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The Best Ways to Buy and Safely Use RV Tires

I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of my coach's equipment.

There is a great deal to know about buying, maintaining, and safely using recreational vehicle tires. Doing so can be difficult and frustrating because this is an area where you really do not want to make a mistake.

Purchasing RV tires a major expense, but it also speaks to your safety and comfort while traveling. If you own your coach long enough, at some point you will have to deal with this issue, so it is very important that you at least understand the basics.

This article will give you a basic overview that will head you in the right direction.

How to buy, maintain and safely use RV tires.

How to buy, maintain and safely use RV tires.

Never Buy RV Tires Based Solely on Price

The average motorhome weighs upwards of 20,000 pounds and requires between six and ten large tires. To save money, you might be tempted to buy some that are just a bit too small or are an off brand, but installing tires that cost less means that they may not match the size and weight of your coach or are so poorly constructed that they will wear out quickly.

Don't do it!

If you do your homework, you'll be able to find decent, reasonably priced tires that will be the right ones for your vehicle and will also keep you safe on the road.

Safety and Durability vs. Comfort

If you talk to recreational vehicle owners, each will have a different brand of tire he prefers. However, few people understand the issues that RVs have as opposed to those of cars.

Having been in the trucking business for a good number of years and also speaking as someone who has spent a good deal of time with RV mechanics and parts people, I can honestly say that some brands clearly are more durable and road worthy than others. I won't disparage lesser tire brands, some of which are quite popular and are used on many RVs, but I will say that my husband and I have always leaned towards using Toyo, Firestone and Bridgestone tires because they are extremely well made and are built to handle heavy loads. The reason for this is that they have stronger sidewalls than other brands.

However, the caveat is that they give a rougher ride. Therefore, you have to decide whether durability and safety are more important than general road comfort while driving. When shopping, ask if you can sit on different tires and watch how the sidewalls respond to the added weight. Those that have more "give" will not last as long as those that remain firm.

An Example of Rating and Other Important RV Tire Information

This photo of a tire side wall shows where information about it is located.

This photo of a tire side wall shows where information about it is located.

Check the Tire Ratings

All tires are individually and specifically rated by manufacturers based on size and payload. This information is located on the side walls and is where you can find out if the ones you want are right for your travel unit. To choose correctly, you also have to know how much your coach weighs when it is loaded.

How to Check Tire Ratings

All tires are individually and specifically rated by manufacturers based on size and payload. This information is located on the side walls and is where you can find out if the ones you want are right for your travel unit.

To choose correctly, you also have to know how much your coach weighs when it is loaded.

The best way to get this information is to drive your unit to a certified scale (which you can find at most truck stops) and weigh it when it is full of your things as well as gasoline and the amount of water you keep in your tanks while traveling.

You can find out more about the type of rating info you seek on this Edmund's Website. It will give you the information you need to assure that you are making the correct choice.

Make sure you take the time to do these things, because there is too much at stake to do otherwise.

Side view of tire with descriptive notations

Side view of tire with descriptive notations

Proper Weight Distribution Is Important

Motorhome and camper weights are not always distributed equally, which is why each axle is rated individually. You can find the figures in the manufacturer's literature or online.

To avoid placing too much weight on any one axle, you should always weigh your loaded unit on certified scales and make adjustments as needed. How to Load and Pack Your RV for Safety and Comfort gives more detailed information about this issue, so make sure you read it. It is very important to remember, too, that proper placement of tires supports weight distribution and keeps you from having accidents. Having the Best RV Wheel Base Ratios Can Save Your Life explains this issue and provides the formula for measuring proper placement of tires on an RV.

Check Condition and Age Prior to Buying

You should always inspect for tread wear patterns, cleanliness, depth of tread, consistency of wear patterns, cracks, items stuck in treads, dry rot, designs, and side wall strength. Even if all of these things look okay, if tires are more than five years old, they are not safe. They can look great, but be full of interior dry rot or rust.

If they are getting old, ask the seller to replace them or negotiate a lower price and use the savings to purchase new ones.

Beware of Low Prices and "Old" New Tires

In a recent RV forum, someone stated that he thought paying $275 per tire was too much. The truth is that buying a tire in that price range is about as cheap as it gets. Average prices range from $350 to $900 per unit and depends on brand, type, and size. It pays to shop around because dealers often have sales.

Always buy from a reputable, authorized seller to make sure that you are not buying retreads or products that have been sitting on the shop floor too long, and make sure you are purchasing RV and not truck tires! The best I know of is a national company called GCR Tires.

They recently installed Firestones on our 1999 Holiday Rambler motorhome, were efficient, friendly and did a beautiful job at a reasonable price and helped us to make sure that those tires were, in fact, new.

Manufacturers can produce then keep tires in their factories for many months. Once attached to a motorhome or travel trailer, they can sit on a lot for a very long time. Their life expectancy is approximately 5 years. Thus, since they deteriorate naturally, one that has been sitting around for awhile has already lost some of its life. A major tire seller such as GCR moves tires quickly, so the chances of buying an "old" new tire, are much smaller. Numbers indicating age are noted in the last oval that follows the DOT marking on the side wall. The fist two digits indicate the week of the year of manufacture, and the last one or two digits represent the year.

For example, a tire marked 1511 was manufactured the fifteenth week of 2011 (the last week of March in 2011). If you purchased in April of 2011, the tire is new, but if you purchased it in February of 2012, it's almost a year old.

If you don't know how to read or find these numbers, ask the seller or a mechanic to do it for you. However you can learn to do this simply by using the diagram I have included within this article.

The entire weight of your coach sits on your tires, so choose carefully when buying them.

The entire weight of your coach sits on your tires, so choose carefully when buying them.

RV Tire Maintenance and Safety Tips

RV tires require specific types of maintenance in order to function well. Here are a few tips that can help you to care for your tires properly:

  1. Never store your coach on dirt. Keep it parked so that your tires are sitting on wood, concrete or gravel.
  2. Protect tires from dry rotting with covers like the ones I show here. These ADCO brand covers are inexpensive, store well and are easy to use. We've used ours for many years, and as a result, our tires endure. Stay away from cheap brands, because they will not last.
  3. Use an accurate tire gauge to check air pressure regularly before, during and after travel. Make sure that all tires on your vehicle are inflated equally, otherwise, too much pressure will be put on one or more of them and will cause a blow out.
  4. Make sure that the tires on your coach are rated properly to carry the weight of your unit.
  5. Wash tires regularly, making sure to remove as much dirt and debris from treads as possible.
  6. If you use extensions on dual rear tires, check them every so often for leakage, and replace them as needed. (You may no longer need them as companies now make longer valve stems that eliminate the need for extensions in many cases.)
  7. Never, ever, lift your coach up on jacks to take the weight off of your tires. Doing this can seriously damage the structure of your coach. It's a lot cheaper to replace tires than to replace a recreational vehicle!
  8. In hot weather, tires can overheat, expand and blow out. So, if you plan on traveling in very hot weather, try to do so during early morning or early evening hours rather than in the high heat of the day. If you must travel during mid day, stop regularly to give your tires time to cool off. If possible, hose them down with some cold water.

Choose the Right Tire for Your RV

Tires are part of the package whenever you buy any coach, but you should always check to make sure that the ones on your new unit are of good quality and are new.

If not, you need to renegotiate your deal, because cheap tires lead to serious and sometimes expensive problems.

When you buy individual tires, make sure they are the same size and are weight rated the same as those you already have on your coach.

Always bear in mind that making the right choice when you buy tires, as well as proper after care, will keep you and your family safe when you travel and, in the long run, will save you a good deal of money.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there a formula to determine the correct tire pressure for the weight on the tire? For example, if you only have 50% or 75% of the maximum weight on the tire, then using maximum pressure is too much. I expect putting 50%, or 75% of the maximum pressure is not likely to be correct

Answer: Tire pressure is based on the load that the tires are carrying. Each manufacturer has a "load list" that will tell you the correct pressure you will need to have on all tires of your RV. You should weight your RV on a certified scale to get the correct loaded weight, and then use those charts appropriately.

Question: What do you consider a new tire? Is manufactured a year ago reasonable or shall I look elsewhere or attempt to negotiate a discount?

Answer: Always try to buy tires that have been manufactured as recently as possible. Every year is one less of use that you will safely have. Brand new is always best. Remember that tires are a safety issue, so even if you have to pay a bit more for a new one, you're worth it!

© 2012 Sondra Rochelle

Comments

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 26, 2012:

alocsin: Most people don't realize that there even are numbers on tires or that they have meaning. Had I not been in the trucking business, I wouldn't know either. In researching this article I found out that tires are a very complicated issue...whoda' thunk it? Nice to see you again. Thanks for the visit.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 25, 2012:

Thanks for explaining all those numbers on the side of the tire. They've always been a mystery to me, but now I know how useful their information is. Voting this Up and Useful.

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 14, 2012:

WOW: There are a number of great tech articles on this subject on the web, and I suggest you take a look and then decide. Tires can look great but still be dangerous. There's always a temptation to "let it go" because of the expense involved, but you have to ask yourself how much your life is worth. Good luck.

Patty Kenyon from Ledyard, Connecticut on July 14, 2012:

Useful and Interesting!!!!! This article provides a lot of good information!!

Wizard Of Whimsy from The Sapphire City on July 14, 2012:

Thanks. My tires are seven years old and they look great with very little wear, so this will help me to get off my procrastinating butt. Though I often wonder if the recommendations of tire manufacturers are a bit meretricious. We haven't any long trips planed but I don't think that should be an important factor.

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 14, 2012:

WOW: You're welcome and thanks for the kind words. When I started researching this issue I was overwhelmed by the complexity of it. I thought a hub that made things easier to understand would be a good idea. Nice to see you again!

Wizard Of Whimsy from The Sapphire City on July 13, 2012:

Great info and first rate thoughtfulness—thanks again, TT2!