What Goes Around Comes Around With RV Tires!
“Tires are the most vulnerable component on an RV and the most neglected!” This was a quote from John Anderson, founder of The RV Safety and Education Foundation (RVSEF) almost 30 years ago and still rings true today. It’s one of the biggest topics in almost every RV forum and campground fireside discussion. “Nitrogen”, “Gotta go to a Load Range E”, “Put on Coopers”, we’ve heard them all. John started weighing RVs after numerous blowouts on his personal rig and started with “A Weigh We Go” which turned into RVSEF and after weighing over 50,000 rigs in a 20-year span, found a large percentage of RV tires are either overloaded, or underinflated. With this experience, they have developed an educational effort that has greatly reduced the number of tire failures in the industry as well as extending tire life which every RVer should know.
Most RV owners read the information stamped on the sidewall of the tire to get the recommended tire pressure or PSI. The number stamped on the tire is maximum pressure at maximum weight, not the correct tire pressure for your rig! The only way to get proper inflation is to have your rig weighed by individual wheel position and consult the tire manufactures tire chart.
It is best to have the weight taken by the individual wheel position which can be accomplished by RVSEF and their weight teams at Rallies and other functions. According to RVSEF, it is not uncommon for some floorplans to be 1000 pounds heavier on one side of the rig due to appliances, slide rooms, and personal belongings. It is important to find the heaviest weight on an individual tire to compare that to the chart. You can find the RVSEF locations and tire charts at www.rvsafety.com
Check Tire Pressure
Once you have the proper inflation it’s important to check that inflation every time you hit the road. Most RVers occasionally check the pressure and do a quick visual inspection for the rest of the time. You can not see the difference between a properly inflated tire and one that has 10 psi less at a glance and that 10 psi reduces your carrying capacity by 25%! Check the pressure every time you hit the road, and we recommend a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) such as the one we tested from TST Systems. We have over 100,000 miles on a test trailer that is still giving accurate readings! This system not only gives the pressure but the temperature as well.
There is considerable debate about the advantage of using pure nitrogen in tires vs the standard air from a compressor. The advantages stated by the “pro-nitrogen” side is there is less air loss through the sidewall of the tire due to the size of the N2 molecules vs the atmosphere air provided by air compressors. The other advantage is the air from most compressors supplied-air has a higher moisture content due to the condensation created from the compressors which can cause rust on the metal components and cause “rot”.
Most tire and rim manufacturers state these claims are overstated as the standard air supplied in the past 50+ years is 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen with the remaining 1 percent a mixture of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Yes, some air compressors that are not periodically drained or “purged” of condensation will have moisture in the air, however, it is not a sufficient amount to cause damage to the rim or valve. The only advantage to N2 in tires that I have found has been the temperature on high volume trailers. We have tested trailers for the past 3 years and the N2 tire filled trailers average 10 degrees lower temperatures?
The internet is full of blogs and articles about the quality of foreign tire failures. I contacted Trey Selman of the RV Safety and Education Foundation which has been working with tire manufactures, RV manufacturers, dealers, and consumers for over 30 years and is what I believe is the utmost authority when it comes to RV tires and here was his response:
“While many tires can be used on trailers the primary type of tire is a Special Trailer (ST) tire. These tires have been used for many years and until very recently they have ALL been foreign-made and are all relatively inexpensive. So, this is not really a new phenomenon. To the best of our knowledge, there is only one ST tire brand/model that is manufactured in the US. And this one has only been available for the past couple of years. This companies previous model was also produced overseas before the current new model that is about 2 years old.
But just because a tire is made overseas does not necessarily make it bad. There will always be various qualities of tires but what is more often the problem with RVs is the lack of understanding about overloading the tires, the stresses of RV use on tires, and trying to make the tires last longer than they should because of these differences.”
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.
Learn more about RV Repair Club.
Dale S. ~ “I was very pleased with the customer-first mentality. I experienced excellent communication, everything was taken care of in a very timely manner, and the process was very smooth. I would 100% recommend Coach-Net to anyone.”
Donald James Parrish said:
I note that wheel covers are not mentioned.
Frank Engstrom said:
Hi, Great article. I prefer evidence based info such as you have provided. I’ve been RV’g for over 40 years and have had lots of tire failures. Since I live in AZ, heat is always a problem. I use a TPMS system and have found that here in the southwest the Temp rise from cold is large, often greater than 20 degrees. I’ve taken to setting my pressures a little low to start, to limit the rise once running. A tire that needs to be at 80 PSI starting at 74 will be over 80 in less than 10 minutes and may rise to the high nineties in less than 20 minutes, especially in the summer. I’ve been doing this for about 4 yrs now with only one failure. I’d love your thoughts?
Also, I’ve been using CO2 for fills now for over ten years. I get much more capacity from CO2 due to the fact that it stores as a liquid as apposed to Ni which stores as a gas. All I’ve read suggests no issues. I’d love your thoughts?
I have learned to replace tires after 4 years though, regardless of wear.
We just completed a 5 month trip to Alaska with no tire problems!
Frank, Gilbert, AZ
My name is Terry, and I am a Technician here at Coach-Net.
Thanks for your input. In all my many years in the RV business (about 40 give or take) this subject gets talked about probably more than anything. And it’s something I get asked a lot.
Between Nitrogen, CO2 and compressed air, I choose…air. While it’s true that the molecular compound of Nitrogen allows less seepage through the sidewall, and Co2 is easier to store, it’s my opinion that the more important factor is to check your pressure often and as you stated, change your tires on a regular basis.
Heat wrecks havoc with rubber and breaks it down fast. Heat generated by the friction of the road, combined with the heat of the asphalt and ambient temperature can shorten tire life by quite a bit.
I find that keeping a small air compressor on board is much easier than getting tanks filled and less expensive.
If you check your tires regularly and replace them as you suggested, you shouldn’t have any trouble no matter what you choose to put in them.
Franklin Bowden said:
I don’t have a rv any more am I still covered with coach-net
Hi Franklin! With Coach-Net’s Premier plan, your other personal vehicles are also covered. https://coach-net.com/247-protect-2/#TowableRV
Case Vink said:
Thanks for the article. Helpful. But what is your best advice if you do not have access to trailer weighing?
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