Proper RV tire maintenance is key to maximizing the life of the tires on your motorhome or towable camper. From knowing what kind of tires to buy and how you care for your tires will help determine longevity of use. These RV tire safety and maintenance tips and RV tire accessories guide to help minimize or even eliminate potential of tire blowouts, vehicle accidents or expensive repairs.
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Just like a person wearing the proper shoes, the most important feature on your RV are its’ tires. They support and carry the load and weight for as long as you’re moving.
Those black round rubber things are what carries your RV AND your family and belongings. So, doesn’t it make sense to take every precaution and proper care to ensure your motorhome or travel trailer get to your destination all in one piece?
And, just because you’ve not drive or pull your RV more than 5000 miles doesn’t mean those tires will be good for another 5000.
How to Maximize the Life of Your RV Tires
How to Shop for RV Tires
Knowing exactly how to shop for tires is the first step in reassuring you and your RV will get to your destinations safely.
If you just bought your RV, really look into the OEM tires that come installed on your motorhome or towable. RV manufacturers are notorious for installing cheaper tires just to get them off the showroom floor. Unfortunately, they are nothing to write home about, especially in the towable RV market.
Case in point, our Cyclone toy hauler came equipped with 6 Towmax tires. They were horribly inadequate (that’s a nice way of saying they were CRAP!).
Shopping for RV tires is different for all RVs. You need to take into consideration of how you will you use your RV, how many miles you’ll be driving your motorhome or pulling your camper. Also, take into consideration of the size and weight of your RV.
You may talk with the owners of like-sized RVs to see what they are using for tires on similar RV types. However, we strongly recommend referring to you RV manufacturers’ owners manual for specifications on which tires they recommend.
Now, RV tires can be purchased from multiple places from local tire chain stores to online tire manufacturers or tire distributorships.
We immediately replaced them with Michelin Defender LTX tires based on the size and weight of our fifth wheel.
Also worth noting, your motorhome or towable’s spare tire is the most forgotten because it just sits there under the coach or on the back of your camper. They will literally dry rot before you even get to use them because they are subject to the elements.
So, when it’s time to shop for your RV tires, we highly recommend getting a new spare as well. Even though your spare tire may not have touched a mile of pavement, it still has been subject to aging, the weather elements, road grime and possible damage.
The last thing you want is your motorhome’s or camper’s spare tire to rip apart or blow because of any of the above discrepancies.
But, before forking over your hard-earned dollars for a set of new RV tires, you need to pay strict attention to the birthdate of the tires your installer will be putting on your motorhome, fifth wheel or other camper.
Ask to see the tires yourself. Verify that those tires didn’t just sit around the shop for months to even years.
The date of manufacture will be the last four digits of the DOT code. The first two digits are the week of manufacture. And the last two digits are the year.
For example, if the last four digits of the DOT code are 0203, that means that the tire was manufactured during the second week of the year 2003.
Inspect your RV tires
One important point of RV tire safety is to always check your RV tires (and your toad or tow vehicle tires!) regularly for wear patterns such as cupping or uneven belt wear.
The penny test method will help define tread groove depth. Stick a penny head-first into each groove. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to purchase new tires for your RV or vehicle.
Also, pay attention to wear patterns on your tires. They could be tell-tale signs of suspension, alignment or steering system discrepancies.
You should immediately visit an RV tire specialty dealer at the very first sign of vibration, shimmy or fighting the wheel to keep your RV on the road.
A simple tire rebalance may be the answer. However, if the tire rebalance doesn’t fix the vibration, your tire dealer should conduct further diagnostics to find what’s causing the discrepancy and handling.
And lastly, make certain YOU test drive your RV or vehicle pulling your RV before leaving the tire dealership to avoid further problems and hardship.
Front End Alignment for Motorhomes
Front end alignments are critical for motorized Class A and Class C motorhomes, vans and truck campers. Without the correct front end alignment, your motorhome tires will wear prematurely thus costing you time and money.
You should always check your tires for signs of unusual tire wear before every trip.
Again, look for flat spots, cupping or signs of excessive tire wear. You should schedule a front end alignment at least annually.
Front end alignments for motorhomes are best left to the RV alignment professionals. Big rig motorhomes may need to have a facility that’s better equipped and professional tire specialists to do a quality alignment.
Wheel and Axle Alignment for Towable RVs – Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers
The care and attention given to motorhomes should be the same for towable RVs.
The best place to have a proper trailer wheel and axel alignment done on your fifth wheel or travel trailer at a trailer service center and done by a certified technician. You should schedule your wheel and axel alignment annually.
And if you’re pulling your camper on rough terrain to go boondocking or road in disrepair, it’s always a good idea to at least get your fifth wheel or trailer tires, axles and alignment checked.
Tire Rotation & Rebalance
Regardless if you own a motorized or towable RV, tire rotation and rebalancing goes hand in hand with proper alignment. To get the maximum life out of your tires they should be rotated and rebalanced on a regular basis.
As part of your RV tire maintenance, it’s just good sense to get your tires rebalanced regularly. Even a simple pothole could throw your RV tires out of balance. Also check your RV’s manufacturer for the rotation interval.
That said, for some RVs, it is not practical to rotate the tires. Dually wheels are a good example. In that case, most RV owners should monitor the wear of the tires and replace them as needed.
Another RV tire maintenance tip is to be aware that tires that are out of balance can cause a vibration. This can detrimentally lead to premature and excessive tire wear and suspension wear and tear.
In addition, vibration and tire shimmy it can cause driver fatigue which could potentially lead to an accident.
Tires should always be balanced when they are mounted on wheels for the first time. Also, when they are remounted after being repaired.
Proper Tire Inflation
As part of your regular RV tire maintenance, you should check your tire pressure every day that you travel and throughout your trip. The tire pressure will change with the ambient air temperature through out your travel day.
Under-inflated tires will increase fuel consumption. According to AAA (American Automobile Agency), operating a vehicle with under-inflated tires can result in a 25% reduction in fuel economy.
Over-inflated tires will have less grip and possibly cause unexpected blowouts.
So, a good piece of advice is to keep an accurate tire gauge easily accessible at a all times to monitor your tires for proper inflation.
Checking the inner wheels of a dually can be quite challenging unless you have steel valve stems installed.
We can’t stress enough that every RV owner should also carry a portable air compressor.
Depending on your preference on how to power an air compressor, you can choose between a 12-volt air compressor or 120 volt powered compressor.
Just make sure your portable air compressor is large enough to handle the maximum tire pressure of your RV. Generally speaking, the larger the RV tire, the larger volume air compressor needed.
You can purchase a portable air compressor from several sources. But remember, a portable air compressor is one of those you get what you pay for type investments.
Small, cheap air compressors are usually single stage. They are not adequate to inflate a large RV tire and will burn out quickly.
We prefer the 12 volt RV air compressors listed below. They come in different sizes that are applicable to RV size and are extremely well made.
Recommended portable air compressors for RV or camper:
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Monitoring your RV’s (and tow vehicle) tire pressure is one of the most important RV tire maintenance accessories to help keep you and your RV safe on the road.
As we mentioned earlier, proper tire inflation is extremely crucial to not only your safety and those also on the road, but also the longevity of your RV tires.
You can check your tire pressure by hand using a tire pressure gauge. We recommend getting a quality tire pressure gauge that will be more accurate. Don’t cheap out on one you get at the dollar store.
The other method to monitor and check your RV’s tire pressure is a good quality tire pressure monitoring system, also known as a TPMS.
Your RV TPMS will monitor the pressure and temperature of each of your RV as well as your toad or tow vehicle’s tires. It reports that data back to the monitor in real time.
An RV TPMS will instantly notify you of a slow leak or an increase in your tire temperatures allowing you to take corrective action before disaster strikes in the form of a blowout. Personally, we think no RVer should be without one.
While we’ve tried different brands of TPMS systems, we prefer the TST-507 Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
The TST-507 TPMS has a color monitoring screen that connects to monitors multiple tires at once using bluetooth technology. It’s a super easy system to program too.
The TST Tire Pressure and Temperature Monitoring System can monitor up to 18 tires using multiple tire cap sensors and a single receiver unit. Our Winnebago View and tow vehicle, we have 10 sensors; four on our Jeep and 6 on our Class C motorhome.
Speaking of which, stainless steel valve stems are very important for safe travel in your RV. They are much more durable than typical rubber valve stems and are much better suited for motorhomes and vehicles with dual rear tires.
Stainless steel valve stems are also the best option for installing the sensors of a tire pressure monitoring system.
On our small Class C Winnebago View motorhome, we invested in the Borg Warner valve stems. They are well constructed and should last for years. We had them installed by a professional tire shop in Phoenix, Arizona.
Though they come with a moderate price tag, the install is well worth the money as well as having piece of mind.
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How to Protect Your RV Tires
As we’ve discussed all the important things about the mechanics end of your RV tires, now let’s see how to take care of your tires properly. These simple steps will help maximize the life of your RV tires as well as ensure safe travel.
Tire covers are an important part of your RV tire maintenance. They are crucial for extending the life of your RV tires while your motorhome or camper is either, parked in storage or when you’re camped at a park for a lengthy visit.
They help to prevent the sun’s harmful UV rays from degrading the sidewalls of your tires.
You can purchase either single, double, or triple axle tire covers depending on your RV tires configuration and personal preference. It’s important to ensure you get the correct size covers by first, measuring the diameter of your tires.
The color of the cover is completely up to you. RV tire covers typically come in gray, white, tan or black. Most RVers will purchase a cover color that coordinates with thee colors of their RV.
That said, black tire covers tend to get hot in the sun while white tire covers will to show dirt and wear faster. So, we recommend buying tan or gray tire covers.
Check out these examples. Click on each image for more information and sizes:
Tire Protectorant Applications
There are two kinds of tire application products; water-based and solvent-based.
Water-based tire applications are more earth-friendly while still offering a sleek new-tire appearance.
However, solvent-based applications are primarily of petroleum distillates which are dangerously harmful to the tires as well as brakes and brake pads.
Besides being water-resistant, over the course of time, each layer of application will cause the tire sidewall surface to turn brown. Worse, those solvents will lead to premature cracking of the rubber.
In our opinion, aerosol tire applications should never be used on any tires; regardless of vehicle. Because they are petroleum-based, these tire applications typically have a negative impact on tire wearability and effectiveness.
While shiny tires may look cool, be weary of these products that will degrade your tires that eventually will lessen their life span.
Furthermore, petroleum, silicone or chemical products are not environmentally-friendly. Anytime it rains or you wash your RV, those solvents end up leaching into our ecosystem.
Additionally, consider the health issues that could stem from using tire application products (ie. inhaling, skin contact, etc.).
We use Aero Cosmetics products as they’re proven winners for exterior cleaning and care for your RV and/or automobiles. They contain no chemicals that will damage or break down any surface; including our hands.
Then, after drying thoroughly, we apply their tire rubber care for tires (also great for rubber seals on your RV). We apply nothing else such as tire shine or any other foo foo tire protectant product.
Think of your RV tires like the bottom of your shoes. Save the primping for your shiny rims.
Be very careful not to overspray cleaners, chrome polishes and waxes onto your tire’s sidewalls. And never ever spray anything other than plain water onto your tire treads.
Wrapping up our RV tire maintenance tips
These tire maintenance tips covers everything on how to maximize the life of your RV tires while keeping you and your RV safe on the road.
Just remember, like your shoes, tires are the most important component you’ll ever buy for your RV, toad and/or tow vehicle. As we always recommend, consult with your RV manufacturer and the tire manufacturer for additional information pertinent to your RV’s application and recommendations.
More RV Maintenance & Safety Tips:
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