Over the years there has been tremendous discussion among RV owners regarding tire maintenance, safety, and proper inflation. The rumors and discussions fill the internet and there are stories of “cheap Chinese” tires, tire failure, and premature tread wear. Some of this is true, however most of the issues with tires can be traced to improper inflation, overloading the rig, and lack of inspection. Tires are rated to last 5-7 years, however without proper care and maintenance, they will not last more than a few! There are some simple things you can do to extend the life of your tires.
Most RVers believe that proper inflation is stamped on the side of the tire as Pounds per Square Inch or “PSI”. What is stamped on the side is the MAXIMUM psi for that tire when the rig is loaded to MAXIMUM weight or GVWR.
This is not proper inflation, the only way to find the proper inflation for your tire is to have the rig weighed and determine the amount of weight on that tire and consult the tire manufacturer’s tire chart. It is best to have the rig weighed by individual wheel position, however the only company currently offering this is the RV Safety and Education Foundation with teams that are covering the country. Visit www.rvsafety.com to find where the teams are weighing. If you can not get the rig weighed by individual wheel position, have it weighed at a CAT Scale located at most Flying J and Pilot Truck Centers. Visit www.catscale.com to find one in your area.
In the case of a motorhome, position the front axle on the first pad and the back axle on the second. This way you can at least get individual axle ratings, however keep in mind that some rigs will be heavier on one side as there could be a generator, large slideroom with heavy furnishings, and personal items in the bins.
For a truck and trailer, position the front axle of the truck on the first pad, the drive axle on the second, and the trailer on the third.
Once you find the weight on the tires, visit www.rvsafety.com and go to the tire chart for your brand tire, find the model, size, and dual or single application. There you can find the weight and match the proper tire inflation.
Check The Pressure Every Day
Most RV owners take their tire pressure for granted by simply glancing at the tire to see if it looks low. Or use the “truckers” bat to listen for the appropriate “thump”. You can not tell if a tire has 10 psi less by either of these methods. If your tire is 10 psi lower than recommended pressure, you reduce your carrying capacity by 25%. Make this part of your predeparture check list!
Use A Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS)
Even if you check your tires at the beginning of the day, it’s a good idea to install a TPMS to verify the pressure and temperature of your tire. Cars and trucks must have them standard in the past 10 years. Knowing that your tires have the correct pressure and are not running higher temperatures will not only create peace of mind, but will also pay for itself in the long run.
Know Your Weights
We discussed weighing your rig previously to determine proper inflation, this will also tell you if your rig is over the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or the gross axle weight rating (GAWR). If your rig is over either weight rating, your tires, bearings, axles and other components will be at risk. It is also a good idea to take 10% off the maximum GVWR as you do not want to be loaded to the maximum trying to stop in hot weather, rain, or even accellerating up a hill.
Cover Your Tires
Leaving the sidewall of your tires exposed to the sun and elements will cause it to dry out and weather check which is small cracks that weaken the sidewall. Cover the tires when letting it set even for a couple days using a vinyl tire cover or even cardboard. Do not use tire shine or other aftermarket cleaners and enhancers as they will make it dry out faster. The only thing recommended for tires is a mild detergent to clean and rinse off.
Inspect Your Tires
Take a close look at the sidewall for weather checking, the tread for uneven wear, and any bumps or bulges that could indicate a tread separation or other failure. Make this part of your predelivery checklist.
Only Replace Tires With Models Designed For Your Rig
RV tires are manufactured with UV protection in the sidewall, tread designed to dissipate moisture and run at a lower temperature, and rated for the weight. Using bargain brand or “knock off” tires is only asking for trouble. Check with your dealer or RV manufacturer for the recommended tire, size, and model.
About the author:
Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
RV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair, and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.
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