Where the Rubber Meets the Road
The life of your tires is extremely important when you live on wheels. Tires are the most vulnerable part of your RV, and the most likely to fail. Even if you’re not a full-time RVer, on every trip you take you rely on the quality of your tires. Remember that all tires are not created equal, and that regular maintenance and precautions are the best ways to ensure you’ll remain safely on the road.
Wear and Tear Factors
The main reasons for RV tire deterioration are age, improper inflation, ozone and UV exposure, and excessive load weight and uneven weight distribution. Let’s take a look at each of these more closely:
- Age: Though a tire may “look” fine, the average life of an RV tire is five to seven years. If you do see unusual wear on the tread, however, it’s best to get it checked out. Believe it or not, a tire that is used regularly will generally last longer than one that isn’t. Friction on the road causes a tire to heat up, thus releasing compounds within the tire. If these compounds are not released, your tires can dry out. If you are unsure of your tire’s age, check the sidewall. There will be a line of letters and digits beginning with “DOT”. The numbers following will indicate the tire’s age, starting with the calendar week (i.e. 10 for the 10th week of the year), and then the year itself.
- Inflation: Over- and under-inflation can both be problems when it comes to tires. If a tire is over-inflated, it will stand up too straight. The edges will then come off the road, resulting in faster wear of the tire’s center. An under-inflated tire will deflect inward at the tread, causing rough wear on the outer edges of the tire. With the advancement of radial tires, it has become harder and harder to tell a tire’s pressure by just looking at it. The best thing to do is check tire inflation at least once a month, preferably first thing in the morning when the tires are cool. A simple tire gauge is one of the most important tools an RV owner can have. How do you know how much air to put in? Once you have your RV weighed, consult a tire chart (obtained from a dealer) to find out what the correct pressure for your tires should be. Typically, most tires will state the maximum pressure explicitly. The load range for a tire is also printed on its sidewall (in letter code) – a chart will help you determine what the letters mean as well.
- Ozone and UV Exposure: Over time, RV tires are exposed to a great deal of UV rays and ozone poisoning. This can lead to cracks in the rubber, especially in a tire’s sidewall. It’s best to keep your RV tires covered when not in use to prevent this damage.
- Weight: Be sure that the size and load range of the tires you have installed are suitable for your weight needs. After all, an RV carries a lot more than a typical automobile. Try fully loading your RV as you would for a trip, then weighing the vehicle to make sure the tires are capable of handling the load. You can have your RV weighed at a public weigh station for a minimal fee. Aim for even weight distribution throughout your RV. If for some reason that’s not possible, tires on the same axle should still be inflated to the same pressure.
Knowing the importance of tire maintenance is the first step, and taking the proper precautions is the next. So be good to your tires – your safety is riding on them.
This article was contributed by the Foremost Insurance Group of Companies, based in Grand Rapids, MI. Foremost has been a national leader in specialty insurance products for more than 50 years. If you have questions about RV insurance, contact your agent or Foremost Insurance Group at 1-800-262-0170 or www.foremost.com.