Maintaining Your RVs Tires
After fuel and batteries, the next most commonly replaced item on an RV is tires. This is not because the tires wear-out. In most cases, RVer must replace tires long before the tread is worn-out. Towable RVs seem to have the highest incidence rate of tire failures (blow-outs, tread separation, or bulges). This is probably because towable RVs typically are left parked for many months, even a year or more at a time. To put it simply, the rubber (which is actually made of oil, not real rubber tree rubber) gets hard from not being flexed as if was intended to be rolling down the road. It may be hard to picture, but think of it as if the rubber was lubricating itself by circulating the oils in the material and the tire flexes while rolling at normal speeds. Some brands of tires show their age in different ways or more readily than others. Some brands of tires are more prone to sidewall cracking as they age. Other brands get “hard” so their ride quality and wet weather traction deteriorates badly. Other brands tend to go out-of-round, so the tires shake and balancing with not solve the problem. That is not to say that the tires are defective, but, rather, the rubber compound selected by the tire engineers was chosen primarily for a combination of traction, wet traction, wear resistance, ride quality, noise & vibration resistance and cost…resistance to aging when in storage is not a high priority because how well the tire will resist aging when not in use is not a strong selling point to most tire customers. The USDOT requires the date that the tire was manufactured to be molded or stamped into the sidewall of every tire, so you can tell how old it is.
The tires that were installed on the RV when it was new may be a year or two older than the model year of the RV, because the chassis may have sat in inventory before the RV was completed. It is not uncommon for tires on brand new RVs to crack before the RV is even sold to the first owner if the RV sits on a dealer’s lot for a couple of years. How do you keep from having to buy tires prematurely? Follow these guidelines:
- Use the RV frequently, don’t let it sit for months at a time. The recommendation to drive a motorhome for ½-hour every week is cheap insurance. If not every week, then as frequently as possible.
- Pay attention to the tire pressure. Check the pressure with a good quality gauge, such as Milton dual-foot truck tire gauge, every month or before a trip. Milton gauges are available at better auto parts and truck supply stores, or go to www.Amazon.com and select “automotive” and then enter “Milton S501 Inflator Gauge”.
- Look closely at the tires before every trip. Look for circumferential cracks in the sidewalls, and look for cracks in the grooves of the tread.
- Try to stick your fingernail into the rubber. If it feels like hard plastic, then the wet weather traction capability has greatly diminished.
- For a motorhome, also pay attention to the ride quality and noise level. If the motorhome seems to rumble and vibrate more than it used to, it is probably the tires. Balancing with a Hunter ForceMatch HD Wheel Balancer machine will identify whether the tire has gone out of round or a wheel is bent. Visit www.hunter.com/balancer/forcematch/index.cfm to see how it works…there is nothing like it. Find a tire store or truck or RV dealer that has one, and don’t waste your money having your tires balanced or checked by any other machine. There is a video on that web page to see how it works…really cool, it is a shame that nobody offered a machine like this until recently. Keep that in mind when you buy new tires, too. The Hunter ForceMatch HD Wheel Balancer machine will identify whether the tire is properly positioned on the wheel so that it will roll as smooth as possible. Balancing weights often are used to compensate for imbalances of a tire not being properly positioned on the rim, but the tire installer can’t tell that unless he has a Hunter ForceMatch HD Wheel Balancer machine.
- If the tires are already over 5-years old, it is probably not worth the money to try to see if balancing will solve a rumble or vibration problem, it probably won’t because the tires are just plain old…buy new tires and get it overwith!
Tire myths corrected and other wastes of time and money
- Tire covers help very a little. People assume that it is the sun that causes tires to crack. Actually, it is oxidation from the atmosphere and it is more pronounced in warm climate. You can prove this yourself by looking at a vehicle that has cracked tires on the outside duals…when you look at the inside duals which have been in the shade all their lives, you will find nearly the same amount of cracking.
- Pure nitrogen in tires has insignificate benefit. Michelin says don’t use it. Commercial fleets of cars, trucks and buses don’t use it because it is not cost effective. Fleets examine everything on a cost per mile basis, so if they say it isn’t worth it, then I believe them. Remember high school science class, when you learned that the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen? So why bother paying money to get a few more percent of nitrogen inside the tire?
- Have you been told that you don’t need a spare tire because road service will bring one when they come to change your flat or blown tire. Don’t believe it! Most Class A motorhomes and towable RVs use tires sizes that are unique to the RV industry, cars and trucks don’t use those sizes, so the tire stores and road service companies don’t stock them. They have to special order them from regional warehouses, so you could be stuck for days waiting for the right size tire. And you may pay an inflated price, or not be able to match the brand and model of tire that is on your RV. If you have your own spare, even if it is not on a rim, then it is way easier and cheaper to get back on the road. Some RVs are building without a place that is designed for spare tire storage. Usually there is a way to make it fit under the bed (wrap it with an old sheet before you roll it through the interior), or your RV dealer can fabricate a mount under the chassis, or add a bracket to mount it on the rear. Whatever it takes, if you will be traveling, it pays to have a spare tire.