RV Tire Care Tips: Don’t Take Your Tires for Granted

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Most RV owners think they are taking proper care of their tires. After all they periodically check the pressure, take a quick glance or “whack” with a trucker’s bat, and keep them clean. Tires are the most important component on an RV, but according to data assembled by the RV Safety & Education Foundation and several tire manufacturers, are also the most neglected.

Proper Inflation

Most RV owners inflate tires to the PSI (pounds per square inch) stamped on the side of the tire which is actually the maximum pressure at maximum weight or GVWR rating! Proper tire pressure can only be found by weighing each wheel individually and checking the tire manufacturer’s chart for dual or single application. This is different from most passenger cars as the weight of your RV can be substantially higher once you put all your “stuff” inside. If your rig is not loaded to maximum capacity, you will be overinflating the tire by using the number on the sidewall and have less tread on the ground which will affect stopping and maneuvering.

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You can weigh your rig at any Cat Scale found at most larger truck stops such as Flying J and Pilot. Visit www.catscale.com for the nearest location. These scales have three platforms allowing you to put each axle on a platform. Trucks and trailers would put the front axle of the truck on the first, back axle on the second, and the trailer axles on the third. Motorhomes would put the front axle of the motorhome on the first, back axle on the second, and a tow vehicle on the third.

This will give you axle weights which you can use to divide the number of tires per axle and determine the weight, but will not give true individual weights. Depending on how you load your rig and the weight of appliances and options, some rigs are heavier on one side. It’s best to get individual wheel position measurements which can only be done with portable scales. Visit www.rvsafety.com to find what dealers or locations the RVSEF teams are weighing coaches to get precise weight info.

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Checking Pressure

The next step to proper tire maintenance is physically checking tire pressure EVERY time you hit the road. Just glancing at the “bulge” in the tire or hitting the tire with a trucker’s bat is not good enough, especially on larger rigs. If your tires are 10 PSI less than recommended pressure you reduce your weight carrying capacity by 25%! And you cannot visually tell the difference between tires that are 10 PSI difference in most cases. Get the gauge out and get the gauge tested by a certified tire shop yearly. I like the Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) that have a wireless feed to a screen inside the drivers compartment that not only tell me the pressure of the tire (inside dual included) but also the tire temperature. Well worth the price of a tire blowout.

Sidewall Inspection

When we drive our cars and trucks on a daily basis the centrifugal force pushes softening components from the rubber to the outside of the tires and keeps them from drying out. On an RV we often drive to a specific location and let them sit for days, weeks, months! This prolonged exposure to the elements dries out the sidewall and develops cracking known as weather checking. It’s important to inspect the sidewall periodically for weather checking. Also, if you want to make the sidewall “shine” with an aftermarket spray, make sure it has no alcohol components or others that will enhance the drying effect. And cover the tire if it will be exposed to the elements for longer than one week.

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Happy Birthday

Tires have a date stamped on the sidewall known as a DOT ID stamp. This code has information including the plant it was built in, the size, and most important, the date. The last four digits indicate the week and year the tire was manufactured. Tires are only rated for a 10-year life cycle. It’s not uncommon to find tires on a new rig that are much older as they are often purchased in quantity and stored until the unit is sold. Check the date and replace if they are older than 10 years.

Tread Wear

Periodically you should check the thread of your tires to look for improper wear patterns, low thread, and missing chunks of tread (really!). If you notice thinner thread on the inside or outside of the tire it means you have alignment issues or improper weight distribution. Running your hand over the tread will also indicate early signs of alignment issues if the thread is smooth in one direction and rough or “feathered” in the other.

The Rubber Manufacturing Association recommends any vehicle over 10,000 pounds should have at least 4/32” of tread. Vehicles under 10,000 pounds should have 2/32” of tread. Use a good depth gauge and check your tires periodically.

With a little bit of annual inspection and maintenance you can properly detect any issues before they become a problem, keeping your tires in top shape for your next long haul.

Discussion
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44 Responses to “RV Tire Care Tips: Don’t Take Your Tires for Granted”
  1. John Warder

    As a person who has worked in the tire industry for over 30 years, I was pleased to see your article on tire maintenance. However, tires do not have THREAD, they have TREAD (that portion that contacts the road. Other than that, it was a great article with some excellent recommendations. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Bobby

    Great article. I am in the habit of always checking tire pressure before every trip. I also never leave my tires uncovered. When going on trips, after I level my Class-A, the first thing i do is put the tire cover on. They stay on until I am ready to travel again.

    Reply
  3. Tom

    I work in the tire manufacturing industry (GoodYear ) and have never heard of “Tire Thread”. Niall the references did you actually mean “Tire TREAD ” ?

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Hi, Tom. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and catching the “Tire Thread” slip! It looks as though I started out with the correct reference in the upper portion of the article and then something went wrong, maybe during spell check? I’ll have our staff correct the mistake. Hopefully you found the rest of the information consistent with what Goodyear is stating for RV tires? I worked with both Goodyear and Michelin for years helping to educate owners on the proper care and maintenance of tires as there was a very concerning issue with RV tires. Thanks again and keep checking on me, I need the help!

      NOTE: Here is the corrected copy:
      Tread Wear
      Periodically you should check the tread of your tires to look for improper wear patterns, low tread, and missing chunks of tread (really!). If you notice thinner tread on the inside or outside of the tire it means you have alignment issues or improper weight distribution. Running your hand over the tread will also indicate early signs of alignment issues if the thread is smooth in one direction and rough or “feathered” in the other.

      The Rubber Manufacturing Association recommends any vehicle over 10,000 pounds should have at least 4/32” of tread. Vehicles under 10,000 pounds should have 2/32” of thread. Use a good depth gauge and check your tires periodically.

      NOTE: Here is the corrected copy:

      Tread Wear

      Periodically you should check the tread of your tires to look for improper wear patterns, low tread, and missing chunks of tread (really!). If you notice thinner tread on the inside or outside of the tire it means you have alignment issues or improper weight distribution. Running your hand over the tread will also indicate early signs of alignment issues if the thread is smooth in one direction and rough or “feathered” in the other.

      The Rubber Manufacturing Association recommends any vehicle over 10,000 pounds should have at least 4/32” of tread. Vehicles under 10,000 pounds should have 2/32” of thread. Use a good depth gauge and check your tires periodically.

      Reply
  4. Richard Schaumburg

    So, if the rig’s weight is below the maximum GVW, how is the correct tire pressure determined? Maximum PSI for maximum GVW, but what’s the best/lowest PSI for something less than GVW?

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Hi, Richard. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site. The first thing you need to do is identify the brand and tire size. For example, a Michelin tire on a traditional diesel chassis would be a 255/80R22.5 . Next go to the tire manufacturer’s website, in this case http://www.michelinrvtires.com or visit http://www.rvsafety.com and go to the tire charts. Find your tire on the chart, look for single or dual application, and scroll over until you find the weight that is on the tire and it will tell you the proper pressure. Attached is a copy of the chart from Michelin’s webpage for that tire. Note the maximum pressure at maximum load is 110 psi, however if the rig is not fully loaded to GVWR, it has recommendations of lower psi. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  5. Earle

    How would you do a travel trailer? I had a new tire blow out this past summer and I did all the things you said to do before going on a trip.

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Hi, Earle. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and sorry about the issue with your tire. According to data collected by tire manufacturers, the Tire and Rim Manufacturer’s Association, and the RV Safety & Education Association, the three main causes of tire failures are low air pressure, overloaded weight, and weather checking on the sidewall. If you had a new tire blow out, I would contact my selling dealer or local tire representative to analyze the condition and possible warranty coverage? They would be able to see if there was a road hazard issue or possibly a defective tire.

      Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and sorry about the trouble with your tire. The first thing I would do is go to a Cat Scale and weigh the rig. Visit http://www.catscale.com to see the nearest location and for $10 you can find the weight of your rig. These scales have three platforms so make sure your RV is the only thing on that platform. Divide the weight by the number of tires and go to http://www.rvsafety.com and find the tire guide for your brand. This will tell you the proper inflation to start with. I would then take the new tire to a qualified tire representative and ask for an inspection of the tire. They may be able to determine the cause of the blow out? You may have done everything right before and during the trip, however if the tire picked up a nail or other puncture item, you wouldn’t know it. It could also have split the sidewall due to scuffing a curb or being cut by a piece of road debris.

      Reply
  6. Billy Collins

    I notice that there are two tire inflation notices on the RV. One is inside the RV stamped on the sidewall, then you have the one stamped on the tire, both inflation suggestion are different. Which one should we use to inflate the tire on the RV, the one inside the RV or the tire inflations recommendation?

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Hi Billy. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with proper tire inflation. The pressure stamped on the tire is for Maximum Pressure at Maximum Load, which means your rig is loaded to the Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Rigs coming out of the factory have no cargo and therefore will be much lighter than the Max Rating and will require less pressure in the tires. The “info tag” inside the rig is most likely the pressure they recommend for the weight of the rig as it was built. To find proper tire inflation for your vehicle, you need to weight the rig as it sits with the cargo you have loaded, determine individual weight on each wheel, refer to the tire manufacturer’s chart and it will tell you the proper inflation. Since everyone takes different toys, tools, and clothing, it’s important to find how much weight you have on the tires according to your way of having fun!
      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  7. Tim Griffis

    Good article, but “Thread” is actually the fiber used to construct the tire, that’s part of what lies under the “Tread”…….”Tread” is what is on the outside of the “Threads” of the tire, it’s what you see and measure for “Tread” depth…not “Thread”.

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Hi, Tim. Thank you for pointing that out! We have forwarded your feedback on to the proper department so they may fix this error.

      Reply
  8. Angelo

    I have recently learned some larger tires are balanced with “balancing beads”. When I checked the rear tire pressures a “bead” got into the valve core and kept it open leaking air pressure. I learned that checking rear tire pressure the valve stems should be above “9 and 3 o’clock” positions. The valve could “suck” in a bead below these positions causing air pressure leak.

    Reply
  9. Darryl

    I have a 37′ fifth wheel toy hauler. In the last three years I have had two blow outs on the same side. Each time the tire blows out it causes about $1000,00 in damage. This can not be the norm on travel tires. I have read articles stating that LT tire will put a end to this problem providing the tires are properly rated for the weight. Is this fact?

    Reply
    • jean.wozniak

      Hi Darryl. Thank for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your tire issues. Tires, in my opinion are the most critical component on an RV but are the most neglected. You will find a tremendous amount of blogs, opinions, comments, and videos on the issue with RV tires but you need get the “facts” from the tire experts. Putting LT tires on a trailer is not the correct “fix”, rather it’s an education of proper tire pressure and the amount of weight on individual tires. Since you indicated the problem has been on one side of the RV twice, it could be an overloaded situation on that side? Proper tire pressure can only be determined by weighing the coach by individual wheel position and referring to the tire manufacturer’s chart for single or dual position. Also, it’s not uncommon to see units heavier on one side due to slide rooms, appliances, generators, and storage compartments. The RV Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF) has spent over 30 years working with tire manufacturers, RV manufacturers, and owners to identify what issues cause tire failures and help reduce them. Visit rvsafety.com and you’ll be surprised at what you did not know about your RV tires!

      Reply
  10. Chuck

    Help with tires. New to RVING and need tires for my 38 ft. Fifth wheel. I read about tire night mares and have been told to go with a light truck tire. Only down fall rougher ride …so I am told. Do not care about the ride but care for safe good tires. Would be great if recommendations are not the most expensive 16 incher. Also any chains that might be the best price. Any comments on Tire Rack.com. Thanks for all your help. Chuck aka the idiot rookie

    Reply
  11. robert

    just wondering if you were an advocate of tire covers if your motorhome sits outside for long period of time. I have heard both sides do not know if it is worth the money

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Robert. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and YES!!!!!! you should use tire covers. The weather elements, especially the UV rays from the sun beat on the sidewall of the tires and dry them out causing “weather checking” and can ruin a tire in less than 4 months! If you are storing your vehicle or letting it sit for more than a few days, cover the tires. Not only is the cost of the cover less than the actual tire, it’s much less expensive than the cost of a blow out in the middle of nowhere.

      Reply
      • robert

        ok thanks had some people say it holds moisture and heat in . any certain ones u prefer

        Reply
  12. Mike Booth

    Now we own a Forest River Forester MBS. This is the Mercedes 3500 Sprinter version. Seems like a rough ride empty. All tires came with 70# cold. Max pressure listed on tire is 80#. Loading for first trip ever in an RV. This 2017 has a Helwig anti sway. Unit seems to handle ok. Really not taking much stuff for the 2 of us. Seems that the tire pressure is a logical start. Also seems shocks and rear helper springs would “firm” up the ride even more.
    Anybody with an MBS who can give actual experiences??

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Mike. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site. The only way to find proper tire inflation is to weigh your FR at a Cat Scale. Put the front wheels on the first platform, the backs on the second. Get the weights, go to http://www.rvsafety.com and click on the appropriate tire company and match the single vs dual application with the weight and you will find the correct tire pressure! It’s not what is printed on the tire or the data plate. It depends on weight on the tire.

      Reply
  13. robert

    looking for some true advice have never pulled a vehicle behind my motorhome . getting ready to give it a try bought the blue ox hitch to pull my vehicle. Now everyone says i need to buy a brake setup for he car also, some say i do not advice please

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Robert. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to provide some information on the auxilliary braking system for RVs. Individual states have road use laws that require auxilliary brakes at different weights. Both Blue Ox and Roadmaster have isted current regulations by state and you’ll find that more states today have gone to no law regarding a towed car behind an RV. However, there are still several such as New Jersey that require it on any vehicle, some like New York require it on anything over 3000. Most chassis manufacturers recommend brakes on anything towed over 1500 lbs. In my opinion, it’s a good idea to have a supplemental
      braking system rather than relying on chassis brakes to stop everything, especially in wet conditions? However, as you have indicated, it’s a popular topic for debate! Will you get stopped by authorities in the states that require the brakes? Probably not, however there is always a difference between towing legally and safely.

      Reply
      • robert

        thanks for the info is there a system that stands out. I read reviews on many types they are all over the board. locking up towed vehicles and on and on thanks

        Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Robert. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your towing question. Every state has posted “Road Use Laws” which list various regulations such as maximum speed towing, length and in your case, the weight at which you need supplemental brakes for a towed vehicle. Some states are 3000 pounds and others such as New York are 1000 pounds. The debate is whether a DOT officer or Highway Patrol will actually pull you over and inspect you? You will find a large number of owners that have towed for years without supplemental brakes, however there is a difference between towing legally and towing safely! In my opinion anything over 1500 lbs should have a supplemental braking system. Most chassis manufacturer’s also recommend them at a certain weight as well. Both Blue Ox and Roadmaster have an easy to install system that are very popular.

      Reply
  14. Larry

    Just replaced all 6 tires on our 04 Bounder 37U. Michelin 255/80R22.5 spin balanced with lead weights. Getting rig weighed is critical for proper tire inflation. I was very surprised how our rig was loaded in regards to weight at all four corners of the coach. I went to a Pilot with Cat Scale where I was able to weigh each side of the coach with front and rear tires on separate sections of the scale. The apron on sides of the scale allowed me to position one side on the scale with other side on the apron. I then positioned coach on scale for a total front and rear weight. Total cost was $14.50. I now have coach loaded with all four corners fairly equal. What a difference in ride and handling. Also adjusted air pressure based on weight per manufacture recommendations.

    Reply
  15. Robert

    I don’t see what I’m looking for . I’m having no power to control box on my 1988 Fleetwood 32 ft on GM . And blow by at The (L) fitting from my 13 inch leveling jack .

    Reply
  16. Jesse

    RV Make: Heartland, RV Model: Cyclone 4000 HD, RV Year: 2015

    I had another Cyclone owner tell me that it was recommended to him that he use truck tires because of the weight of the Cyclone. Is this true? I have already had one blowout and the rig has just over 2000 miles on it. I also heard that there is a recall on the stock tires on the Heartlands.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Jesse. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your tire question. There is a huge misconception regarding RV tires in the industry mostly due to the abnormal amount of tire failures owner’s have been experiencing. The RV Safety and Education Foundation has been weighing coaches and providing tire education for over 20 years and even worked with tire manufacturers and RV manufacturers to reduce the failures. Most tire failures are caused by overloading the vehicle or underinflating the tires. Or a combination of both! Slapping on a set of truck tires or heavy ply sidewall is a mask of the actual problem and could cause failure in other applications such as bearings, axles, brakes and other components. Read the blog on “Are You Taking Your Tires For Granted” and you’ll see the proper way to weigh your coach, proper tire pressure, and things you can do to extend the life of your tires. Also, I am not aware of a recall on Heartland Tires, but if you call their owner relations department, they will have a list of all recalls.

      Reply
  17. Falk

    RV Make: Sunny Brook, RV Model: Bristol Bay, RV Year: 2008

    In your Video about testing the fridge thermistor you did not show what scale to use on the multi meter.

    Reply
  18. Dave

    II have a 38 foot fifth wheel that has green caps on the valves. I was told that the tires are filled with nitrogen. I’m not sure if it’s any better or how to check the tires without releasing the nitrogen. Also on how to replace it. Dave

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Dave. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your question on the “Green Caps” on your valve stems. For over 100 years tires have been filled with air from a compressor which is made up of 78 percent nitrogen already. It’s a huge argument about the molecule size related to air loss and moisture but in my opinion there is not sufficient documentation on the effect other than the temperature decrease in tires, especially in a dual application. Checking the tire pressure should not release any traceable amount of psi if performed correctly.

      Reply
  19. Larry

    RV Make: Jayco, RV Model: 27 RLS, RV Year: 2016

    I have approximately 4500 miles on my tandem tires. The outer edge of the front (leading) tires are wearing. Is this a common occurrence? How often would you recommend rotation? I keep them inflated to their recommendations 65lbs.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Larry. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your tire issue. The first thing I would do is weight the rig. Go to http://www.catscale.com and find the nearest Cat Scale, place the front of the tow vehicle on the first pad, the drive axle on the second, and the trailer on the third. Find the total weight and figure out how much is on each tire! They have specific weight ratings and overloading will make the tire work harder and wear faster. Also, once you find the weight, visit http://www.rvsafety.com and look up the proper inflation for your tire, it is not the psi stamped on the side. This is MAX pressure at MAX weight and if you are not at MAX weight, it’s the wrong pressure and you will get premature tire wear. They have all the tire manufacturers charts so find your tire size, weight, dual or single and find the pressure. After all that, I would recommend rotating tires as soon as you start to see an uneven wear pattern. Keep an eye on that trouble spot and if it continues to wear just the one area, you probably have a misaligned axle or bent axle which means having it verified by a trailer expert with laser alignment.

      Reply
  20. Henry

    RV Make: Stealth, RV Model: WA 2812, RV Year: 2014

    How do you check axel alignment on my 5th wheel 2 axel Toy Hauler.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Henry. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your axle alignment question. You will need to take it to a qualified trailer specialist that will laser measure the distance from the hitch drop point to each axle point on each side. This will indicate if the entire axle is off center. Then they will attach a laser to the individual hub to measure if the hub is bent at the axle. They will also check the hub to verify if the axle is bent top to bottom. A good indicator for axle issues is tire wear. If you see one tire wearing inside or outside, get it checked.

      Reply
  21. Sheila Tallant

    RV Make: RoadTrek, RV Model: 190 Popular, RV Year: 1994

    We have recently purchased this RV. The running board on the passenger is in need of replacing. any suggestions to where this part can be purchased? or perhaps an alternative repair?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Sheila. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your parts request. Without a make, model, and year, it’s impossible to guess what type of running board you are referring to. Running boards are usually found only on Class C units, therefore I would recommend contacting an RV Dealership that carries the Ford Class C as most manufacturers use the generic version of the C-body.

      Reply
  22. Leonard

    RV Make: Itasca, RV Model: Horizon, RV Year: 2005

    I have heard various opinions, pro & con, about tire protectorates, or coatings to prolong tire life. Are there any that actually work, and are recommended, or is covering the tires and maintaining proper inflation pressure all that is needed? I read somewhere that a product called ‘Ag-Master #1 by Chem Pro was actually proven to increase tire life, but can’t find any info on it. Opinions?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Leonard. The tire manufacturers only recommend cleaning with a mild detergent such as Dawn Dish Soap (Blue) and keeping them covered. I am not familiar with the Ag-Master 1 product, but I don’t see how it can prolong the life of the rubber component that is keep away from the sun’s damaging rays? As you recommended, proper inflation, and keeping the tires covered is the best PLUS weigh the rig to make sure you do not exceed weight ratings for the individual tire position!

      Reply