Nothing brings an RVing adventure to a screeching halt quite like a blown-out tire. And being stranded on the side of a highway is no time to wish you knew more about your wheels. Don’t neglect your tires just because you might be unsure of how to properly maintain them! Learn everything you need to know about your RV tires and travel stress-free knowing they are primed to get you to your destination safely and successfully!
We know tires aren’t the most exciting part of your RV, but they do require a certain level of attention and upkeep. Properly maintaining your RV tires is imperative to prolonging their longevity and ensuring your safety!
The number one cause of tire failure is improper inflation. When tires aren’t inflated correctly for their load, it can result in faster and uneven wear, poor handling, and excess heat buildup that can cause them to burst. The wrong tire pressure could also negatively effect your gas mileage.
A number on the sidewall of your tire, followed by the letters psi (pounds per square inch), should indicate the correct air pressure for your tires. Because the weight of your rig can affect the correct tire pressure, confer with the manufacturer’s specifications on both your RV and your tires for specific inflation guidelines.
Be sure to check the air pressure in your tires often, as they can lose up to two pounds of pressure per month! Always check your tire pressure before your RV has been driven. Checking the pressure when your tires are fresh off the pavement will result in a higher pressure reading. Always make sure that tires on the same axle have the same amount of air pressure.
The location of your tires can affect the amount of pressure they must support. To help with inflation issues or free rolling wear problems, and to even out alignment, you may need to do a tire rotation. Like car and truck tires, rotating your RV tires will help you to get the best wear. Follow the manufacturer’s rotation policy to learn what is best for your rig.
The wear on your tires can tell you a lot about your suspension system and the alignment of your wheels. A feathered crack, camber wear, or differing patterns of wear on adjacent tires can all be indicators of misalignment. Getting your tires properly aligned is not only essential for even tread wear, but it will also improve handling, reduce stress on your steering column, and increase your MPGs.
Whenever you wash your RV, you should also wash the tires on your RV. Use a mild soap and a soft brush similar to what you would use to clean your exterior. Most tires come with additives that delay weathering and rotting, so be cautious of what substances you apply to your tires when cleaning them. Chemical compounds in some aftermarket “protection” products can have a negative reaction to your tires and actually advance the decaying process.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
Overweight RVs can take a toll on your tires, and an overloaded RV combined with under-inflated tires can cost you in serious repairs. By not exceeding the GAWR for your rig, you will be preventing damage to both your tires and your wallet! Refer to your RV's manual for the GAWR. Divide it by two in order to determine the maximum rating for each end of the axle. You cannot exceed this weight on either end of the axle or you will be overweighing your tires. The load rating for your tires will be molded onto the side walls. While you can increase this load capacity by getting tires with a higher load rating (and a higher tire pressure by extension), this will not change the GAWR of your rig.
The only way to really know if you are exceeding your weight limit is to take your RV to the weigh station and see. Find a provider that can weigh the overall rig and also the individual wheel loads. You will need to weigh each axle end separately to determine if overload conditions exist. If you do find that you are overloaded, try redistributing the weight better on your axles. Take your slide outs and the pressure of your appliances in to consideration when trying to understand how to correctly distribute weight in your RV.
Knowing when it’s time to replace your RV tires will depend upon a number of factors, including how often you use them and under what conditions they are used in. To help give you a better idea of when your tires need to be replaced, focus on these three factors.
The treads of your tires are what literally separates the rubber from the road, so examining them can be a good indicator of how well your tires are holding up. RV tire treads are deeper than regular car tires, and they should be at least 6/32 of an inch deep. If they are under 6/32 of an inch, you will want to consider replacing them. Your treads are what grip the road and they help to prevent you from hydroplaning, so don’t underestimate the importance of checking your tire treads before hitting the highways.
Signs of Damage
Look for any signs of damage to your tires. Cracking in the rubber will inevitably happen with age, ozone exposure, and natural oxidation. Progressive cracking will eventually lead to the steel belts in the treads separating from the rest of the tire. Check for signs of wear and tear on the sidewalls of your tires, as well as the treads. If you notice cracking, cuts, or bulges, you could be risking a leak, or worse, a blown-out tire.
Tires do not get better with age. Overtime, the rubber breaks down and the quality and safety of your tires decline. Like people, there is no set age at which your tires will expire, but it is helpful to be aware of how old your tires are. All tires have an ID number on their sidewalls indicating when they were manufactured. The number will begin with DOT and the last four digits tell you the manufacturer date. For example, if the number reads 3211, this means that tire was built in the 32nd week of 2011. Even if your tires show no visible signs of deterioration, the age of the rubber is still something you should be cautious of. Remember that tires still age, even when they are not being used.
When you get your tires replaced, save the one that is in the best shape and keep it in your storage area as a spare. Many RVs don’t come with a spare tire, and if they do, a used tire will work better than the feeble donut.
Believe it or not, your tires could actually sustain the most damage when they are not in use. The off-season can put a lot of wear and tear on your tires, especially if your RV isn’t stored properly. Ideally, you should store your RV on blocks to remove the weight and stress off of your tires. Ozone in the air and UV rays from the sun can turn your rubber brittle, so don’t store your RV near transformers or in areas where welding takes place or mercury vapor lamps are housed. To protect your tires from the heat, cold, and sun, buy some wheel covers and put them on after inflating your tires to their maximum air pressure. These tire covers are a lot cheaper than buying new tires! If you are planning to keep your RV grounded in storage long term, you should drive it periodically to rotate the tires and prevent flat spotting. You will also want to make sure your tires stay out of standing water when in storage, as this can drastically accelerate the oxidation process.
Your tires get used and abused during your travels. Without proper maintenance, upkeep, and replacement, your tires could fail catastrophically without warning, causing you serious injury, or at the very least, putting a damper on your RVing adventure. Don’t jeopardize your safety or the success of your trip, and make sure you know everything you need to know about your RV tires!