RV tires are vital to a safe, smooth trip, yet they are often the most overlooked parts of an RV. People know they need to check them but they don’t realize how often they should check them.
RVers should give a visual inspection of their tires before every travel day and at each stop along the way. But that’s not all! It may seem tedious but you should also check your RV tire pressure before you hit the road—every time!
Isn’t that overkill?! It’s really not and I’ll tell you why. (Spoiler alert: it’ll save you time, money, and headaches!)
RV tires: What you need to know
I’m writing this article because I realized I have been neglecting the topic up to this point. In truth, I started to get too lackadaisical about my tire maintenance (like all RVers do from time to time). I needed a kick in my pants to remind me of how important RV tire care and maintenance really is.
When I got my kick in the pants, I checked my blog to see what posts I had to help my readers that I could update. Too few, it turns out! That spurred me to write a series of new blogs.
So, let’s start this series and answer why checking RV tire pressure is so important.
Why you should check RV tire pressure EVERY travel day
Checking your RV tire pressure takes less than 5 minutes and makes a big difference in keeping you safe, keeping you off the side of the road, and keeping money in your pocket.
Let’s begin with the most important benefit: your safety.
The danger of underinflated tires
Underinflated RV tires lead to blowouts. It’s as simple (and as dangerous) as that. I hope you’ve never had an RV tire blowout but if you have you know how scary it is.
When your RV tire blows, it can cause serious problems like loss of steering control, swaying, and even a fire. The debris from the blown tire can cause bouncing and possibly damage your RV, too.
Needless to say, you want to do everything you can to prevent RV tire blowouts. While some causes are out of your control (like debris in the road), tire pressure is something you can properly maintain.
If tire pressure is too low, too much of the tire’s surface area touches the road which increases friction. Increased friction can cause the tires to overheat which can lead to premature wear, tread separation, and blowouts.
Let’s talk about premature wear and tread separation now.
Incorrect tire pressure shortens the lifespan of RV tires
You might think that tire dealers and manufacturers try to get you to replace your tires earlier to make more money but the lifespan of RV tires is truthfully quite short.
The rule of thumb for changing your RV tires is around 5-7 years. The consensus from RV owners leans to the 6-year end of that estimate. However, that rule of thumb only applies to quality tires that have been well taken care of. Underinflated tires can drastically decrease that projected lifespan.
3 products to help you check and maintain tire pressure
Maintaining the correct tire pressure is easy if you have the right tools. I recommend the following (or some comparable version of the following).
1. Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Every RVer should carry a tire pressure gauge. However, there is a better tool. Instead of checking your tire pressure manually, you can monitor it with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). With this system, you just have to look at the display to check your tire pressure before you leave.
A Tire Pressure Monitoring System does exactly what its name implies. It displays a readout and/or gives you real-time status reports on all of your RV tires.
If a tire gets too low, it alerts you with a sound and flashes a message. Some show you exactly which tire is underinflated while others just alert you to check your tires.
Some RVs have a TPMS built in, but not all do. If yours doesn’t, you can install an after-market system.
2. Portable Air Compressor
A recommended air compressor is the Viair 40047-400P RV model. The RV means it is made for RVs and the unit is powered by jumper cables that attach to the battery of your vehicle.
It comes in a sturdy canvas bag and has all the accessories including a hose, inflators, and a pressure gauge. It is very easy to hook up and operate.
It’s not the cheapest air compressor but it is considered by many to be the best.
3. Emergency Roadside Kit
No matter what precautions you take, RV blowouts can still happen. So, at the very least, you should carry LED road flares and/or orange warning triangles. Better yet, you can carry a whole kit.
In addition to having an emergency roadside kit, I highly recommend RV roadside assistance. At some point or another, every RVers ends up on the side of the road. It’s just a fact of the RV lifestyle.
Weight distribution and loading your RV
It’s extremely important to balance your cargo throughout your rig so that the weight is evenly distributed across your axles and each tire. If one side or tire is loaded to more than its weight rating you are more likely to experience a blowout. When loading your RV, keep in mind that certain items like batteries and a generator weigh more than others. You’ll also want to pay attention to your layout—if your kitchen is on one side of your rig, load cargo on the opposite side to even out the distribution. Make sure you distribute the weight equally from front to back and side to side.
FAQs about tires
Why should tires not be underinflated?
Underinflated tires can negatively affect a vehicle’s performance in several ways. For one, underinflation can reduce a tire’s load-carrying capacity which means the tire is more likely to fail when carrying heavy loads. This can be especially dangerous when driving on highways or other roads where high speeds are common.
Underinflated tires can also reduce a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Because underinflated tires have a larger contact patch with the road, they create more rolling resistance which means the vehicle’s engine has to work harder to maintain the same speed. This can result in reduced fuel efficiency and increased fuel consumption.
Finally, underinflated tires can also cause a vehicle to handle poorly. Because the tire’s contact patch with the road is larger, the vehicle is less stable and more likely to hydroplane or lose traction in wet or slippery conditions. This can increase the risk of accidents especially on roads with poor visibility or other hazardous conditions.
What’s the best way to check tire inflation?
The best way to check tire inflation is to use a tire pressure gauge. A tire pressure gauge is a small tool that measures the air pressure in a tire and displays the reading on a dial or digital display. To use a tire pressure gauge, you simply remove the valve cap from the tire’s valve stem and press the gauge onto the stem. The gauge will then display the tire’s air pressure allowing you to determine if the tire is properly inflated.
It’s important to check your tire pressure regularly as it can fluctuate due to changes in temperature and other factors. Most tire manufacturers recommend checking the tire pressure at least once a month and before each road trips. Additionally, you should always check your tire pressure before driving after your vehicle has been parked for an extended period of time as this can cause the tire pressure to drop.
When checking your tire pressure, it’s important to use a reliable tire pressure gauge and to check the pressure when the tires are cold as driving can cause the tire pressure to increase. It’s also a good idea to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find out the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. This will help ensure that your tires are properly inflated and operating at their optimal level.
How many accidents are caused by tire problems?
It’s difficult to say exactly how many accidents are caused by tire problems as tire-related issues are not always the primary cause of accidents. However, tire failure can certainly contribute to accidents and it’s important to properly maintain your tires to help prevent accidents and ensure safe driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire failure is a contributing factor in approximately 11,000 car accidents each year in the United States. These accidents can range from minor incidents with no injuries to serious accidents that result in fatalities.
To help prevent tire-related accidents, it’s important to properly maintain your tires and regularly check their inflation and tread depth. You should also inspect your tires for any signs of damage or wear and replace them when necessary. By taking these simple steps, you can help ensure that your tires are in good condition and reduce the risk of accidents.
How are RV tires different than motor vehicle tires?
RV tires are specifically designed for use on recreational vehicles such as motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, and camper vans. These tires are typically larger and more heavy-duty than regular passenger vehicle tires as RVs tend to be larger and heavier than most cars and trucks.
One of the key differences between RV tires and regular tires is their load-carrying capacity. RV tires are designed to support the weight of the vehicle and its contents which can be much greater than the weight of a passenger vehicle. As a result, RV tires are typically larger and have stronger construction than regular tires.
Another difference between RV tires and regular tires is their tread pattern. RV tires are designed to provide good traction on a variety of road surfaces including wet and slippery roads. They often have a more aggressive tread pattern than regular tires which helps improve traction and reduce the risk of hydroplaning.
Additionally, RV tires are typically designed to withstand the unique demands of long road trips. This means they are often made from special compounds that resist heat, wear, and punctures which helps extend their lifespan and improve their performance over long distances.
Overall, RV tires are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of recreational vehicles and are typically larger, more durable, and more specialized than regular passenger vehicle tires.
How do I know when a tire is bad?
There are a few signs that a tire may be bad and in need of replacement. One of the most obvious signs is if the tire has a visible bulge or blister on the sidewall. This can be a sign of a serious issue with the tire’s structure and can cause a sudden failure while driving.
Additionally, if the tread on the tire is worn down to less than 1/16 of an inch, it is likely time to replace the tire.
Another way to tell if a tire is bad is if it is showing signs of age such as cracking on the sidewall or tread. It is generally recommended to replace tires every six years even if they still have tread on them.
Speed was high
Weather was hot
Tires were thin
X marks the spot
—Burma Shave sign