check the tire pressure more frequently.
Several driving patterns can increase tires’ heat and therefore a premature breakdown—quick turns, aggressive starts, rapid stops, and speeding.
Rocks, curbs, and potholes can also wear the tire down.
Know your tires’ speed rating. This is a measurement of the speed at which the tire is designed to run properly for an extended period of time.
You will find the tire speed rating indicated on the side of the tire as a letter. Here is the list of the available speed ratings you should be looking for:
- S (112 mph)
- T (118 mph)
- U (124 mph)
- H (130 mph)
- V (149 mph)
- Z (over 149 mph)
- W (168 mph)
- Y (186 mph)
- (Y) (over 186 mph)
If your tire rating is H, does this mean that the tire will explode as soon as you exceed 130 mph?
Maybe not immediately, however, the tires are more likely to damage after a certain period of time if consistently driven at higher speeds.
Tire Temperature Rating
Check for the temperature rating of your tires (also found on the sidewall of the tires).
This is the ability of the tire to withstand heat at high speeds. It ranges from A to C, with the best rating being A.
Have you ever noticed that some of your tires wear out faster than others?
If you have ruled out any unusual patterns, and it looks like normal tire wear, the tires should be rotated regularly (to turn in the opposite direction).
Tire rotation will significantly increase the life of your tires. You can talk to your tire dealer to learn more about proper professional tire rotation.
How Often Should Tires Be Replaced?
RV tires should be visually inspected regularly to check for unusual wear and tear (tread separation, sidewall cracking).
After five years, tires should be annually inspected by a tire professional, and after 10 years the tires should be replaced—regardless of their condition.
All RV tires made in the United States will have a DOT number written on the side. They are either three (for tires made before the year 2000, and therefore should be replaced) or four digits.
For example, a DOT number—1218—means that the tire was manufactured on the 12th week of the year 2018. If you are not able to find the DOT number on the tire, ask a reputable tire center to help you.
If your tires have cracks deeper than a sixteenth of an inch or if any body plies are visible (steel or fabric), the tire should be replaced.
There is an easy and fast way to determine if your tires need to be replaced; try the coin test:
- Take a quarter or a penny, and try to fit it inside the tire’s tread. If the coin can stand straight, you’re fine. If it can’t, the tires should be replaced immediately.
- The second coin test consists of placing a penny between the tread blocks of your tire, with Lincoln’s head facing you and upside down in the tread. If the tire tread covers Lincoln’s head partially or fully, your tire is in good condition and you can drive safely.
A worn out tire impacts the RV’s ability to accelerate or brake safely, especially in slippery or wet weather conditions.
In this case, sufficient space must be maintained between the two tires. If they’re placed too close, they can make contact while driving, causing permanent damage.
To make sure the dual spacing is correct, refer to the manufacturer’s manual and when in doubt, consult a tire dealer.
Spare Tire And RV Roadside Assistance
Here are a few more tips regarding your RV tire safety:
Keep a spare tire in the RV (or mounted outside). It does take some extra space, but you will be thankful you did if one of your tires blows out in the middle of nowhere.
The tire should be the same brand and have the same characteristics as your regular tires.
Some RV owners will choose to skip the spare tire and invest in an RV roadside assistance membership.
Choosing roadside assistance is not as easy as it used to be—with many different options now available.
For example, a basic towing limit at five miles, all the way up to a 200-mile towing limit.
One of the most popular roadside assistance programs is Good Sam, offering an unlimited distance towing service.
Three plans are available, from basic to platinum complete plans, offering locksmith service, trip interruption, emergency medical evacuation, hotel discounts, and more.
Some RV manufacturers sell roadside assistance along with the purchase of a new trailer—Forest River would be the best reference.
While enjoying a relaxing camping holiday, it’s important to put safety first, which starts by choosing the right tires for your RV.
Making sure that your tires are properly inflated and evenly distributing the weight, doing pressure checks regularly, avoiding harsh chemicals while cleaning your tires, and storing your vehicle properly, can prevent sudden bad surprises.
Tires are often neglected, the main reason is that many people don’t really understand how to maintain the RV tires in good shape to keep everyone safe.
I hope these tips will help you feel comfortable maintaining your RV tires or replacing your worn tires.
Drop us a comment below and let us know your experiences. And don’t forget to share the article!
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