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.
The most important figure that you want to look out for is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your RV”…
GVWR is important, but more important for tires are the Gross Axle Weight Ratings (GAWR) of each axle: correct tires on each axle will have enough capacity to safely carry the weight of that axle, but only if the axle weight is within the rating.
Truck scales can provide individual axle weights, so you can ensure that each axle is within its GAWR, not just that the total of all axle weights is within GVWR.
Roger Marble says
The tire at top of this article suffered a “Run Low Sidewall Flex failure. This can be prevented by using a properly programed TPMS. This condition is real obvious yet some people want to blame the country or origin.
Don "Dutch" Voorhees says
The article is not clear on some points, and incorrect on others. Recommending 10-ply tires on grass or gravel? For what weight RV and what GVWR? On my RV 10-ply tires would be severely overloaded, on someone else’s lighter RV they could be overkill.
The manufacturing date on a tire is the last FOUR digits of the DOT code, not the “final two digits”. The format is the two digit year plus the two digit week of the year. Also, the full DOT code is only on one side of the tire, but which side depends on which way the installer mounted the tire.
Robert Crosse says
Exactly….’blowouts’ are caused by road hazards. Most catastrophic tire failures by user error. Underinflation is the most common cause of a flat tire, who’d a thunk it.
Good points… and in addition the “ply” rating is an obsolete system, which has been replaced by Load Range, and more usefully by the Load Index that indicated actual load-carrying capacity.
Ron Hines says
Here are critical points not mentioned
1. Tire inflation per mfr load chart. Scale all corners of the RV.
2. Treat tires with UV rubber protectant.
3. Store RV with jacks down to minimize load on tire as it is parked.
4. Use tire covers when stored to keep direct sun off tire.
Watch the way you drive. Don’t cut curbs and let your tires hop over them….it’s a recipe for sidewall failure and blowouts.
Timmy Brown says
Always read to check air pressure in tires but never told where to find air pumps. They are no longer in gas stations or if found not suitable for easy access while towing. Any suggestions?
Air pumps – at least working ones – are becoming hard to find at gas stations (which are longer service stations). Even if you find one, it may not be able to reach the pressure required by some RV tires (such as high load range motorhome tires, which can require as much as 110 PSI for full load capacity).
I carry a small 12-volt air compressor intended for tires. Since it can be hard to reach a 12-volt power socket from the location of the tire, I usually plug it into a battery pack intended for boosting cars. There are even air pumps with their own battery, either built into a booster pack or using a cordless power tool battery.
Joe Cunningham says
by battery powered aircompressor, Ryobi makes a pretty good one, that way you are dependent on yourself, also get a little 110 volt one so you can air upat the campsite before you leave
KENNETH B. LANE says
Old guy here. Great article with solid facts. I have experienced just about everything RVing has. The lessons on tire age and “how the hell did this happen” syndrome. Yes I did that.
Phil Griffin says
I will try not to be too critical of this article, but after 40 years in the tire business I will simply say the person writing this article has displays his/her lack of basic tire knowledge on more than one point..
The only issue I will explore is “the tires have 10 layers and are less likely to suffer punctures from stones and other debris.”
Today a vast majority of tires sold are radial, therefore typically have either 1 steel cord carcass ply plus 2 or 3 steel belts, or 2 textile carcass ply plus 2 or 3 steel belts.
You may be referring to the old “bias ply” tire, but even then if you know tires you would know a 10 ply tire never had 10 plies (probably 8), it was 10 PLY RATED ! ! !
Also, the statement to replace after 6 years. What a waste of our natural resources. You can refer to the tire manufacturers’ websites and find most of them recommend “inspection by a qualified technician annually, and replace after 10 years”
IMHO blowout prevention begins with the selection of the right tires to begin with; a good, premium radials. Then properly maintain them throughout their life.
End of discussion
James D Preston says
I think this has helped me will know as soon as I have checked it out thanks
Rafael Perez says
A Tire Pressure Monitoring divice is a most to know if a tire become underinflated during travel, another cause of tire blowouts.
James Campbell says
That VW blowout was so severe it blew the headlights right out of the vehicle.
I bet that blowout was measured on the Richter scale.
I thoroughly appreciate access to good information and the correction of misinformation. Having recently had a double blowout, and a very scary ride on a bridge, on what were supposed to be “safe” tires, I have become a tire safety fanatic. Thank you for all the information.
Dennis Walker says
Michael, et al, I appreciate these articles AND all those who take the time to comment. There is a tremendous pool of knowledge out there. Number one: your life and your investment are riding on those tires; don’t scrimp, don’t be complacent, and don’t be lazy. Number two: tires are not simple, and the different rating systems and different countries of origin add more complexity. There are weight/load ratings and speed ratings. Seemingly, today’s RV owner has two choices: (1) trust someone who is supposed to be an expert—a tire dealer, an RV mechanic, a tire manufacturer (but not an RV dealer, or at least not those I’ve met); or (2) become self-educated. The latter takes a lot of effort, which should be very obvious after reading this article and the many comments. I especially appreciated the comment about axle weight. If you tow your RV, the weight is carried by the trailer’s suspension/axles AND the hitch point on the tow vehicle. Don’t hesitate going to a local truck scales. For example, there are CAT scales at the truck stops where I fuel up. You can download their app and conduct the entire transaction on your cellular phone. Start by knowing what your tow vehicle weighs when not hitched to a trailer. Then, you’ll go weigh the tow vehicle, stopping before the trailer is on the scale. Next, pull the tow vehicle off the scale to get only the weight on the trailer axles. You can even weigh the front and rear axles of your tow vehicle separately, to get a truly accurate accurate understanding. I hope this is helpful. Maybe someone has written a book? I’ve never seen it.
Tire sidewalls do not have “much less elasticity” than the tread of the tire, and any difference in elasticity between part of the tire is not what causes any blowouts. The author clearly understands almost nothing about tires.
The sidewall is necessarily where the tire must flex the most in operation, so that’s where heat builds up and where ruptures occur. Inadequate inflation leads to excessive flexing, excessive heating as a result, and failure.
Roger Marble says
Lots of terms relate to tires but the author(s) of this post apparently do not have a working knowledge about tires and specifically tires in RV application. It seems that they have watched some YouTubes and read a few articles but do not know how to separate real useful facts and information from hearsay and “old wives tales”. Elasticity and flexibility are not the same things. Pressure and force are not interchangeable terms. A “Valve cover” pertains to the engine part a “Valve Cap” is used to keep dirt out of the tire valve stem and valve core. Again improper use of automotive terms. Try a simple Google of the two terms if you are unsure. Using a truck scale to learn the average load on all tires will probably be misleading as it is very likely that an individual tire is overloaded and or under-inflated. If you are going to publish a technical article I suggest you have someone with appropriate credentials review what has been writen before you publish.
Did you really think that the author was talking about putting engine valve covers on their tire valves? Neither did anyone else…
You can hope, but the chance of any of these online marketing services applying any journalistic or technical standards is slim. Most of the technical information published by RV Life is questionable or outright incorrect; readers should be very cautious about accepting any of it.
Philip Griffin says
IMHO all words you are saying are right on !!!!!
You can learn a LOT more about tires by going to a major tire manufacturer’s website, even if you didn’t buy their brand. Most of them have amazingly simple educational material with no marketing slant.
Sprinter RV says
I use an infrared thermometer to check all my tires at every stop. It only takes a few seconds per tire, and will quickly find a hot tire. I measure pressure before starting out in the morning. When the tires are warm, the pressure is higher. I also weigh my RV before long trips and adjust the pressure for the actual load on each axle.
Jean Genibrel says
The videos did not approach the most important part of checking tire pressure which is “how much pressure to install in the tires”. Whatever you do not ever install the maximum pressure stamped on the tires. Those pressures are meant for installing the tires on the rims. Generally, the proper tire pressure is listed on the door jamb of the driver’s side.