Your RV tires are what keep you rolling down the highway. You wouldn’t go anywhere without them. You must do your due diligence to protect them and keep them in optimal shape. If you take care of them, they’re more likely to take care of you.
The tires of your RV are one of the most important investments you can make. Not only do they make it sail down the road smoothly, they’re also a big part in keeping you and your fellow travelers safe.
Just like with cars and trucks, tires wear down from normal use or occasionally require a replacement due to damage. It’s essential to keep your tires in top shape to encourage safety and ensure you have optimal control over your rig. Here’s a guide to understanding your RV tire options.
Do you need RV replacement tires?
Many things affect the quality of your coach’s tires. Always inspect each tire before driving. Look for cracks, protruding objects, and bulging that may indicate low air pressure. This quick check can prevent you from getting on the road and having to call for a tow due to tire problems.
Most manufacturers recommend replacing RV tires every five to seven years regardless of mileage. At this point, the treads may have diminished, limiting traction with the road and reducing your ability to control the rig. The rubber is more likely to blow out because it has thinned and stretched due to temperature and condition changes. Even if you seldom drive the RV, the tires wear out from holding the weight of the rig.
All tires made after 2000 must have the manufacture date written on the sidewall in the DOT code. To find when your tires were made, look for the numbers on the sidewall after “DOT.” The last four digits indicate the week and year they were made. For example, “1718” tires were made during the 17th week of 2018. Consider an RV tire upgrade if yours are five years old or older.
The environment takes a toll on your RV. Changing temperatures affect tire air pressure and cause wear. High temperatures expand the air increasing pressure and stretching the material. Low temperatures make the air contract reducing the amount of air and putting pressure on tire sidewalls while increasing the likelihood of a blowout.
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Some RV owners only drive their rigs on well-maintained paved roads. Others use their home-away-from-home to visit areas with less-than-perfect pavement. Driving on gravel, dirt, or ill-maintained roads will decrease the life of your tires. These conditions require the tires to absorb more upward movement from bumps and potholes, wearing out the material more quickly. Stick to roads with even pavement and avoid potholes as much as possible to minimize tire wear.
Extending RV tire life
Follow proper air pressure
Underinflated tires have more resistance and require more fuel due to friction. They also generate more heat during use increasing their likelihood of blowing out. Using too little air will require more frequent RV tire replacement.
Overinflated tires are less flexible and can contribute to a less comfortable ride. The unnecessary stress of too-high pressure will cause the tires to wear faster near the center of the tread. Too much air also increases the chances of a blowout.
Tire manufacturers offer the suggested air pressure on tire sidewalls near the manufacture date. This number will be written in pounds per square inch (PSI). Always carry a heavy duty tire pressure gauge and check it before driving to ensure your tires are in top shape. Gas stations and mechanic shops have air compressors to make it convenient to fill up. Some coaches include tire pressure monitoring systems to make checking PSI easy.
If you want to maintain the optimal tire pressure for the best quality ride, weigh each wheel position of the fully loaded RV and then check the tire manufacturers inflation chart for that tire and adjust the inflation pressures to match the tire manufacturers recommendations based on the actual tire loads taking into consideration that tires on both ends of any given axle should be running at the same pressure and the pressure selected should be appropriate for the heaviest loaded tire side.
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With a temperature decrease you may need to add some air with a compressor. If you drive into higher-temperature areas, you might have to release some air from the tires to prevent pressure problems. Press a screwdriver to the metal pin in the middle of the tire air stem to release air for a second or two. Recheck the pressure and follow this process until you reach the desired PSI.
Your RV manual will state the best tire pressure for your rig. This number is also noted on a data plate on the inside of the RV along with the VIN and weight capacity. Your vehicle might feature this plate on the electrical box near the driver’s seat at the back of a cabinet or inside a cabinet door.
Protect the tires
There are steps you can take to extend the life of your rig’s tires. Rotate RV tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles to promote even wear. Use tire covers when storing your rig to protect the material from precipitation, heat, and debris.
Choosing RV replacement tires
Here is some information to consider before heading to an RV dealership in search of new tires.
Your new RV tires must be able to handle the weight of your rig. Class A motorhomes weigh between 15,000 and 54,000 pounds and can be up to 45-feet long. Class B rigs are 6,000 to 8,000 pounds and range from 17 to 19 feet. Class C tires must withstand 10,000 to 20,000 pounds and reach from 20 to 30-feet-long. This information is listed on the data plate inside the rig and in the owner’s manual. Know your vehicle’s weight to ensure you purchase the correct tires to handle your RV.
Make sure your current tires are correct for your rig before using their information to establish which model to purchase next. If the current set is not the appropriate size, you may invest in the wrong tires for your RV. You can verify the tires with a mechanic, an RV dealership, or a tire specialist. If the tires are correct, you can use their specs to inform your new purchase.
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The tires have numbers indicating their size, like 315/80R 22.5. The first number is the width of the tire wall while the second number is the height of the wall as a percent of the width section. The R means it has radial construction and the last number refers to which wheel rim size the tire will fit.
Not all tires are rated for the same speed. Installing tires with a low speed rating could create hazard if the RV is driven at speeds higher than the rating of the tire. So if you’re usually taking it slow on local and backroads and avoid the highway, you’ll want different tires than if you’re cruising on interstates.
Having the right tires is especially important if you drive in cold, icy places. Worn-out or bald treads will limit steering capacity and braking, potentially causing you to skid off the road or lose control more easily. If you regularly adventure in winter climates, consider investing in a set of snow tires. These models have thicker treads to promote traction on slippery surfaces. You can switch to these models before heading to snowy places.
Some states and Canadian provinces require RV drivers to carry snow chains. These net-like chains go over your tires and provide grip for inclement weather. Avoid driving in blizzard or whiteout conditions whenever possible but keep these tools on hand in case of an emergency.
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Replacement RV tires are a big decision, so don’t be afraid to contact your dealership or tire specialist and ask questions.
Speed was high
Weather was hot
Tires were thin
X marks the spot
—Burma Shave sign