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Five RV tire safety tips

Simply put, if you neglect your tires, then there isn’t much more on your RV that could be more dangerous. Tires are very simple items, yet they’re the only thing between several tons of moving metal and the road.

Tire safety should be at the top of your list, so here’s what you need to know.

1. Tire inflation

Making sure that you have the correct tire pressures for the weight of your vehicle is absolutely essential when it comes to tire care and more importantly your safety. The weight spread of your RV can be organized in many different ways so there is never an exact pressure to which your tires should be inflated.

The load on each individual tire will probably be different, but having tires of different pressures on the same axle is extremely dangerous. The one with the greatest load on it should be inflated to the appropriate level. You can usually find the manufacturer’s maximum recommended inflation pressures in the vehicle’s manual or on the certification label with all the other tires on that axle inflated to the same amount.

The practice of under-inflating the tires to achieve a smoother ride is quite common among RVers and, yet, has no perceivable effect whatsoever. In fact, all it will do is cause the handling to suffer and create premature and irregular wear to the tires. Approximately 90 percent of tire failures are a result of poor inflation levels.

An underinflated tire:

  • Will wear unevenly
  • Produces poor gas mileage
  • Gives a soft, spongy ride
  • Can overheat
  • Reduces steering quality and road handling

An overinflated tire:

  • Produces poor steering
  • Reduces traction
  • Gives a hard ride
  • Will affect braking ability
  • Decreases the tire’s surface contact area

2. Wheel alignment

Correct wheel alignment is vital if you want to maintain an even tread wear on your tires. Unfortunately, normal wear and tear of the suspension, over time, will cause the wheels to eventually become misaligned resulting in greater abrasion with a disproportionate wear pattern.

Having your wheels properly aligned will improve your vehicle’s handling and as a result, increase safety and enhance fuel economy. So make sure you have the alignment professionally checked on a regular basis according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Wear characteristics include:

Excessive toe

  • Toe misalignment is the main cause of uneven steering tire wear. It occurs when the wheel is angled in or out along its horizontal axis.
  • Excessive “toe-in” can result in the tire wearing from the outside inward.
  • Excessive “toe-out” can result in the tire wearing from the inside outward.

Excessive camber

  • The wheel camber is the vertical angle made by its inward or outward tilt. Measured in degrees, it is negative when the wheel is tilted inwards at the top and positive when tilted outwards the top.
  • Excessive positive camber will result in wear to the tire’s outside shoulder.
  • Excessive negative camber will result in wear to the tire’s inside shoulder.

3. Tire matching

To get the best performance, make sure you use matching tires across the axle. They should all be of the same size and all radial ply or all bias ply, not a combination. They should also have the same tread pattern with around the same amount of wear.

Circumference tolerances for dual tires should be within:

  • 0 to ¾-inch for 8.25R20 and smaller
  • 0 to 1½-inch for 9.00R20 and larger

Mismatching tires can cause the larger tire to lose its tread more quickly and wear unevenly due to the heavier load it carries. This can lead to premature deterioration of the tire and the increased likelihood of failure.

4. When to replace your tires

There are several factors that determine the longevity of a tire. First, usage in hotter weather can reduce the lifespan of the tire due to increased exposure to atmospheric ozone. Ozone can also be produced by electrical generators.

Parking for extended periods, such as three months or more with little or no rotation of the tires could seriously impact how long they last. Regular usage will keep the tire in good condition and extend their life.

The accepted average lifespan of an RV tire is five to seven years according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Here are some other indicators that it’s time to replace your tires:

Sidewall cracking

  • This is common in all makes of RV tires and occurs naturally due to exposure to air, heat, and the UV radiation in sunlight. It can also appear due to extended periods of storage and inactivity, or by cleaning them with petroleum or alcohol based products.
  • Tires should be replaced when the cracks are more than 2/32 -inch deep or when the steel/fabric internal layer of the sidewall is visible.

Tread depth

  • If the depth of your tire’s tread is less than 6/32 of an inch, its traction efficiency and handling ability will be severely diminished. Contact your tire manufacturer for advice if your tread has reached or is below this depth.
  • When tread goes below 4/32 of an inch, the tire must be replaced.

5. Tire storage

When it comes to tire storage, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The correct way means the storage area should be clean, dry, and cool, away from sunlight and strong air flows.

The tires should be:

  • Stacked flat to maintain their shape
  • Wrapped in opaque polyethylene or specifically designed storage bags
  • Raised off the ground to avoid damp conditions
  • Inflated to 10 psi if mounted on wheels  or 15 psi if the tires are put into storage during the warmer months as pressure will decrease in colder weather.

The wrong way to store tires includes:

  • Avoiding direct sunlight or where they might be exposed to high temperatures
  • Storing ext to sand, snow, or any other highly reflective surface
  • Keeping them close to an electric motor or anything else that can produce ozone
  • Maintaining contact with black asphalt or any other surface which absorbs heat
  • Storing in an oily, greasy or wet area

When storing your RV without taking off the tires, the best way to do so is to put the vehicle on blocks to eliminate any weight on the tires. If this is not possible then follow these steps:

  • Remove any excess or unnecessary weight from the vehicle
  • Inflate your tires to 125 percent of normal operating pressure
  • Make sure that the surface the tires are resting on is flat, stable and has good drainage
  • Rotate the tires by moving the RV every three months. This helps prevent ozone damage in the bulged area, and flat spots due to sidewall strain
  • Try not to move your RV during very cold weather
  • Return the tire pressure to normal operating levels before driving it any distance

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll keep your tires in better condition and you’ll avoid spending money to replace them before they wear out or age out.

About Jon Mills

Jon Mills is an avid RV enthusiast, and the creator of the "Route-1" low clearance avoidance system, the largest low clearance database ever devised for the USA and Canada. Available at LowClearances.com. He is also the producer of the popular "RV Pro Safety Guide," providing professional safety expertise for RV drivers. Currently available FREE for a limited time at RvSafetyFirst.com. So get your copy now.

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