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RV tire safety — What you need to know

By Chris Travaglino
Co-Founder, Fulltime Families

This blog post is directed specifically to travel trailer and fifth wheel trailer owners. Drivers of cargo, utility, horse, or any pull behind trailer will also benefit from reading this article.

The No. 1 safety issue when pulling a trailer is your tires. If you pull your trailer hundreds of miles, you need to pay attention to this article closely. This will not only potential save you and your passengers lives, but will also save you a great deal of money, too.

In an effort to keep RV sticker prices low, RV manufacturers install tires intended for weekend or minimal use. These tires are not appropriate for RV owners who will be putting big miles on their equipment.

It is wise to install solid, reliable tires on your trailer. But, before we dive into how we can identify inadequate tires, lets see what inadequate tires can do to you and your equipment.

Unexpected blowouts can cause a roll over, out of control skids, tear up the RV’s structure, and leaving you on the side of the road wishing you had quality tires, or worse!

Overheating tires will yield erratic air pressure, poor ride quality and extra expenses for repairing the RV from tire damage — not to mention new tire cost.

Both wind up with an angry wife, frustrations on the road, and unneeded emotional stress.

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So now you are wondering, how do I know if I have these poorly made tires?

That is very easy to identify. Take a look at the side wall of your tires. If they say, polyester, nylon and steel, these are tires that are not appropriate for extended travel. Polyester and nylon materials weaken from changes in heat and ultimately cause them to snap and then a blowout occurs.

The heat is caused by friction, trailer weight and road conditions. A lot of these poor quality tires are made in China. The law requires country of origin be stamped on the sidewall of the tire as well.

So, what tires should I be riding on to keep my family and fellow motorists safe?

To keep you going down the road safely, you should be running on all steel belted tires. Trailer tires do not come this way so you will need to use a commercial truck tire.

From what I have found, you will need a minimum of 16-inch rims, but most RVers like to run 19.5-inch rims because you can go all the way up to “G” ply (load range) tires.

The Ply Rating is a load rating or weight that the tire is made to handle. Full-time RVers will want a minimum of “E” ply (load range) tires because their trailers are considerably heavier then their weekender counterparts. The Ply Rating is also listed on the sidewall of the tires.

It is always a good idea to weigh your trailer before purchasing tires so you know you are matching your trailer’s weight to the load rating/ply rating.

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But What Tire… Really?

On our trailer we run Michelin XPS Ribs. Prior to installing these tires, we experienced numerous blow outs, body damage and excessive tread wear. It was these critical safety concerns that led me to research the best trailer tires available.

My search led me to discover Michelin XPS Ribs. Did you know that horse trailer drivers use these tires specifically because they do not blow out and therefore are safer for transporting horses? These all steel belted tires have lasted us in excess of 30,000 miles and they still look new!

Where can you get Michelin XPS Ribs?

Any tire shop can order or will have them in stock for you. You can also order them from the web and take them to your local tire shop for installation. I recommend Discount Tire as I have found consistently they always offer the best price and provide a nationwide warranty, which is paramount for a traveling family.

Goodyear makes a commercial truck tire and there are some Chinese tires that are all steel belted, but I have never run on these before so I can not say what the performance is like.

What will I pay for the right tires?

So, now here comes the math that we all hate because this is where the money comes out of your pocket. You can expect to spend somewhere between $250 – $300 per tire depending on brand and size. Ours were $250 each from Discount Tire.

You will also need to pay for mounting and balancing of your new tires. The average on that is about $20 per tire.

Yes, good tires are most definitely an investment, but it’s an investment in safety, security and dependability that is well worth it. Just look at the alternative.

If you blow a tire on your trailer with the cheap tires, you will pay about $100 per tire and any body damage you might have incurred. It would only take you 2 1/2 blowouts to pay for 1 tire. Not to mention, your new tires have about a 50,000 mile tread life compared to the 15,000 mile tread life on your cheap tires.

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What else do I need to know?

You need to know the proper way of keeping your rims attached to the hub while driving down the road. There are many times that RVers have told me that there wheels have fallen off while driving or their lug nuts have come loose.

To keep this from happening, you need to “torque” your lug nuts down every time you travel for the first three times after having the rims installed on the RV, then every 1000 miles after that.

Chris Travaglino is the co-founder of Fulltime Families, a group dedicated to serving the needs of RVing families with school age children. For more information about the group, visit www.fulltimefamilies.org.

About Chris Travaglino

Christopher Travaglino is a full-time RVer and founder of Fulltime Families, a support group for RVers with school age children. He and his wife, Kimberly, have four children and travel the country in a fifth wheel. Christopher is a web developer by trade and also works as a health coach for Take Shape For Life. He can be reached at cmtrav01@gmail.com.

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