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