RV Snowbirding: 10 Tips for Driving South This Winter

From fuel discounts to safety protocols to being comfortable, I share my best RV snowbirding tips for the drive South plus helpful resources

Are you preparing to drive south for the winter? Here are RV snowbirding tips to help you get there safely.

Like birds, RVers across northern North America prepare to head south for the winter. These snowbirds leave their northern homes for a few weeks or the entire winter to escape the cold winter months for a warmer climate. 

If you’re joining the flock this year, I have some helpful snowbirding tips for the drive down. And some of these tips can help experienced snowbirds as well!

From fuel discounts to safety protocols to being comfortable, I share my best tips for a snowbird road trip plus helpful resources.

I have lots of articles on the RV snowbird lifestyle including the most popular snowbird destinations and other great places to stay. But in this article, I’ll cover the most important things to consider for your drive down.

The following RV travel tips will help during all road trips but especially during the snowbird season. Since you’re heading out for long periods of time you want to make sure you’re prepared and comfortable.

Carefully inspect your tires and check air pressure EVERY travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Carefully inspect your tires

Before setting off on your winter adventure, it’s crucial to inspect your RV tires. Better yet, take them to a trusted tire shop because the back of the tires is difficult to properly inspect at home.

Cold temperatures can affect tire pressure so make sure they are properly inflated. Additionally, check for any signs of wear and tear or damage.

Don’t forget to pack a spare tire, a tire pressure gauge, and a portable air compressor.

I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to read the following articles as they can save you from ending up on the side of the road or even save your life:

Make your RV comfy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Get comfy accessories for the road trip

Long drives can take a toll on your comfort. Making your RV as cozy as possible for the driver and passengers is essential. Invest in soft pillows, warm blankets, and supportive seat cushions.

I suggest reading How to Stay Safe When RVing. And for nervous passengers, I recommend reading RV Driving Tips: 20 Ways to Stay Safe and Calm.

3. Prep your roadside emergency kit

No matter how cautious you are, emergencies can happen. Prepare a roadside emergency kit containing essential items like a first aid kit, jumper cables, flashlight, extra batteries, roadside flares, and a basic toolkit.

It’s also a good idea to have spare fuses, a tire pressure gauge, and a portable jump starter. Be prepared and feel confident on the road.

In addition to a roadside emergency kit, I recommend carrying RV roadside assistance coverage. Here are some helpful resources:

Make sure your insurance is in order © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Make sure your RV insurance is in order

Before heading south, double-check your RV insurance coverage. Ensure that your policy includes comprehensive coverage for both accidents and natural disasters related to your destination.

Confirm that your policy extends to the full duration of your trip and that you have coverage for any additional drivers.

5. Make sure your health insurance and prescriptions are in order

Your health is of utmost importance and you don’t want to wait until something goes wrong or your prescriptions run out to find a solution. The farther you get from your doctor and pharmacy the trickier things can become—unless you’re prepared!

I have a helpful resource regarding managing your healthcare while traveling:

Stop for roadside attractions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Follow the 330 Rule

The 330 Rule is you stop when you have driven 330 miles or its 3:30 in the afternoon. The idea is to get somewhere while it is still early enough to explore, chill, and enjoy the place when you’re not exhausted from driving miles upon miles. 

You can learn more about the many benefits of the 330 Rule by clicking here.

7. Have podcasts or audiobooks queued up

Long stretches of road can get monotonous and lead to drowsiness or irritability. To make the journey more enjoyable have a collection of your favorite podcasts or audiobooks ready to keep you entertained.

You can learn something new or dive into exciting stories while cruising down the highway making the hours fly by.

Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Embrace serendipity travel

While planning your route is important don’t be afraid to embrace the spontaneous side of RV travel. Allow yourself the flexibility to deviate from the itinerary and explore unexpected attractions or beautiful camping spots along the way.

Serendipity travel can lead to unforgettable experiences and hidden gems you might have missed otherwise.

You can see some of the amazing places and experiences we’ve enjoyed because of serendipity:

9. Use fuel discounts

Whether your RV runs on diesel or gas, fuel costs are a big part of your travel budget. RV fuel discount cards and programs help you stretch those dollars farther.

The benefits range from discounted gas prices to multiple ways to save at specific locations. Plan your fuel stops accordingly to take advantage of these discounts helping you save money while enjoying your snowbird journey.

Here’s a great article on How to Save on Gas and Diesel: RV Fuel Discount Cards and More RV (for gas and diesel!).

Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Get a reciprocal membership

RVers can SAVE BIG with reciprocal memberships that give you free or discounted access to a network of museums, zoos, and more.

A reciprocal membership program is a collaboration between cultural institutions that extends benefits to members of participating institutions. If you have a reciprocal membership with one museum you’ll get benefits from all other museums in that network. 

Benefits may include free or discounted admission, merchandise discounts, special newsletters, and other great deals. It’s a great way to save while doing fun things along your drive. Learn more by reading Plan an RV Trip to a Museum: How to Save with Reciprocal Memberships.

Safe travels!

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, Snowbird:

Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow

Tips on How to Get Better Fuel Mileage in Your RV

Here’s advice on how to get better fuel mileage in your RV

With fuel prices skyrocketing across the country, you may be concerned about your next big road trip. And rightly so! You may not know this but the average RV is driven about 5,000 miles each year. For us, it’s somewhat more.

Some rigs get only 5-7 miles per gallon (mpg) while other more fuel-efficient models can get up to 18-25 mpg. This is important because gas mileage efficiency can save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your RV (and maybe even on one long, road trip).  

How you drive and take care of your RV can have a big effect on how much fuel you use.

Class A motorhome in northern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The cost of RV driving

Most RVs average about 10 mpg. If you have not calculated your RV’s mpg or have an upcoming trip that you would like to prepare for, you may find this helpful:

Check your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer says your mpg is. 

Google the average cost of fuel in the area you are traveling. This matters because the fuel price is much higher in California and Washington than it is in Texas and Louisiana

Map out your entire route in miles.

Divide the total number of miles by the mpg of your RV. Then multiply that number by the average cost of gas in the region you’ll be traveling in. 

Class C motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Getting better fuel mileage in your RV

RVs are perfect for road trips but they can consume a lot of fuel. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your RV’s fuel efficiency. Here are 13 tips to help you get more out of the fuel you buy.

1. RV size/weight

One of the most obvious ways to increase your fuel efficiency is by purchasing a smaller RV. If you want a better mpg, you need to go smaller and lighter.

On average, class A motorhomes will get about 6-13 mpg. Class B motorhomes will average approximately 18-20 mpg. And Class C rigs usually average 10-15 mpg. To learn more, read Meet the RVs: Find the Right RV Class for Your Travel Style.

If you already own an RV and don’t want to purchase a different one, there are other things you can do. We’ll cover those other options in just a bit.

Diesel Pusher at Sea Breeze RV Park in Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Consider diesel

You can choose to a diesel engine in any class and see some fuel savings. Overall, diesel provides about a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency compared to regular gasoline engines. 

Diesel engines do require considerably more oil than gas engines, though. So there’s an added expense there. But you only need to change the oil once a year or every 15,000 miles compared to every 6 months with a gas engine. Also, the initial cost of a diesel motorhome will be higher than a comparable gas engine.

3. Trip planning

Plan ahead. Trip routes matter! You get better fuel mileage on highways than on winding backroads. If you’re trying to maximize fuel efficiency, select a route that avoids gusty winds and intersections as much as possible. Google Maps has a setting for this. It’ll show a little leaf next to the most fuel-efficient route when presenting your route options.

Many other apps, however, try to route you to your destination in the shortest way possible. But sometimes, these routes can have increased stops or mountainous roads. Some routes may be slightly longer but can save you fuel because you can drive smoothly and at a steady speed. 

Do the little research before you go!

Motorhomes at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. RV maintenance 

Be sure to stay current on your RV maintenance. A dirty air filter can decrease your fuel efficiency by about 10 percent. A faulty oxygen sensor can be even more damaging by cutting your gas mileage by up to 40 percent. 

By staying on top of your rig’s regular maintenance, you can avoid any hidden gas zappers. 

I have a few helpful articles on maintenance:

5. Towing weight

The heavier weight of your RV, items that you pack, and any tow vehicles can affect your mileage. Avoid carrying items you don’t need. In other words, the heavier your rig, the less mileage you can get. This also goes for vehicles (toads) that you may be towing. 

Check air pressure every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Maintain the correct tire pressure

Maintaining your RV’s tire pressure can profoundly affect your fuel mileage. Properly inflated tires can boost your RV fuel efficiency by up to 3 percent. 

There’s usually a sticker in your door frame that shows what tire pressure you should use. Or, check your user’s manual. 

Don’t fill your tires based on the psi number on your tires! That’s the maximum pressure your tires can hold, NOT the recommended pressure for your vehicle.

By the way, you should always check your tire pressure when the tires are cold, not after driving. And be sure to check the psi on EVERY travel day.

7. Check your oil

Keeping your oil at the recommended level for your vehicle helps maintain the efficiency of your engine. When your engine runs smoother, your fuel efficiency increases.

Keep your oil between the minimum and maximum marks on the oil dipstick to maintain your RV’s performance. 

8. Watch your speed

Maintaining a steady speed and keeping that speed below the maximum for the road you’re traveling on can help with your fuel mileage. Driving too fast can cause your engine to be overworked, needlessly using fuel. 

The greatest improvement comes with slowing down. The difference between 65 and 70 mph is surprisingly dramatic.

Overall, slowing down and maintaining a steady speed can prevent you from braking and repeatedly accelerating which also zaps your fuel. 

Balance the weight in your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Balance matters

RV owners can improve fuel economy by optimizing their RV’s weight distribution. Heavy items should be closer to the floor and RV owners should try to distribute their weight to balance front to rear and side to side. 

10. Don’t idle excessively

An idling engine can eat up a ton of your fuel. If you make a stop that will last more than a few minutes, you’ll want to turn off your engine. 

You also want to try and avoid hitting rush hour traffic in the cities through which you are driving. Not only will it save fuel but it will be less stressful.

Avoiding idling not only saves you money on wasted gas but over time it can also save wear and tear on your engine. 

11. Mind your air conditioner

Another tip for increasing your fuel economy is to mind your A/C. Turning off the air conditioner and changing the A/C filters can also save you money. 

Running the A/C adds strain to your engine especially when you are traveling at lower rates of speed. That strain equates to more fuel usage. In addition, replacing your A/C filters can reduce that strain on your engine and increase your fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent. 

That might not seem like much, but combined with all of these other tips, a vast gas-saving!

Tear drop trailer in RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Avoid rough terrain

Avoiding rough roads can also end up saving you money in the end. That is because unnecessary braking and acceleration can sap your gas. 

Scan the roads for hazards, drive slowly, and use highways or smoother and well-maintained roads as much as possible. 

Fifth-wheel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Keep track of your fuel economy

A drop in your vehicle’s fuel economy can be a sign of engine trouble. Keep track of your fuel economy by noting the odometer reading and the number of gallons purchased each time you fill up. To calculate your fuel mileage, divide the number of miles traveled between fill-ups by the number of gallons purchased.

By following these few simple steps, you can prolong the life of your RV’s engine and save money on fuel and maintenance costs. Overall, being a smarter driver can make your RV lifestyle less expensive and more enjoyable. 

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite Go-To places―places that draw us back again and again.

Arizona is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

That’s why I wrote these five articles:

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

7 Tips on Maintaining Your RV Tires during Storage

RV tires are vital to a safe, smooth trip, yet they are often the most overlooked parts of an RV

Traveling the country in your RV is an amazing experience but during the off-season, it’s crucial to make sure you’re keeping your investment properly stored.

Class A motorhome tires are one of the most important components of your RV which means you’ll want to ensure that they’re kept in storage the right way to keep them protected from damage.

Read on for a list of seven helpful tips you can use to maintain and store your tires so you’ll be ready to hit the road once again.

Check tires at rest areas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Keep them clean

Proper care of your RV tires revolves around keeping them clean and dry so that the natural lubricants in the rubber compound that protect your tires won’t erode over time. Road oil and dirt will also suck the life out of your tires so it’s important to keep your tires clean. Oil will deteriorate the rubber and dirt will act as a sponge and hold any contaminants next to the tire. Use a soft brush and mild soap to clean your tires.

Once they are clean you can use a tire dressing to protect your tires from aging but be very careful. Many of these treatments do more harm than good. Never use a dressing that contains petroleum products, alcohol, or silicone because they will cause sidewall cracking and accelerate the aging process. If you find a good tire dressing that does not contain these products, yet offers a UV barrier, your tires will benefit from it. I use 303 Protectant.

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Cover your RV tires

Two other factors that dry out tire sidewalls are sunlight and ozone. Ozone eats rubber, so don’t park your RV in an area where welding is being done or near electrical generators or transformers as ozone is created by high electrical use. Sunlight contains harmful UV rays that dry out rubber so if you are going to be parking in a sunny area for a while it’s a good idea to cover your tires.

Look for a high-quality tire cover that’s UV-resistant since sunlight can quickly cause tires to wear down and potentially rot.

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Rotate your tires

If you’re in a smaller RV, you may need to rotate your tires occasionally. In larger RVs, on the other hand, rotating your tires is a very difficult process. Due to wheel configurations, Class A motorhomes require wheels to be remounted when taken off and that’s a task that should ideally be performed by a service center to ensure it’s done correctly. Additionally, Newmar coaches install different-sized tires on the front and rear axles, making it dangerous to rotate from front to back or vice versa. Should the tires on your Class A coach require rotating, your preferred service center will be sure to tell you.

When your RV weight is unevenly distributed, it causes the tire tread to wear down which can result in a flat or a dangerous blowout. Try to keep even weight distribution throughout your coach to reduce the wear on your tires.

You’ll want to know How to Survive an RV Tire Blowout.

Not the way to treat your motorhome tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Check the air pressure

Too much or too little air pressure can wreak havoc on your tires even while in storage. Check to make sure that your tires are properly inflated before you store the RV for the off-season. Some manufacturers recommend you inflate them 25 percent more than normal while in storage.

Use an inflation gauge to check the pressure and look for an angled dual-foot pressure gauge if you want to test multiple tires. Always inflate them according to your specific RV’s manufacturer instructions which can be found in your owner’s manual or on the certification tag. While your RV is in storage, check the PSI levels monthly and reflate each tire as needed for the best results.

I have more on checking air pressure:

Cover the tires! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Lighten your load

A Class A motorhome is designed to withstand thousands of pounds of weight while you travel. From camping equipment to cooking appliances, all of that heaviness rests on your tires.

Before you store your RV for the off-season lighten the load as much as you can. Remove anything that doesn’t need to be inside so that it reduces the total weight and relieves some of the pressure that your tires will have to bear. The lighter the load, the lower the chances are that you’ll end up with an unwanted flat.

6. Age is more than a number

You might wonder what the motorhome tire life expectancy is. While each brand and each specific RV tire may have a different lifespan, it’s best to replace any tires that are older than six years of age.

Even if you take immaculate care of your tires, the standard maximum tire age for most RVs is around six years. As they age, there could be hidden damage you can’t see with the naked eye. The last thing you need is to head out on your adventure and end up dealing with a flat on the side of the road.

Read: When to Replace RV Tires

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Perform regular inspections

When it’s time to put your RV in storage, you should thoroughly inspect your tires first. Take a close look at the tread and make sure that each tire is evenly worn. Replace any tires that show signs of dry rot, extreme wear, or bulges.

Check the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) for your RV and make sure that your tire tread has reasonable depth according to this information. With regular check-ups, you’ll feel good about the health of your tires so you can hit the road in confidence.

Take good care of your tires

With a little bit of effort, your RV tires should be able to handle anything that comes their way. Always check for things like air pressure and tread health before you put everything away in storage.

Cover your tires to protect them from the elements and to prolong their lifespan. Cleaning and rotating your tires will also ensure that they serve you well for many road trips to come.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

When to Replace RV Tires

Worried that tire dealers and manufacturers are exaggerating when you need to replace motorhome and trailer tires? Well, here’s when to replace RV tires.

When to replace RV tires is a very common question among RVers that has a very important answer—an answer that can not only save you money in the long run but a big headache, too. Not to mention it directly affects your safety!

“If I can offer some advice to newbies…replace all your tires. I don’t care how old they are, how good they look, how much tread they have. If you did not put them, just do it.”

The above advice recently appeared on a Facebook RV discussion group. While this advice may seem drastic, it’s based on a sound foundation. I’ll explain why in this article as well as cover the exceptions. 

Hint: the key phrase is “if you did not put them on.”

Check your tires at each rest stop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Learn from others’ BAD experiences

I’m unaware of why the writer lives by this advice but it’s easy to assume he learned the hard way.

First, I want to further explain or express what may be the reasoning behind this strong recommendation.

You shouldn’t necessarily trust the tires that came with your RV (either new or used). So many trailer tires are garbage. Heat kills tires; they heat up from being overloaded, going too fast, and just hot roads. A lot of trailer tires used to be only rated for 65 mph. There is a difference in quality between manufacturers.

You can’t just go by age or tread of the tires. Even if you put them on and at some point ran the tires 30 percent or more below psi for weight, replace them. That is the problem with trusting older tires from a prior owner or owners. You have NO IDEA of how often they were run with low air pressure or even flat and they are compromised and WILL blow out.

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When to replace RV tires

The rule of thumb for changing your RV tires is around 3-6 years. The consensus from RV owners leans to the 5-6-year end of that estimate. However, that rule of thumb only applies to quality tires that have been well cared for.

If you are driving on tires that you did not put on, you may not know the following:

  • The quality of the tires
  • If the tires were overloaded by a too-heavy RV
  • If the tires were underinflated
  • If the tires were extensively exposed to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight

All of the above can drastically affect the durability of RV tires without affecting their appearance. So, they may look like new tires with little tread wear but that can be deceiving. They can even be new tires with no tread wear and still not be safe or reliable.

So, even if there’s no dry rot, serious signs of wear or uneven wear, or obvious damage to the tire sidewalls, that’s no guarantee you won’t end up with a blown tire.

By the way, if you don’t know already, you should read about the Danger of Underinflated RV Tires.

How to REALLY know when to replace RV tires

It could be wasteful to blindly follow the above social media comment. After all, some new and used RVs come with high-quality tires that received the proper care and were always driven at the proper tire pressure. But the advice should encourage you to carefully consider your RV tires along with the following information.

Check the DOT number

You can look at the DOT number on your tire to determine its age. A DOT serial number communicates a lot of information in a short series of numbers.

DOT Numbers Represent the following in order of their grouping on your tire:

  • DOT (Department of Transportation)
  • Tire manufacturer / plant code
  • Tire size code
  • Tire manufacturer
  • Date tires were made (first two numbers are week, second two are the year)

Research the type of tire and quality

Based on the second and fourth DOT number groupings, you can research the quality of the tire. Most tires usually have the name of the manufacturer engraved on the rubber, too.

A general rule (that a lot of RVers like to shout from the rooftops) is to replace any tire made in China. These types of tires have earned the dramatic nicknames of Chinese bombs and Chinese poppers and for good reason. Chinese brands seem to blow more than any other.

Tip: You can even go as deep as researching the RV manufacturer and if they’re known for tire blowouts.

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Determine the age of the tire

By looking at the date code (the last four digits of the DOT), you can determine the age of your tires. If any tire is beyond the 5-year mark, this is a big tick on the replace side of your should I replace my RV tires chart.

If your trailer or motorhome tires are less than 5 years old and especially less than 3 years old, you can further consider the other factors in this article.

Ask the previous owners

If you’re buying used, it’s a good idea to ask the previous owner about their maintenance habits. Of course, you have to take what they say with a grain of salt. Its human nature to make it sound like you did a better job taking care of something than you actually did. But at least you can get an idea.

Questions you can ask:

  • How often did you check the tire pressure?
  • How much weight did you usually carry?
  • Did you ever carry any particularly heavy loads on a long road trip?
  • Did you use tire covers when you stored your RV?
  • Did you often travel at high speeds?

The best way to ask these questions is to preface them with a no-judgment disclosure. Start with something like, “I’m only asking the following to determine when I should replace the tires in the future. There’s no judgment on my part… I just need to know for my own safety.”

For the most honest answers, you should ask these questions after you’ve settled on a price.

Note: Many new RVs sit on the sales lot for a long time. So even new RV tires can be exposed to too much heat and underinflated before even leaving the lot.

Not the way to treat your RV tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best tire tips for storing your RV

Now that you know what factors to consider in determining the realistic life of your tires, I want to leave you with some tire winterization tips.

RV tire tips for short-term and long-term storage

1. Visually inspect the tires before putting them into storage and again when taking the RV out of storage before the tires are back on the road. Look for any irregularities and differences or foreign materials in the tread that should be removed such as stones or other types of debris.

2. Store the RV in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight if possible.

3. If storing the RV outdoors place a surface barrier like a thin piece of wood under the tires to separate them from the ground. This will help protect the tires from the elements while stationary over long periods. It also will help them not to sink with the weight of the RV as the ground freezes and thaws.

4. If possible, lift the stored RV off the ground to take the load off the tires and wheels. Jack stands or lightweight trailer axel lift blocks are great for this task.

5. Cover tires to reduce exposure to sunlight and ozone. White coverings will reflect the sun and keep the tires cooler than darker covers. Specially designed tire covers work best for this task but so can white plastic trash bags.

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Keep in mind that stored tires can lose air pressure and in two ways:

  • Temperature: No matter the brand, tires can lose ~1.5 percent of air pressure per 10 degrees F with temperature changes. Tires are subject to the Ideal Gas Law which simply means that as the temperature changes, so does air pressure within the tire—in other words, cold air contracts while warm air expands. So, it’s vital to check tire inflation when the tires are cold prior to use and re-inflate tires to their proper pressure as per the placard on the RV (or the original paperwork) before putting them back into service.
  • Sitting static: Tires lose about 3 percent inflation pressure per month while sitting around inflated and not running (at constant temperature). Again, re-inflate the tires to proper pressures before putting them back into use.

Taking the time to prepare your RV before you store it for the winter can help protect your investment for the long haul.

Proper tire maintenance is crucial! Here are a few articles to help and I strongly recommend reading all of them.

I hope all of this information helps keep you safe!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin                                                                                     

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

How to Survive an RV Tire Blowout

It’s one of RVers’ biggest fears: a tire blowout. Here’s what to do if you have an RV tire blowout while driving and how to prevent it.

Many RVers share a common fear: an RV tire blowout. We’ve all heard the horror stories of RVers losing control of their RV when a tire blows. We’ve seen the scary images of flipped RVs and shredded motorhomes. 

But you shouldn’t be scared. You should just be prepared and know what to do if your tire blows while driving. 

I’m going to walk you through what to do in the moment and how to prevent it in the first place. 

IMPORTANT: What you should do is counterintuitive. So, please read!

What would you do if your RV tire blew? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to handle a tire blowout in your RV

I’m not here to offer you a guarantee. There is no foolproof way to maintain control in every circumstance. 

However, I are going to share simple ways of maintaining control of a vehicle by using established physical principles that have proven effective over the years if used quickly and properly.

So, while I can’t guarantee it, the following techniques will give you the best chance to maintain control of your RV if a tire blows. Allstate recommends the same techniques with the following steps.

Note: The principles are the same for every type of vehicle, loaded or empty.

Not the way to treat your RV tire! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. First, stay calm

2. Do NOT brake

Whatever you do, do not hit the brake pedal! That’s one of the surest ways to lose control. 

3. Do NOT take your foot off the gas pedal

If you ask drivers what to do when your tire blows, most will say to take your foot off the gas pedal. THAT IS NOT CORRECT!

Keep your foot where it is and immediately do the next step…

4. Accelerate

Yes, accelerate. It may seem counterintuitive but accelerating counteracts the sideways pull your RV experiences during a tire blowout.

Put simply, accelerating forces your RV to stay straight.

5. Correct steering as necessary

To offset the initial force of the blow and sideways pull, you’ll likely need to correct the steering to keep going straight. The key is doing the smallest steering adjustments possible. 

Do not overcorrect by whipping the wheel in the opposite direction of the pull. Try to make a series of small movements that help you maintain control.

Think of balancing a ball on the board. With small adjustments, you can keep the ball on the board. But any big, jerking movements send the ball flying off the board. In the same way, small adjustments will keep your RV on the road.

Use tire covers to protect your RV tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Choose when and where to slow down and pull over

Once you have successfully maintained control of the vehicle, THEN it’s time to slow down and pull over. Again, do not hit the brakes or take your foot off the gas pedal.

Once you see a safe place to pull over, gradually release pressure on the gas pedal. Correct the steering as necessary as you slow down and gently steer it to your safe spot on the side of the road.

If you start to lose control again, accelerate. Regain control and release the pressure from the gas pedal even more gradually.

If possible, coast to a stop. Only press the brakes (gently!) if absolutely necessary and only once you have slowed enough to feel like you’re in complete control.

7. Turn on emergency lights and proceed with caution

Once you are safely on the side of the road, turn on your emergency lights. If it’s safe to exit the vehicle, get out your roadside emergency kit and place orange warning triangles or the equivalent behind your RV.

Assess whether it’s safe to change the tire yourself or contact roadside assistance. Be sure to check the wheel well and undercarriage for any damage.

Not the way to treat your RV tires! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summed up step-by-step

  • Stay calm
  • Do NOT brake
  • Do NOT take your foot off the gas pedal
  • Accelerate
  • Correct steering with the smallest adjustments possible
  • Identify a safe place to pull over
  • Gradually release pressure on the gas pedal
  • Gently steer to the safe spot on the side of the road
  • Coast to a stop
  • Turn on emergency lights
  • Proceed with caution, only exiting RV when safe
What would you do if your RV tire blew? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

IMPORTANT: Practice reacting to a tire blowout

I know what you’re thinking. How do you practice reacting to a tire blowout? The answer is visualization!

You should visualize what you will do if a tire blows out on you. And I don’t just mean to think about it. I mean visualize the sound, the feelings, and every step of your response. Even visualize the yelp your passenger emits when the tire blows!

Visualizing is the only realistic way to prepare yourself for a tire blowout. Studies with athletes have shown that imagining the full picture of a scene is nearly just as good as actually practicing.

This is important when it comes to tire blowouts because accelerating is counterintuitive. So, you need to overcome the natural reflex to hit the brakes or take your foot off the gas pedal.

Practice (visualize) accelerating and going through all of the steps. Otherwise, you might react badly even if you know the proper way to react! You might reflexively hit the brake or take your foot off the pedal. 

How to prevent a tire blowout

Proper tire maintenance is crucial! Here are a few articles to help and I strongly recommend reading all of them.

I hope all of this information helps keep you safe!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

The Danger of Underinflated RV Tires

Do not drive with underinflated RV tires! I have some critical advice to save you lots of grief.

One of the most important but neglected parts of your RV: your tires. There is nothing more frightening than having a tire blow out while you are driving at highway speeds. Studies show that more than 30 percent of us drive with underinflated RV tires.

In an RV it is dangerous!

Maintaining proper tire pressure in your RV should always be a top priority but with summer underway, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on your tires. The dangers of underinflated tires include increased risk for tire blowouts which in turn can cause you to lose control of your RV and potentially cause harm to your vehicle and other drivers on the road.

Not the way to care for your RV tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What causes a tire blowout

There are a variety of reasons that an RV could experience a tire blowout but almost every cause for blowout can be traced back to the condition of the tire and whether or not it was properly inflated. In the summer, drivers have a tendency to underinflate tires, knowing that heat causes air to expand. This approach makes sense; however, in order to keep your tire pressure at a safe level, tires should always be inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications.

When tires are underinflated there is undue stress put on the internal components—the fabric, steel, rubber, etc. The extra heat of summer along with the low air pressure can cause these internal components to snap and break. If your RV tires are already weak or in poor condition, then you’re at an even greater risk for experiencing a blowout during the summer months.

Another cause of tire blowout includes overloading your RV and carrying more weight than you have the capacity for. Overloading your vehicle poses its own set of dangers and puts too much pressure on your tires. As I discussed above, too much pressure paired with too much heat spells out disaster.

Potholes, uneven driving surfaces, and sharp debris left in the road can also cause RV drivers to experience a tire blowout. A pothole can cause an underinflated tire to explode if hit at just the right angle. When driving your RV you need to keep a lookout for potholes, debris, and other issues so you don’t put yourself and other drivers in danger.

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What can you do to prevent a tire blowout?

Preventing a tire blowout from happening is of extreme importance as an RV driver. While there will always be factors that are out of your control, you need to take the time and effort necessary to do your part in keeping tires in safe working condition:

  • Always inspect your tires, checking for tread depth, signs of wear and tear, and most importantly, checking for adequate tire pressure
  • Make sure you aren’t overloading your RV and carrying more weight than you have capacity for
  • Keep a watchful eye on the roadways looking out for debris or potholes that could cause tire damage
  • Maintain a safe driving distance from other vehicles at all times just in case you would lose control of your vehicle due to a tire blowout

Tire blowouts can be very dangerous, not only for you but also for other unsuspecting drivers that have to swerve to avoid tire pieces. Follow these tips, maintain your tire pressure, and be safe driving this summer.

Is it safe to drive with low tire pressure?

Maintaining good tires is one of the most important parts of RV ownership. After all, without good tires, you won’t be traveling anywhere! Despite this, many people end up driving on low tire pressure which puts unnecessary strain on the tires and the entire vehicle. 

It’s a bad idea to drive with tires that are overinflated or underinflated because this shortens the lifespan of your RV tires. Although tires can be replaced once they blow, it’s best to avoid this situation altogether. Blowouts can be dangerous, especially if you’re driving at highway speeds when they occur. 

Driving with underinflated tire causes numerous problems for your RV, some more obvious than others. Below I’ll discuss a few of the risks you run when you drive with underfilled tires. I’ll also cover some tips for proper maintenance so you can enjoy disaster-free road trips. 

Check your tires at each stop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poor fuel mileage

One of the downsides of low tire pressure is the effect it has on your fuel efficiency. RVs are already fuel guzzlers so you don’t want to throw any extra money into that pit. If you drive with underinflated tires, your engine has to work harder to complete each rotation. This effort uses up your fuel and that means you need to stop for refills more frequently. 

Nobody wants to pay for extra gas, especially with the rising price of fuel. Keeping your tires inflated to the recommended level will help you save money and keep your RV in better condition. 

Increased vehicle strain

Every part of an RV has to work in order to get it moving. Whether you’re driving a motorhome or pulling a trailer, there’s an engine that’s working hard. It doesn’t need to deal with the added stress that comes from driving on low tire pressure. 

RVs are also significant investments, so it’s important to keep them well maintained and in good driving condition. Keeping your tires properly inflated and performing regular maintenance ensures that everything is in good working order. Underinflated tires require your engine and the other automotive parts to work extra hard. In turn, this shortens the lifespan of your RV. 

Check your tire pressure EVERY travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Uneven tread weathering

Driving with low tire pressure also puts unnecessary stress on the tires themselves. When your tires are underinflated they tend to slump and spread out. This means that more of the tire comes into contact with the road as you drive. 

Typically, only the center of a tire will face the wear and tear of the road. But if you drive on underinflated tires, the sides will also be exposed to this rough treatment. This weathers your tread in an uneven way. Even if you reinflate your tires later, some damage has already been done. 

Reduced traction

This is related to the point above. When you place extra stress on your tires and wear them down, you’ll inevitably lose some traction. All tires eventually wear out but you’ll speed up the process if you’re always driving on low tire pressure. 

Traction is very important for RVers, whether it’s the tires of your RV or the tow vehicle. You need to have as much grip as possible to get your rig moving and control its direction. Driving on snow, ice, mud, and gravel also becomes much harder if your tires have lost their traction. 

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Less responsive vehicle

Driving with compromised tires is extremely dangerous especially when you’re driving something as large and heavy as an RV. Tipping and swaying are already huge risks, so you’ll want to do everything you can to make the experience safer. 

Low-pressure tires make your vehicle less responsive to small adjustments. This is connected to the reduced traction and uneven wear and tear of the tread.

If your vehicle can’t respond quickly enough to turn, change lanes, or make other adjustments, you’re in trouble. You also might deal with some wobbling and drifting if your tires are out of shape. 

Increased risk of blowouts

One of the biggest risks of driving with low tire pressure is the increased likelihood of blowouts and flat tires. Blowouts are dangerous for you and everyone around you on the road.

It’s never fun to deal with a flat tire but it’s especially hard when you’re working with an RV. Because of their increased size and weight, it’s harder to jack them up and replace tires. In addition, you can’t always guarantee that there will be a mechanic nearby, so you have to rely on your roadside assistance program.

It’s imperative that you avoid tire blowouts at all costs. Maintaining the proper tire pressure is a great way to start. 

Tips for RV tire maintenance

If you want to keep your RV in the best possible condition, you need to practice proper RV tire maintenance. This means more than just replacing tires once they go flat. You need to include tires in your regular check-ups, so you don’t miss any budding problems.

There are also preventative measures you can take to keep your tires good for as long as possible. You should always check your tires before leaving on a long trip. Also, check them before and after you put your vehicle into storage for the winter. Below we have a few tips that will help you keep your tires properly filled and in great shape!

Use a tire pressure monitoring system

Tires can unexpectedly become damaged, even if you look after them. This is why a tire pressure monitoring system is a great gadget to have. It can alert you if your tire pressure is too low or too high, if a tire has a puncture, or if the temperature is too high. These early warnings will help you address problems before they become dangerous.

RV tire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cover tires during storage

If you choose to store your RV during certain seasons, make sure you cover your tires. Quality tire covers will insulate your tires from extreme temperature changes, prevent UV damage, and keep them cleaner.

Proper tire maintenance is crucial! Here are a few articles to help and I strongly recommend reading all of them.

I hope all of this information helps keep you safe!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

Check RV Tire Pressure EVERY Travel Day and Here’s Why

Proper tire pressure is critically important not only to your safety but the life of your tires. Here is why you should check RV tire pressure EVERY travel day

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!)

Check your RV tires every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Check your RV tires every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Check your RV tires every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Check your RV tires at every rest stop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Check your RV tires every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Take good care of your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Check your RV tires every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Check your RV tires every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Check your RV tires every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign