RV Tire Care
RV tire failure is dangerous and can cause a lot of damage to the unit or trailer. The main reasons for this are low pressure, overloading, overall wear and the age of the tires, and punctures.
According to the Canada Safety Council under inflation is the leading cause of tire failure. Low tire pressure can lead to blow outs, skidding, hydroplaning and vehicle control issues. In RV season, check tire pressure once a month. For an accurate read, do this in the early morning or three hours before driving to ensure that the tires are cool; use a tire gauge – don’t simply rely on an automated system.
Modern vehicles have a dashboard warning symbol for low-tire pressure, though this is not mandatory in Canada like in the United States, and some RVs will come with their own electronic tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Consider investing in a TPMS, particularly for fifth wheels or if you plan to pull a trailer. Never try to ‘eyeball’ tire pressure and if the tires are losing pressure, it’s time for an expert inspection. Note that tire pressure should be based on the load being carried by the tire, this is an important consideration for RVing! More information on the importance of tire pressure and other maintenance tips can be found here.
For your safety and the vehicle’s performance, make sure you never exceed the tire’s maximum weight limit – a combination of the unit itself, passengers and camping cargo. Vehicles that weigh more than 4,500 kilograms (approx. 1,000 lbs) must have their front tires replaced when tread is less than 3 mm deep. Reputable tire manufacturers agree that standard RV tires should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 1.6 mm, more commonly known as 2/32”.
Trailer tires should be on the front of the trailer and inflated to the maximum PSI for the tire. These special tires, marked with an ST and designed for trailer axle positions only, are built with a thicker sidewall to handle more vertical load and lateral scuffing. If not properly inflated, wear can occur and there will be excessive heat build-up that can lead to tire failure.
Tires are designed and built to be used (the rubber dries out and ages faster when stored/not in use), so the more RVs are used, the better it actually is for the tires. Look for the tread wear indicators; these small and raised rubber bits are incorporated into the tire grooves to measure tire tread depth. When the indicators are worn down to the same level as the tire, it’s time to change it. Tire cupping, also known as tire scalloping, refers to when the tire tread moves from high to low in random spots. While checking tread depth, look for such uneven wear patterns which could suggest that the unit needs to be aligned.
Aged tires have reduced traction compared to new tires, can be prone to cracking and may fail unexpectedly while in motion. If the RV is not in use but outdoors for long periods use tire covers to help block the sun. UV rays and exposure to ozone will wear down a tire overtime. Be on the lookout for any bubble or bulges as well as cracks on the sidewalls – if cracks are more than 4 mm deep (1/16”) the tires should be immediately replaced.
A tire’s manufacture date (called the DOT) is stamped on the sidewall. The last three or four numbers in the series will be the week and year of production. In most cases RV tires age out before they wear out.
Sidewall or tread punctures more than 6 mm (1/4 of an inch) should be replaced for safety reasons. Remove any stones from the tire thread.
Before you hit the road walk around the unit and inspect the tires. Look out for signs of tire damage or leaks, which could cause a slippery tire, and if pulling a trailer check that everything is secure. Knock off any pieces of ice when driving in the winter and use only soap and water to clean the tires.
Most tire manufacturers recommend rotating tires every 8,000 km (5,000 miles) to lengthen tread life, maintain performance and optimize mileage. When in doubt have the tires examined by a tire expert and check on – and inflate – the spare tire each season as lack of use will eventually affect the rubber. The general rule is to have all tires checked every few years; and while it may last a few years longer, replace the spare after seven years. Balance wheels when new, and as needed afterward if vibration occurs – or any time a tire has been dismounted.
When in storage, keep RV and trailer tires inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, preferably at a slightly higher pressure than you would use when driving and keep a barrier, like a piece of wood, between the ground and the tire.
Interesting Fact: All tires sold in Canada have a tire identification number on the sidewall which provides specific manufacturing information about when and where the tire was made and are marked with a traditional Canadian symbol. As stated by the Canada Safety Council, “The maple leaf following the number indicates that the tire was made in Canada and certifies that it meets Transport Canada requirements.”
More useful tips:
RV Maintenance Tips for Keeping Your Exterior in Top Shape