Unfortunately, flat tires happen. In fact, it happened to us for the first time last year on our big summer road trip with the kids. As we were making good time winding through the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York on our way to Acadia National Park
, all of a sudden we heard a “flubbering” noise coming from our RV. As we slowed down and attempted to pull over safely, the flubbering slowed too, meaning it could only be one thing: an RV flat!
Luckily we were on a stretch of road that had turnouts every so often and were able to pull over into one. This gave us plenty of room and got us out of harm's way. We all got out of the truck and headed back to assess the damage (our boys included, because they’re always their dad’s little helpers). Yes, it was flat. And a little shredded. After inspecting it for a nail and not finding one, we decided that it had just given out due to wear and tear.
In preparation for changing the RV’s flat tire, my husband got out his tool box, the spare tire, and a tire ramp.
“What about the jack?” I asked (so helpfully).
“For an RV flat tire, it’s safer to use a ramp than a jack,” he said.
He went on to explain that changing a flat tire on an RV is different than on a car. While you use a jack to raise a car up at its axle, you need to raise an RV up at the frame rail, and a jack doesn’t work well for that. Due to the larger clearance from ground to RV frame (compared to ground and car axle), using a long jack just isn’t very safe. It would teeter unsteadily hoisted that high in the air on a jack, making it a little sketchy to work on, especially if it’s windy. So, for an RV tire
, a ramp works best by offering a stable way to lift the flat tire off the ground so it can be changed.
On the ground next to the flat tire, he had laid out the following tools necessary for changing the tire:
The spare tire (hopefully your RV has one of these!)
Ramp (just one is needed)
Lug wrench or breaker bar
Socket (if using a breaker bar)
Tire pressure gauge
Wrench (if needed to remove spare tire from RV)
With his little helpers ready to hand him tools and watch his every move, he began changing our shredded RV tire with these steps:
Using the lug wrench, he loosened the lug nuts so they’d be easier to get off once the wheel was in the air.
He positioned the ramp next to the good (non-flat) tire on the same side of the trailer as the flat tire so that he could drive it up onto the ramp. This way, the good tire is steadily parked on the ramp and the flat tire is up off the ground and able to be removed.
If using the ramp is not giving the flat tire enough ground clearance to spin freely, either add a block or two under the ramp and then try driving it up it again, or use your shovel to dig some dirt out from underneath the flat tire so that it can spin.
Once he got the flat tire up in the air, he put the truck in park with the emergency brake on and placed wheel chocks behind the tires on the other side of the RV.
He removed the lug nuts from the flat tire using his lug wrench.
He pulled the flat tire off and replaced it with our RV’s spare tire.
Before replacing the lug nuts, he sprayed some WD-40 on the studs so they were easier to tighten all the way. He tightened them using a “star pattern” so they were all evenly tightened.
He attached the flat tire onto the RV where the spare tire was previously.
Then he removed the wheel chocks and drove off the ramp.
With the spare tire firmly on the ground and ready to roll to our destination, he finished tightening the lug nuts.
Then he used the tire pressure gauge to check the pressure of the spare tire as well as all of the other ones (since he was doing it for the spare tire anyway).
That’s it! After about half an hour, we were hopping back into the truck, merging back onto the windy mountain roads, and off to our beautiful campsite in Acadia! Having a blow out while making our way through the mountains definitely wasn’t on our road trip agenda, but luckily we had the tools we needed and the know-how to change the tire quickly and, most importantly, safely! And now you do too! Make it a point before you hit the road this RVing season to check your tool box and make sure you have all the tools you might need for changing a flat tire or any other common road trip mishap.