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How do I check my RV tires?

When tires are correctly inflated and with good tread, they will provide economy, safety, and good performance. This is important because this is where the “rubber meets the road,”  what can be more important than that?
The integrity of wheels and tires changes over time and needs to be inspected regularly.
The big question remains: How do I inspect my wheels and tires? 
To accomplish this we need to interpret and understand the importance of RV tire inspections and maintenance.
One of the most important components of your Coach, which is also the most neglected is your RV wheels and tires. Did you know that up to twenty-five percent of coaches weighed had loads that exceeded the capacity of the tires? Four out of Five had at least one under inflated tire and at risk of failure from heat build up. Underinflated tires are not only unsafe but inefficient to operate.  The biggest reason for neglecting tires is not understanding the specifications to correctly maintain them.  With a little research, I have discovered that checking your tires is actually a simple process that can actually extend the life of your tires. Let’s take a look at what you need to know to keep your tires in great shape as you hit the open road. 

Weight Ratings

Absolutely the best place to start is with an understanding of weight ratings. When talking about Real Estate it’s all about “location, location, location” when talking about anything RV it’s all about “weight, weight, weight” or weight ratings.
Believe it or not all of the following all have weight ratings;
  • Tires
  • Suspension system
  • Wheels
  • Brakes
  • Axles
  • the RV itself
When a weight rating is exceeded we are overloading one or more of these elements. This accelerates the risk of wearing out all of the components involved and premature or complete failure. Though all of these are important tires tops the list. Tires are the weakest link in this equation because tires are the only thing between you and the road surface.
Therefore we find it necessary to weigh our RV. We have found that moving or storage companies, commercial truck stops, and even farm and home supply stores have adequate scales. Take the time to find a way to weigh your RV locally. Some can even weigh individual wheel positions in addition to the overall weight.
his is important when you are trying to figure the load on an individual axle to compare it with the tire rating. So the day you take your RV to have it weighed load it up as if you were leaving tomorrow on your journey.

Checking the Tire Pressure

Tire pressure should always be checked “cold” with the temperature of your tires at 70 degrees, plus or minus ten. A basic tire pressure gauge is all the is needed to measure air pressure. A lot of people get confused about where to look find the specifications on how much air to put into a tire. The maximum tire inflation is molded in writing onto the sidewall of the tire. As suspected you should never exceed this number. The recommended tire inflation target amount is found on the manufacturers’ placard usually located on the left front of your RV.
With that being said you never want to exceed the maximum tire pressure or go below the recommended in tire pressure as listed on the vehicle manufacturers placard. The “PSI” (pounds per square inch) is also molded on the sidewall of the tire.
==> Under inflation effects the tread contact with the road by adding wear to the outside of the tires
==> Over inflations effects the tread contact with the road by adding wear to the inside of the tires.
==> Proper inflation offers better weight distribution on your tires to contact the road more evenly the way they are intended too. 

Under-inflation causes the following performance problems:

  • Poor steering response and stability with an increase in steering effort
  • Abnormal tread wear on the outer edge of the tires
  • Poor turning control with a tendency to skid
  • Premature tire failure due to excessive flexing of the sidewalls
  • Erratic Braking
  • Tire and Wheel damage from rough pavement and gravel roads
  • An increase in fuel consumption due to friction and reduced tire surface

Overinflation causes the following performance problems:

  • Less tread contact with the road
  • Less traction to the road
  • Road Shock transferred to steering and suspension
  • Excessive wear to the center of the tire

  Balancing the Tires

If you walked an entire lot of your local RV dealership and checked every tire on every new Coach you would be hard pressed to find one with balanced tires. Why this is I don’t understand.
Dealerships talk about “shake-down” in brochures referring to all the stuff that has to be reattached to the travel trailer because it fell of being transferred from Indiana to the dealership. Sometimes this trip is over 1,000 miles.
What causes this shake, vibration and unwanted motion that could make securely fastened, glued and assembled travel trailer come apart? Could it be improperly balanced tires? Let us dig a little deeper.
Wheel balancing or Tire balancing is a process of equalizing the weight of both the wheel and tire as a single unit so that it rotates at a high speed smoothly. Rotating at a high speed even the slightest imbalance becomes exaggerated in centrifugal force causing vibration that shakes the entire unit as a whole.
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Consistent vibration and “opposing” vibration from several tires being unbalanced causes wheel shimmy and can shake down the internal surfaces of the travel trailer causing damage.
Even with the advanced tire manufacturing processes and rubber compounds of today, it is possible to have an unbalanced tire. Wheels and tires are never perfectly balanced coming off of the shelf. When the tire and wheel are mounted together and the valve stem is installed the balance should be checked and adjusted accordingly.  A new RV tire, properly balanced with a new valve stem can cost around $125. With a set of four new tires, we are looking at approximately $500. Tire balancing is expensive and also a good investment. For most RVers, this is an unexpected expense. At the end of the day, it is probably one of the most important.

All new tires should be balanced!full time rv life, living, lifestyle, tires

A properly balanced wheel and tire gives you a shake-free ride and protects your investment with optimum tire tread wear. Wheel weights made of lead should be attached to unbalanced tire to avoid “wheel shimmy”  that forces the wheel and tire to rock back and forth while going down the road.
Balancing tires begin mounting the tires and inflating all four to the manufacturers’ specifications. From there each wheel and tire are individually inserted and spun on a high speed balancing machine with a computer that shows the installer how much weight to add and where to Install it. These lead weights are clipped onto the edge of the rim and are hammered secure. Normally these weigh between a quarter of an ounce to one ounce. Typically one on the front of the rim and one on the back. Finally, the wheel and tire are put back on the machine to double check for proper balancing.
As a preventative maintenance measure tires should be rotated every 5,000 – 6,000 miles. It would be a good policy to also have the technician check the tires to ensure they are still balanced. Most credible tire shops will check the balance regardless.  There are times when the secured lead weights attached to the rim of a tire fall off going down the road.

What to look for when inspecting your Tires

A physical inspection of your RV tires is not that complicated. We are simply inspecting the tires for visible damage and wear.
Initially, the tire tread is inspected. If a “Tire Wear Gauge” is not readily available most tire stores offer this service at no charge. This instrument measures in 1/32 increments. If the tire shows 2/32 or less the tire should be taken out of service and replaced.
When inspecting the tires carefully check for any of the following conditions:
=> the tread is worn to a level that the belts, cord or fabric is exposed
=> look for cracks, cuts that expose the body cords
=> indications of any separation
=> punctures from sharp objects
=> bent rims, cracked surfaces
=> sidewall cracking from severe weather
=> flat spotting caused by a brake skid
=> loose lug nuts or even broken wheel studs
=> discoloration or ruffling in the sidewalls from heat
=> tires that have been stored checked for all of the above
If any of the above is found the tires should be listed as unsafe. Other conditions that can affect the tread wear of your RV tires are Misalignment, Improper balance or miscellaneous suspension problems. All of these can be corrected and avoided. There are also “hidden” damages that cannot be detected with a visual inspection.
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Unseen punctures can cause slow leaks resulting in a loss of inflation. This results in excessive heat build-up and leads to serious tire damage.
Any tire, even new tires can be damaged by the impact.
For instance, hitting a curb or parking block. This damage can be intensified by the angle of the impact, the force of the impact and by the size of the object impacted. Damages vary in severity and appearance.
The body of a tire that has been damaged by impact may have no visible exterior indicators. Impact or even bruised tires may cause blowouts or flats. This may happen well beyond the actual event. The tire may run many miles before failing. The break usually begins on the inside of the tire which is distressed by the constant flexing of the tire until a failure happens. Driving on these impacted tires is dangerous because this flexing causes the tire to heat up excessively. A blown out tire is usually the end result of this impact.
Always keep in mind that weighing your RV is a snapshot in time. Weights can and do change according to how you load and distribute the weight in your RV and on many other factors. You should get in the practice of weighing your RV periodically to stay within all weight ratings and remember, whenever an overload condition exists to resolve the problem before venturing out in your RV.
To prevent tire damage, always maintain the inflation pressure recommended by the RV manufacturer and keep your tires balanced. Tire failure can be extremely hazardous and can cause extensive damage to your RV and place the people on board in jeopardy.
With tires and wheels, you can expect what you inspect. By practicing good tire maintenance and weighing your RV locally you can feel much safer and secure that the weakest link on your RV will do its job while you’re out exploring this wonderful country we live in.
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