RV Tires: What You Need to Know

By viola wallace | November 27, 2018

One thing all RVs have in common is that they all have tires. Big or small basic or luxurious motorhome or trailer they all need at least one pair. The right tires that are properly maintained are essential to the safe towing or driving of your RV. Failing to provide these can result in flat tires delays in researching your destination and even endangering yourself and others.

But don’t worry. We’re here to help walk you through what you need to know about RV tires.

The Type of RV Tire

Your RV’s manual well specify which tires should be used. Specialist RV dealers and tire stores can also advise you on the correct tire type to use as well.

Light truck (LT) or Special trailer (ST) tires – If you have a motorhome LT tires are your best option. They are designed for traction and comfort. Make sure to get tires with the correct load range (signified by letters such as D E or F) for the size of your motorhome.

For travel trailers ST tires are the best option because they have more rigid sidewalls for load-bearing strength and to prevent trailers from swaying at speed. Make sure to get tires with the correct load-range for your trailer.

Radial-ply vs bias-ply – Radial-ply tires are a more modern design that tends to have a tougher overall construction and longer tread life. If you use your RV frequently or take longer trips radial-ply tires are the best option. The older bias-ply tire design might be a good option for less frequent travellers because they are significantly cheaper and still get the job done.

Tire Pressure

Under-inflated tires cause the outside tread to wear more quickly compared to the centre of the tire and significantly reduce fuel efficiency. Over-inflated tires will cause the central tread to wear more quickly. Both under and over-inflation will reduce the lifespan of your RV tires so it’s important to inflate them to the correct pressure as stated on the sidewall of the tire.

It’s also important to make sure that all tires on the same axle are inflated to the same pressure (front and rear tire pressure can be different) and remember that increasing the pressure of tires does not increase their ability to take a load.

You can check tire pressure very easily with a tire pressure gauge. 

Tire Tread Depth

It is vital that your tires have sufficient tread depth to prevent slipping aquaplaning in wet conditions and dangerously increased stopping distances. You can get a simple tread depth gauge for less than $10 and you should use this to measure your tread a good while before any planned trips.

Remember to take readings in at least four different spots on each tire to increase accuracy. If the tread depth is 2⁄32 – inch or less then you should replace your tires immediately. Anything between 3⁄32- inch and  4⁄32 – inch means you should consider replacing your tires very soon. 5⁄32 – inch and above is just fine.

Tire Age and Wear

If you’re an enthusiastic camper and use your RV often for long-distance travelling it is highly likely that your tires will wear down enough for you to replace them without the age of the rubber ever coming into play. However if your RV spends long periods without you using it it’s possible that the age of your tires will affect their performance and make them unsafe. If you’ve ever tried to reuse an old rubber band you’ll know that the rubber becomes less elastic with age and much more brittle.

Tire rubber has a ‘safe-to-use’ shelf life of about six years and you can find the age of the tire among the numbering and lettering embossed on the sidewall expressed as a four-digit code representing the week and year of the tire’s manufacture.

For example the code 3315 means that your tire was manufactured in the 33rd week of 2015 or mid-August 2015. You should replace any tires older than 6 years as soon as you get the opportunity – and don’t forget about your spare tires! Extreme weather conditions can accelerate the aging of rubber so it’s also worth checking your older tires occasionally for the tiny cracks that are a clear sign of ageing rubber.

RV Tire Covers to Extend Tire Life

You can significantly reduce the deterioration of your tire rubber by investing in a set of tire covers for your RV. The main reason for this is to protect your tires from the damage and premature ageing caused by the heat and UV light of the sun. RV tire covers are most often white or cream-coloured to reflect as much light away from the tires as possible. Tire covers will also help reduce the temperature fluctuations that can affect your RV’s tires when it isn’t being used.

Proper tire maintenance keeps you and your family safe on the road and can prevent expensive repairs. If you stay on top of tires you’ll experience better driving performance and worry less about something going wrong while you’re camping.