RV Tire Care – the Basics – for Motorhomes, Fifth Wheels & Travel trailers
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There are two factors that affect tire life: proper application and good maintenance.
For most of us choosing the right tires for our motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer is easy, we use the tires installed by the RV manufacturer. However, while the tires installed by the manufacture may be adequate, they may not provide a sufficient margin of safety if the RV is loaded to the maximum GVWR.
To know if your tires are the right ones for your motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer it’s important to compare the fully loaded weigh of your RV to the weight rating of the tires. Ask your RV tire dealer or the RV tire manufacture for a weight rating chart for your tire brand and model. Most manufactures also have these charts on their web sites.
When it comes to maintenance, keeping your RV tires inflated to the proper pressure is the most important thing you can do to insure their long life. Follow the guidelines in your RV owner’s manual if you have one. If you don’t have an owners manual then asked an expert, either a good tire man or your RV service tech.
The maximum pressure allowed for a tire is embossed on the side wall. That’s the maximum pressure when the tire is cold. It’s okay for it to be over that by as much as 10 psi if tire pressure is checked while hot. The proper pressure for your RV tire may not be the maximum tire pressure. The right pressure is determined by the weight carried by each tire on the RV and the pressure recommend by the tire manufacture for that weight.
Running a tire in an over pressure condition will cause uneven tread wear.
Running a tire in an under pressure condition will also cause uneven tread wear and can cause damage to the side walls of the tire. Keep in mind that a tire can loose as much a 1 psi per month and as little as 5 psi can make a difference in the load carrying capacity of a tire. So, it’s especially important to check your tire pressure before taking your rig on that first trip of the season. Then check tire pressure once a month.
Improper inflation pressure isn’t the only thing that can cause unusual tread wear. It may also be caused by a mechanical problem such as wheel alignment, a bent wheel or an unbalanced tire. I’m not going to go into the different tread wear patterns and what problems they indicate. It’s enough to say that if you spot unusual tread wear it’s time to see a mechanic. If you’re not sure what you are looking at is unusual then check with a mechanic or tire shop.
The amount on tread on an RV tire is not the best indication of the it’s condition. While some RVers put lots of miles on their rigs and may actually use all the tread on a tire most of us don’t get to travel that much. Our RVs may never wear all the tread off our tires before they need to be replaced.
Ozone is the biggest natural cause of tire failure. Ozone is a gas which causes the rubber to become brittle which results in surface cracks which, over time, become wider and deeper.
Tire manufactures do not recommend any type of dressings or cleaners other than soap and water and say that keeping your tires clean is the best thing you can do to minimize ozone damage.
If you do use tire dressings they should not contain petroleum products or alcohol.
Since high temperatures and ultraviolet light accelerate this destructive process, covering your tires when not in use will also help prolong their life.
Tire manufactures recommend replacing tires five to seven years old. You can determine the age of your tires by looking for the serial number embossed on the side wall. Look at the last three digits. The first of the three is the week of the year. The last digit is the year the tire was manufactured. So, the number 029 would indicate the tire was made in the second week of 1999. So if you have purchased an older RV check the date on your tires or ask your tire dealer. With the complete serial number they can determine how old your tires are.
Long Term Tire Storage & Care
Long term tire storage, or storage of seasonal use recreational vehicles requires special preparations. RVs should be raised on blocks, so weight is removed from the tires.
If blocking is not possible, tire pressure should be increased 25% from inflation required for the loaded vehicle. The RV storage area should be level and well drained. Care should be taken to avoid prolonged tire contact with petroleum based substances: oils, fuels and asphalt.
The RV should be moved every three months to prevent flat spotting and ozone cracking at the tire sidewall flex point. Flat spots usually disappear, when the tires warm-up, after a 25+ mile drive. Flat spotting, which occurs on vehicles not moved for six, or more months may not disappear.
Tires on motorhomes, travel trailers and fifth wheels stored out-of-doors, should be protected by opaque covers to prevent damage from sunlight.
One last RV tire care tip:
If you use leveling blocks under your tires the blocks should be large enough so the entire foot print of the tire will fit on them. If you have a dual wheel axle both tires must be completely supported. If you have a multiple axle trailer the tires on the side being raised should be supported equally.
Determining RV Tire Age by Date Code – How Old are the Tires on Your RV
How old are the tires on your recreational vehicle? The date of manufacture is indicated by the last group of digits in the DOT manufacture code on the sidewall of the tire. The number is often stamped in a recessed rectangle. The DOT code tells who manufactured the tire, where it was made and when. The last group of digits in the code is the date code that tells when the tire was made.
Before 2000, the date code had three digits. Since 2000, it has had four. The first two digits are the week of the year (01 = the first week of January). The third digit (for tires made before 2000) is the year (1 = 1991). For most tires made after 2000, the third and fourth digits are the year (04 = 2004).
In the photo at right, the date code is 8PY806. The 8PY is a manufacturing shift code, and the date the tire was actually made was 0806, which is the 8th week (08)in the year 2006 (06).
The date of manufacture is essential information for RV owners and RV tire buyers because tires deteriorate even if they are not used.
European automobile manufacturers recommend replacing ANY tire that is more than six (6) years old, including the spare tire.
Note from Steven: Domestic recreational vehicle manufacturers make no tire age recommendations but from my own experience I believe replacing tires older than six years a a good idea regardless of tread wear.