Be Smart and Avoid RV Tire Failure
As RVs are heavier than standard vehicles, and they are often driven with less regularity than your car, they can be particularly prone to tire blowouts. That being said, tire blowouts are almost always preventable given proper maintenance and due care before and during your trip.
Here are the ways that you can minimize the chances of suffering a tire blowout while traveling in your RV.
1. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated before you set off
This seems like simple advice, but underinflation is by far the leading contributing factor to tire blowouts. If a tire is underinflated, then this puts more pressure on the sidewall of a tire (the part of a tire that is perpendicular to the road, rather than touching it).
Tire sidewalls have much less elasticity than the tread of the tire, and therefore cannot take much pressure. This excess of pressure against a weak part of the tire is what causes the majority of blowouts.
The general recommended advice from mechanics is that you should check your tire pressure once every 30 days. You can do this with a tire pressure gauge that will only cost you around $10. We would also recommend that if you travel in your RV for more than 8 hours in a day, that you check your tire pressure before you next set off.
This may seem like overkill, but if you plan on riding on uneven or non-tarmacked terrains on even slightly underinflated tires, then this can greatly heighten your chances of suffering a blowout. Checking your tire pressure before each long journey can also help you plan your journey around finding places where you can inflate your tires. This is available at most gas stations.
2. Do not overload your RV
Tires can only handle so much vehicle weight. With RVs, it’s very easy to go over these weight limitations as you take more people and possessions on your trip. You can find out the weight limitations of your RV’s tires by looking at the owner’s manual of the vehicle.
The most important figure that you want to look out for is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your RV. This refers to the maximum weight that the vehicle can handle. The number everything (and everyone) inside the vehicle. Unsure whether you are exceeding your vehicle’s GVWR? Commercial truck weighing stations allow anyone to weigh their vehicle for a small fee.
If there is a weighing station near where you live, it’s worth going there to weigh your vehicle, packed with everything you plan to take with you, the day before you leave for your trip. If your vehicle is overweight, then it’s best to rethink what you actually need to be taking.
Bear in mind that if you are towing a trailer, you need to be aware of your vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating and not exceed this. This differs from your GVWR and refers to the maximum total weight of your vehicle including the tow vehicle and trailer. This information should also be available in your vehicle’s manual.
3. Know your terrain and use the right tires for the job
Tires are far more likely to blowout if they are being driven on the wrong types of terrain. It’s therefore wise to know what type of terrain you’ll be traveling on before you set off, and to adjust the type of tires that you have accordingly.
The RV LIFE GPS app can help you plan out your journey and understand the type of roads that you will be traveling on. When it comes to picking the best tires for the journey, here are some rules of thumb that you can follow:
- If you are traveling long distances on the freeway, then you may want to consider low rolling resistance tires. These generate less heat at high speeds, and since heat can cause blowouts this can protect your tires on these types of journeys.
- If you are traveling on grass or gravel regularly, then we would recommend tires with a 10 ply rating. This means that the tires have 10 layers and are less likely to suffer punctures from stones and other debris. They are not suitable for long freeway journeys, however, as they create excessive heat. If you are going to be traveling for extended periods of time on dirt or gravel roads, it’s actually better to have your tires slightly underinflated (4-8psi under specifications) so your tires have a bit more give for bumps.
- If you are traveling on a combination of these, then all-terrain tires are your best bet. Just take a break every two hours when traveling on the freeway to let these tires cool down.
4. Store your RV in a way that prevents tire dry rotting
One of the main reasons why RVs are at greater risk of suffering blown-out tires is that they are used irregularly throughout the year. Tires are designed to be used regularly, and if they are stationary for a long period of time, then they can dry out and become brittle (this is commonly known as dry rot).
Tire dry rotting can be exacerbated by heat and direct sunlight. If possible, store your vehicle in a cool dry area. Indoors is far better than outdoors. Gotta store it outside? Buy a large opaque covering that reaches down to the ground. This will stop your tires from being exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Avoid purpose-made tire cleaners. These are designed for tires that are regularly driven on. The products will dry out tires not being used. If you are cleaning your tires on an RV that is not regularly used, just use warm water and a small amount of dishwasher detergent.
Common signs of RV tire dry rot:
- Tires developing a grayish color on their exterior
- Visible cracks on the sidewall or tread of the tire
- A dry, brittle feel to the tire
It’s worth inspecting your tires every three months while your RV is in storage. If you notice any of these signs, then take your RV to a professional mechanic for inspection.
Driving your RV anywhere at least once a month can help reduce dry rot risk.
5. Replace tires that are over six years old
Tires decay regardless of whether they are being used. You shouldn’t drive on tires that are over six years old. By then, the rubber in the tire has lost moisture and elasticity. Aging RV tires cannot reliably handle the rigors of being driven on.
Check your tire’s age. Look at the final two digits on the inside of a tire’s sidewall. This indicates a tire’s year of manufacture. For example, if the final two digits on the inside of a tire’s sidewall was “16”, the tire was manufactured in 2016.
Where possible, you should replace tires with the exact same make and model as the original. If this is not possible, then tires should be replaced with ones that are the best match to the vehicle’s original specifications.
Conclusion: RV Tire Blowout Prevention is in Preparation
As we have seen in this guide, avoiding tire blowouts in your RV is largely about what you do before you set off on your trip. Take precautions before you set off. Know the weight of your vehicle. Study the terrain you will be traveling on. The chances of you suffering a blowout will be minimal.
Make sure you stay on top of your RV tire maintenance. Use an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. This app keeps all of your RV maintenance notes and documents in one place. You’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due. One app is all you need to potentially avoid a costly repair or serious accident.
At RV LIFE, we build tools that make camping simple. We run a network of websites and services that help RVers get the most out of their adventures.