Tire maintenance is a normal part of owning an RV. Worn tires and degradation happen, particularly the longer you own your RV.
But these days, we’re seeing more and more people come in with tire damage and blowouts — far more than we used to. That’s because many RV manufacturers have begun to install Chinese tires — which cost less than domestic tires. Unfortunately, these cheaper tires, often referred to as “China Bombs”, are far less reliable than the tires made here in the U.S.
The result — you have to be more vigilant in caring for your tires, to protect your investment.
This article breaks down how to care for and maintain your RV tires — as well as how to identify when your tires need to be replaced. We also recommend the following tires as replacements for these often inadequate China-Bomb RV tires:
- Goodyear Endurance
- Michelin LT
Proper tire inflation
Improper tire inflation reduces traction, fuel economy, load-carrying capability, and tread life. Plus, riding on improperly inflated tires can permanently damage the structure of the tire. For example, under-inflated tires will overheat and can cause the tire to blow out.
How to check your tire pressure
- Let your tires cool before taking a pressure reading. The pressure in a hot tire can be as much as 15 psi higher than a cool tire.
- Pack your RV with all of your luggage, equipment, and fluids before you check the pressure. That way you get a proper reading based on the RV’s gross vehicle weight.
- Use a quality truck tire gauge with a dual-angled head
When should you check your tire pressure?
When in season, check your tire pressure before and after every trip. Even on short trips — as this will help you identify slow leaks that could turn into blowouts on your longer adventures.
When storing your RV, check your tire pressure at least monthly.
What’s the right tire pressure for your RV?
That answer lies within the confines of either the certification label of your RV or in your
However, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Never reduce the recommended tire pressure — on purpose — for a softer ride. This may cause long-term damage to the tire, as well as increase your risks while driving.
- It’s typically good practice to adjust the inflation pressure on all tires to match the tire that’s carrying the heaviest load.
Should you inflate your RV tires with compressed air or nitrogen?
Keeping your RV’s air pressure at the proper level can be a challenge. Oxygen molecules from compressed air are small enough to leak through the tire casing, softening your tires. Plus, moisture naturally found in compressed air can corrode both steel and aluminum wheels.
Dry nitrogen offers a solution. Because it does not leak out (like oxygen molecules) you have less need to top off every few months. Plus, because it’s dry, it doesn’t subject wheels to the moisture that air-filled tires endure. Nitrogen also does not fluctuate in pressure dependent on temperature, so I tire with 50psi cold will remain at 50psi when hot.
So yes, nitrogen is certainly a viable option to consider. If and when you do need to top your tires off with nitrogen, you can go to your local tire service center. Still, topping your tires off with compressed air can help in a pinch. Do keep in mind though, tires inflated with nitrogen should never need to be topped off. If the pressure is low on a tire filled with nitrogen, there is a leak.
But even if you continue to use compressed air, the tips outlined in this article should help you prolong the life of your tires.
TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems)
If you’ve been RV’ing long enough, you’ve dealt with tire issues. For example, arriving at a campsite and wondering if that rear tire looks a little low.
That’s what TPMS’s are designed to address. With a TPMS, you’ll be notified at the first sign of trouble, so you can address the issue before it becomes a major problem.
These tire pressure monitoring systems electronically monitor your RV tires’ air pressure and will let you know if, for example, you have a slow leak. It can also tell you if you’ve overinflated your tires.
There are huge benefits to using technology to help you maintain your tires.
- A tire that’s overinflated by 20% can shorten your tire’s life by 10%
- A 9 psi drop in tire pressure can increase fuel consumption by 4% — and shorten tire life by 40%
- And in case you think: well, I know how to inflate my tires — consider this: According to the NHTSA, half of all RV tires are under-inflated.
Another reason why TPMS’s may be worth their cost is that they can monitor the tires of any vehicle your RV or motorhome tows, as well. That gives you incredible peace of mind that you can protect your RV — and your car — by addressing small problems long before they become massive headaches.
When should you replace your tires?
We strongly suggest you have your tires inspected by an RV tire specialist if you are concerned about your tire’s condition.
That being said, here are some things to look out for as signs you likely need to replace your tires:
- Sidewall cracking
- Worn-down tires (these can decrease traction, reduce handling, and are more susceptible to punctures)
- Replace tires before they reach the tread depth indicator
- This is found between the tread grooves at locations marked on the sidewall with little triangles
- When tires reach 6-10 years old (Learn how to read a tire’s date of manufacture here)
At RV Masters, we don’t sell tires, but we can certainly guide you in where to buy quality tires and which ones are right for your RV. If you do have the misfortune of a blowout that causes collateral damage to your RV, we’re here to fix that damage and make your RV as good as new.