.| Safety Tips | RV tire care and safety care

RV tire care and safety care

Here are guidelines to help you obtain the best performance from the tires used on your recreational vehicle (RV). Unless otherwise specified, the term "RV" applies to motor homes, travel trailers, 5th-wheel travel trailers and slide-in campers for pickup trucks. More information about your specific vehicle and its tires is contained in the owner's manual supplied by the vehicle manufacturer. Additional information concerning your tires is available from your local tire dealer or the tire manufacturer. Tires used on RVs are subjected to a greater variety of conditions than automobile applications. Many RVs are out of service for long periods of time. When RVs are being driven, they are used at or near maximum loads during hot weather. Normal, natural aging of a tire, as well as ozone in the air, may cause the rubber to crack, especially in the sidewall area. Tires should be checked for this condition or other damage before every long trip. Tires over five years old or ones that show signs of cracking should be inspected regularly by a tire professional to determine if they should remain in service or be discarded.

The certification label-

Recreational vehicles manufactured since 1972 have a certification label which provides the following information relating to tires and loads:

  • 1. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
  • 2. Gross Axle Weight Ratings (GAWR) for each axle
  • 3. Tire and rim sizes
  • 4. Recommended cold tire inflation pressures

The certification label can be found on several different locations within your vehicle, including (but not limited to) the driver's hinge pillar, door latch post, etc. Vehicles manufactured before 1972 may not have a certification label, and the tire and loading information will only be found in the owner's manual. Your manual also contains information about alternate tire sizes. Be sure to follow all recommendations in your owner's manual regarding the use of these alternative tire sizes. If you are considering changing to a tire size other than those shown on the certification label, be sure to consult with your vehicle manufacturer, tire dealer or tire manufacturer. Using the wrong size tire can lead to tire failure. Vehicle modifications such as lift kits and other suspension alterations and/or use of tires not recommended by the vehicle or tire manufacturer can adversely affect vehicle handling and stability. Tires specifically designed for travel trailer use in highway service have an "ST" molded on the tire sidewall, such as ST225/75R15. The "ST" stands for "Special Trailer" and means the tire is designed specifically for trailer service.

Proper RV Tire Inflation-

The most important factors in tire care are maintaining proper inflation pressures, avoiding excess loading, inspecting tires regularly and driving with care at appropriate speeds.

It is important that your tires be properly inflated. Failure to maintain correct inflation pressures may result in fast and uneven treadwear, improper vehicle handling, and excessive heat buildup, which may result in tire failure.

To make sure you maintain the correct pressure in your tires, check the air pressure regularly with your own dual-head inflation gauge that is calibrated up to 120 psi at 2 psi increments. The recommended inflation pressures for your tires are indicated on the certification label or in your owner's manual. However, since RVs can be configured and loaded in many different ways, the proper inflation pressure should be determined by actual tire loads. The actual loads can be determined by physically weighing the vehicle. These loads will change from trip to trip, depending on how the vehicle is loaded.

WARNING! Serious Injury May Result From:

Tire Failure Due to Underinflation/Overloading Follow owner's manual or certification label in vehicle

Explosion of tire/rim assembly due to improper mounting Only specially trained persons should mount tires.

Check your tires' air pressures at least once a month, before each trip, and each morning you drive during a trip. Inflation pressures should be checked when tires are "cold," that is, before they have been driven one mile. Heat generated during driving increases air pressure above the proper cold inflation pressure. This is normal, so never "bleed" air from a hot tire, since this could result in dangerous under inflation.

It may be difficult to check the air pressures of inside tires in dual fitments. (A dual fitment is two tires on the same side of an axle.) However, it is important that these air pressures be maintained because the inside dual tires are subjected to high heat exposure (from brakes), lower air circulation and crowned road surfaces (which can cause inside dual tires to support more of the load than the outside dual tires).

Make sure all tire valves and extensions are equipped with valve caps to keep out dirt and moisture. Installing a new valve assembly is good practice whenever a tire is replaced.

How overloading affects your tires-

The results of overloading can have serious consequences in terms of passenger safety. Too much weight for your vehicle's suspension system can cause spring, shock absorber or brake failure, handling or steering problems, irregular tire wear, tire failure or other damage. An overloaded vehicle is hard to drive and hard to stop. In cases of serious overloading, brakes can fail completely, particularly on steep hills. The load a tire will carry safely is a combination of the size of the tire, its load range and corresponding inflation pressure. Overloading your RV, with under inflated tires, can spell trouble.

Excessive loads and/or under inflation cause "tire overloading." As a result, abnormal tire flexing occurs, which can generate an excessive amount of heat within the tire. Excessive heat may exceed the tire's capabilities, which may lead to tire failure.

It is the air pressure which enables a tire to support the load, so proper inflation is critical. Since RVs can be configured and loaded in many different ways, air pressures must be determined from the actual loads (determined by weighing) and taken from the load and inflation tables provided by the tire manufacturer. These air pressures may differ from those found on the certification label. However, they should never exceed the tire limitation for load or air pressure.

If you discover that your tires cannot support the actual weights, lighten the load or install tires with a higher carrying capacity.

Note: Installing tires with a higher carrying capacity only solves the problem of tire overload. It has no effect on the overloading of other components (i.e., rims, axles, shocks, or bearings). Rims may not be capable of withstanding the higher pressures necessary to support the load.

If the load cannot be adequately reduced, contact the RV manufacturer for advice.

If you decide to install a tire size other than that originally provided on the vehicle, care must be taken to ensure adequate load-carrying capacity and compatibility between the tire and rim.


There is a danger of serious injury or death if a tire of one bead diameter is installed on a rim or wheel of a different rim diameter. Always replace a tire with another tire of exactly the same bead diameter designation and suffix letters. For example: A 16" tire goes on a 16" rim. Never mount a 16" tire on a 16.5" rim. A 16.5" tire goes on a 16.5" rim. Never mount a 16.5" tire on a 16" rim.

While it is possible to pass a 16" diameter tire over the lip of flanges of a 16.5" size rim, it cannot be inflated enough to position itself against the rim flange. If an attempt is made to seat the tire bead by inflating, the tire bead will break with explosive force and could cause serious injury or death.

If you have operated your vehicle with an under inflated tire, promptly have it removed from the wheel for a complete internal inspection to be sure it is not damaged. Tires driven even short distances while under inflated may be damaged beyond repair.

Tires should be inspected regularly for excessive or irregular tread wear, bulges, aging, fabric breaks, cuts or other damages. Remove any nails, stones, glass, etc., embedded in the tread to prevent damage. Even minor damage can lead to tire failure. Replace tires when the tread is worn to 2/32" depth remaining in two or more adjacent grooves.

On vehicles with GVWR in excess of 10,000 pounds, federal regulations require that tires on the front axle be removed when worn down to 4/32" depth. It may also be desirable to replace tires prior to wearing down to 4/32" to improve traction or vehicle handling.

Load and cold inflation pressure imposed on a rim/wheel must not exceed the rim/wheel manufacturer's recommendation, even though the tire may be marked for a higher load and inflation.

Matching radial tires with rim/wheels must be done with extreme care. Not all older rims/wheels are approved for use with radial tires. Consult the rim/wheel manufacturer or local distributor or your tire dealer, to determine which rims/wheels are acceptable for use with a specific radial tire.

If your tires show uneven wear, ask a serviceperson to check for and correct any misalignment, imbalance, or other mechanical problem involved.

Tires will wear out faster when subjected to high speeds as well as hard cornering, rapid starts, sudden stops and frequent driving on surfaces which are in poor condition. Surfaces with holes and rocks or other objects can damage tires and cause wheel misalignment. When you drive on such surfaces, drive on them carefully and slowly. Before driving at normal or highway speeds, examine your tires for any damage, such as cuts or penetrations.

Check your tires frequently for scrapes, bulges, cuts, snags, or impact damage. Damage can occur to the inner portions of your tire without being visible on the outside. While driving, if you experience a sudden vibration or ride disturbance, or if you suspect that damage to your tires or vehicle has occurred, immediately reduce your speed or stop. Drive with caution or have your vehicle towed to the nearest vehicle or tire dealer to have your vehicle inspected.


Tire changing can be dangerous and should be done by trained personnel using proper tools and procedures. Always read and understand any manufacturer's warning contained in their customer's literature or molded into the tire sidewall.

Failure to comply with these procedures may result in faulty positioning of the tire and/or rim parts, and cause the assembly to burst with explosive force, sufficient to cause serious physical injury or death. Never mount or use damaged tires or rims.


Excessive speed in a free-running, unloaded tire can cause it to "explode" from extreme centrifugal force. The energy released by such an explosion is sufficient to cause serious physical injury or death.

Tire Repairs -

When a tire is losing air it must be removed from the wheel by an expert for complete internal inspection to be sure it is not damaged. Tires driven even short distances while severely under inflated may be damaged beyond repair.

Punctures up to 1/4" in diameter, when confined to the tread, may be repaired by trained personnel. These tires must be removed from the wheel, inspected and repaired using industry-approved methods which call for an inside repair unit and a plug. Some punctures may make the tire non-repairable. A plug by itself is an unacceptable puncture repair.

The repair material used -- for example, a "combination patch and plug" repair -- must seal the inner liner and fill the injury to be considered a permanent repair. Never use a tube in a tubeless tire as a substitute for a proper repair.

Individual tire manufacturers may differ on whether the speed category applies to speed-rated tires that have been repaired. Consult the tire manufacturer's policy.

Aerosol Inflators -

Do not depend on tire aerosol sealants and inflators to permanently fix a damaged tire. These products are designed to provide only a temporary, emergency repair to help get you off the road and to the nearest tire repair facility. They may also make the tire non-repairable.

Some aerosol products of this type use flammable gases, such as butane, propane or isobutane as propellants. Follow all directions and precautions printed on the canister when using these products. Be sure to inform tire service personnel when you have used any flammable aerosol to inflate your tire.

The purpose of regularly rotating tires is to prolong their useful tire life by achieving more uniform wear for all tires on a vehicle. Before rotating tires, check your owner's manual for rotation recommendations for specific vehicles. If no rotation period is specified, rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles or at any sign of uneven wear. If the tires show uneven wear, ask a serviceperson to check for and correct any misalignment, imbalance, or other mechanical problem before rotation.

Rotating the tires as recommended by the RV or tire manufacturer will help even out the amount of wear on each tire and extend the life of the entire set.

Note: Some kinds of tires cannot be rotated in the manners described below. Such tires include uni-directional tires and tires with asymmetric tread designs. Also, some vehicles may have different-sized tires mounted on the front and rear axles, and these different-sized tires have rotation restrictions. Check your owner's manual, or with your tire dealer, for the proper rotation recommendations for these special cases.

When tires are rotated, the inflation pressures must be adjusted for the tire's new positions in accordance with the actual loads on that wheel position. Under inflated or over inflated tires may result in poor handling, uneven tread wear and increased fuel consumption.

Note: Lug nuts should be properly torqued anytime a tire/wheel/rim assembly is re-installed on the vehicle.

Storing RV -

When recreational vehicles are out of service for long periods of time, they should be put on blocks. Place the blocks under the axles so that tires bear no load during the storage period. Also ensure that the tire/wheel assemblies are protected from direct sunlight. Because inflation pressure will fluctuate with surrounding temperatures, a slight, gradual air loss will typically occur over extended periods. Be sure to inflate the tires, including the spare, to operating pressure before returning to service.

Tire Storage -

If you remove your tires from the RV, store them in an area that is clean, cool, dry, dark and well-ventilated with circulating air. Tires should be stored so that the tires at the bottom of a stack retain their shape. Store tires whitewall-to-whitewall to avoid staining. If outdoors, protect tires with an opaque waterproof covering.

Tire Dealer Assistance -

When you have questions about tires, consult your tire dealer. A dealer is the best source of general information and professional service on tires. Have your dealer inspect your tires periodically and otherwise assist you in maximizing your tire investment. Dealers have service manuals, wall charts and other industry publications on tire load and inflation, tire repairs and tire replacements. They can provide any replacement tires your vehicle needs, balance your tires and properly repair damaged tires which are repairable.





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