All About RV Tires
You’ve got your updated registration. Your insurance card. A roadside assistance kit. Your emergency supplies kit. A first aid kit. Your newly-renewed Harvest Hosts membership. You diligently change your RV’s oil on time, check your wiper blades, and do other regular maintenance. But when was the last time you manually checked your RV’s tire pressure? Do you know how much your RV weighs? Do you know how spread out the weight is across each axle and tire? Don’t panic or rush off to the scales just yet. Harvest Hosts is here to help make sure your RV tires are ready to take you where your heart desires this summer- and safely.
According to the RV Safety Education Foundation, one-quarter of RVs are carrying loads that exceed the weight capacity of their tires. Firestone conducted a survey and reported that four out of five RVs have at least one under-inflated tire. Below you’ll find some helpful information so that you can be a subject matter expert on RV tires. This will also help you to ensure that your RV is safe for travel and teach you how to get the most out of those costly tires.
Locating the Tire Ratings
RV tires, especially those on Class A motorhomes, can be intimidating. Those gigantic wheels aren’t just for show- they require regular maintenance to safely get you from Point A to Point B. Tire maintenance on RVs looks a lot like tire maintenance on regular vehicle,s but with some added extra steps. Proper inflation, regular rotation, and replacing them as needed are some of the basics. Knowing how to read your tires is laying the foundation for providing them with their necessary, frequent maintenance.
The sidewall markings are similar to ones found on regular vehicles. If you look very closely (and tilt your head) you can make out different numbers and letterings. We have a helpful graphic below, courtesy of Firestone, that breaks down the “codes”. Just from looking at your tires, you should be able to know the type, size, material, date of production, cold inflation limit (the psi of inflation before your RV hits the road and the tires start heating up), load index, and any speciality information, such as mud or snow condition specifics.
A Quick Guide to RV Tires
Each class of RV utilizes a different type of tire. Think of a Class A versus a fifth wheel. If you are in the market for new tires, it’s best to consult a professional for recommendations. It’s important you select the right type of tire for your class of RV to do the type of job they’re designed to do.
RV tires, especially those on a Class A motorhome, need to be replaced due to age versus visible wearing. Everyone knows the penny trick to ensure our car tires aren’t too “bald”, but RV tires are designed with deeper tread. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to how often RV owners should replace their tires. Most experts agree it can be anywhere from every three to seven years. Many factors determine the lifespan of your tires. These can range from how often the RV is used to how much direct sunlight they receive and even the type of weather they’re exposed to. Hotter climates actually decrease the lifespan of tires, due to ozone exposure.
Storage conditions can also make or break the lifespan of your tires. The type of terrain weathered, the climate in which your RV is stored, and the length of time used also have major impacts on the longevity of tires. Every RV situation is unique, and all of these factors need to be taken into consideration.
Remember that you get what you pay for. There are cheaper options for RV tires, but these are not always the best choice. RVs carry a considerable amount of weight. Consider the slide outs, appliances, storage, fuel, supplies, and travelers. Choosing high quality tires is the safer option, and it can save you money in the long run.
Understanding Tire Loads vs Axle Loads
Did you know that the amount of weight that your tires and axles are designed to carry is different? Oftentimes, RV owners think that if they are within the guidelines of their axle loads that they are in the clear, but this can be a dangerous assumption.
Each vehicle is designed to have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and a Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR). The GVWR is the total maximum allowable weight to be carried by your RV. Think of this as the total weight when the RV is packed up and heading out for vacation, including its water capacity, full propane tank, full fuel tank, and on-board passengers. The GVWR must never be exceeded. Period. This puts additional strain on the engine, suspension, brakes, and tires. The GAWR is the maximum weight that should be placed on a given axle. If you divide the GAWR by two, that is the rating per each axle end. This will assist you in balancing your RV’s weight to evenly distribute it across the axles.
Weighing your RV
The best approach to weighing your RV is to first find an RV weighing specialist. The scales at truck stops are good for quick GVWR measurements, but these can give inaccurate measurements per axle and wheel weight. Before weighing, identify the GVWR, GAWR for each end axle, and the cold tire inflation pressure for your tires. Also, ensure that your RV is fully loaded with water, propane, all supplies and groceries, passengers, fuel, and your tow/ed vehicle. Specialists can also provide helpful information on how to best load your RV.
Check to ensure that the weight is evenly distributed on all tires and axles. If not, then adjust accordingly. While RVs are not built symmetrically, they are usually designed to spread out the weight as evenly as possible. Be sure to take this into consideration with any future renovations. Any overload must be addressed and resolved immediately. As stated above, exceeding the GVWR or GAWR can quickly deteriorate or destroy important components of your RV.
Ensuring your Tires are Properly Inflated
Printed on your tires is a max limit to how inflated your tires can be. But this does not mean your tires should always be inflated to this number. Inflation pressure differs depending on how much weight your RV is carrying.
Locate the load/inflation table for your specific manufacturer of tires. Cross check the table’s data and size info with that found on your own tires to ensure that you have the correct table. Using your measured RV’s load, identify your tire’s minimum inflation pressure for that load. Because RV weights can fluctuate so much with carrying varied loads, it’s best to build in a +5 psi buffer to err on the side of caution. If you find that your load is exceeding the chart, then you must reassess your coach’s weight. Never under-inflate the tires or strain their capacity.
Taking Care of your RV’s Tires
Once you have your tires inflated properly, be sure to check the tire pressure regularly. Check it before each trip, and every morning before travelling. If it’s the off-season, then check your tire pressure monthly. For RVs with dual wheels, invest in a tire gauge with an offset double head so you can reach the second set of tires. It’s also important to install TPMS sensors (tire pressure monitoring system) and use them while driving. There are times when tires can slowly start to leak air once you start driving, and this system can help you catch the issue early on.
To increase the lifespan of your tires, consider investing in some tire covers. Be sure to have enough for all your wheels, and use them when you arrive at your destination. This will prevent additional wear on your tires from the elements. Lastly, don’t forget to rotate your tires! Many companies include lifetime rotations when you purchase sets of tires through them. Take this into consideration when determining where to purchase your new tires, as this can save money over time.
We know this was a lot of information to take in, but it’s important for RV owners to be aware of, and to address these issues before trouble arises. Are you prepared to handle a flat tire while driving? The thought of losing control of a 30,000+ pound vehicle can be terrifying. Luckily, RV Safety Education Foundation has this helpful video on how to handle a tire blowout and maintain control of your vehicle.
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I am concerned about the danger of tire OVER-inflation. Shouldn’t there be a max tire pressure limit when the tires are warm? The tires on my class A are at max load limit front and back (2680 lbs single, 2470 lbs dual). I keep the tires at 80 psi cold (max cold pressure, load limit E). When driving, I have detected pressures as high as 99 psi. At what point should I be concerned about over-inflation? Would there be any problem with switching to tires that are load limit F (w/out adding weight to the RV) in order to avoid over-inflation?
Hi, Clark. Thanks for taking the time to read our article. As far as cold PSI’s go, that would be the recommended inflation for your tires which takes into account them heating up while driving. For specific questions like that, I would recommend reaching out to your tire manufacturer directly because information varies so greatly across the brands. It also never hurts to visit an RV weighing specialist to ensure you’re RV’s weight is evenly distributed.