When you are a full time RVer, tire problems can be more than an inconvenience, especially if it results in a blow out.
In November of 2013 we left Fort Benning, GA enroute to Pensacola, FL. As we were traveling down the road a semi tractor-trailer pulled alongside, tapped his horn and pointed at my trailer. I pulled into the next parking lot and discovered that my left rear trailer tire had a blowout. I suspect that I had driven about 10-12 miles with three wheels on the ground and was not aware of the problem. The shredding tire tore up some of the side and trim on the trailer, ripped out the wires to the trailer’s brakes and damaged one of the leveling jacks. By the time we were done with the repairs, the bill was over $8,000! Thank goodness for insurance.
Now, as always, I had checked the pressure on all four trailer tires and they were fine. I suspect I hit a small pothole that had caused the tire to lose air and with low pressure it overheated and blew out.
This was the beginning of my education on tires, but it was not the first issue we had with tires. When we bought our fifth wheel trailer it came with a brand of tire called “Duro.” It was a Load Range E tire and was, essentially, a piece of junk. Many RV manufacturers will mount a low cost tire on the RV and will often mount the lowest load range possible. The instructions for our Duro tires said they should be inflated to 80 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch), this also happened to be the maximum inflation pressure. I was uncomfortable with inflating the tire to the maximum but I naively figured “they know what they are doing.” On two separate occasions the Duro tires just lost air for no apparent reason and I replaced them with Goodyear Marathon tires (also a 10-ply, Load Range E). It was one of these Marathons that blew out in 2013.
While we were having the damage repaired on our trailer, I did some research. I discovered that the newer models of our same trailer were now being mounted with Goodyear G614 tires which is a 14-ply, Load Range G tire. I located a Goodyear dealer about a mile from the RV dealer doing the repairs and made arrangements to replace all four trailer tires. Now I have tires with a maximum inflation of 110 PSI that I inflate to 95 PSI.
One of the pieces of information you should know is the manufacture date of the tire. It is a 4-digit number – the first two digits are the week and the last two digits are the year. A tire with a manufacture date of 1413 was made in the fourteenth week of 2013. You should replace your tires at least every five years.
There is a lot of information on the sidewall of the tire.
So, the first thing you have to do is to make sure you have the right tires for your RV. Obviously in my case I was placing too much of a load on the Load Range E tires. In full disclosure I don’t get any compensation from Goodyear, but I would recommend the Goodyear G614 to anyone with a fifth wheel trailer.
Second, know to what pressure you should inflate your tires. All tire manufacturers provide a chart so you can determine how much pressure you need for the weight they will carry. The desired PSI is the PSI when the tire is cold. That does not mean that the tire has to be a specific temperature, just that the vehicle has not moved in the previous three hours.
Before you leave to travel to your next location you should check your tire pressure and the tightness of wheel lugs (yes, they can work themselves loose). Periodically, take time to visually inspect the tires. Check for tire wear. Between the treads are wear indicators and if these are level with the tread the tire must be replaced quickly, periodic inspections will let you catch this early. Also look for cracks in the sidewall and unusual wear patterns. In backing the trailer you sometimes cause the tires to move sideways, causing “scrubbing,” where one part of the edge of the tread is more worn than the rest of the tire.
Even if you check your tire inflation just before you leave how will you know if something happens while you are driving – like my blow out in 2013? This is where a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) comes into the picture. A TPMS consists of a set of sensors mounted inside the tire or on the valve stem and a monitor that is mounted on your vehicle dashboard. The sensor monitors the tire pressure and temperature. As a tire is driven on its temperature will increase, this is normal. When a tire has low pressure the sidewall flexes more than it should and the tire heats up abnormally until it blows out.We purchased the TST 507 from Truck Systems Technologies. It came with six sensors and a monitor. I mounted four sensors on the trailer tires and the remaining two on the inside dual rear wheels on our pickup truck. The monitor and the sensors communicate within their own wireless network. Some people have expressed a concern that the distance from the sensor to the monitor in the cab of the truck was too great. We have had no problem with the sensors transmitting from the rear axle on the trailer to the cab of the truck (approximately 36 feet). The staff at TST walked me through the set up to set the upper and lower limits for pressure and temperature.
No matter how carefully you check the tire pressure before you leave, a TPMS is critical for safety. In October of 2017 we were driving from Pigeon Forge, TN to Raleigh, NC when the alarm on our TPMS went off. I immediately pulled onto the shoulder and saw the TPMS was showing only 85 PSI on my left rear trailer tire. I checked it with a tire gauge and verified it was actually 85 PSI. I drove to the next drive into a service station and put on the spare tire. Later I was told that a weld on the rim had a crack in it and that was where it was leaking. It caused me about $150 to replace the rim and remount the tire, but it was much better than another $8,000 insurance claim. By the way, that tire showed 95 PSI before we left that morning.
Another factor is speed. You may be used to driving at the posted speed limits with your car or truck, but towing a trailer changes things. Most Special Trailer (ST) tires are only rated for 65 MPH, yet I will often see trailers smaller than mine (which means they probably have Load Range E ST tires) passing me doing at least 65 MPH or more. Driving at excessive speeds will cause your tires to overheat and fail.
Finally, when you are not driving you need to protect your tires from the sun. Ultraviolet rays will break down the material of the tire. Whenever I am stopped for more than one night I always put covers on the tires. If you are parked on concrete for extended periods of time you should put plywood sheets under the tires to prevent the concrete from drying out the tires.Your tires are literally “where the rubber meets the road,” you take care of them and they will take care of you.