Let’s Talk Tires

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 262017

It seems like you can’t go onto any RV internet forum without seeing discussion after discussion about which toilet paper to use in RVs and what kind of chemicals to use in RV holding tanks. These debates go on and on and you would think nothing is more important than your potty. What always surprises me is that for every five or six threads on toilet paper and holding tank treatments, you might see one or two on RV tires.

I don’t understand that, because when it comes right down to it, tires are probably the most important safety factor when traveling in an RV. And when there is a discussion about tires it usually starts out the same way – somebody has old, weather-cracked tires on their motorhome or trailer and they are asking if they have to replace them, because the tread is still good.

Yes, you have to replace them. I don’t care if they only have 500 miles on them, if your tires are more than seven years old, or even if they are newer but are weather-cracked, you are an accident waiting to happen.

I’m always surprised how little attention so many RVers pay to their tires. We had a front blowout on Interstate 10 in west Texas at 65 miles per hour. The tire was only two years old and had less than 9,000 miles on it. Trust me, it’s not an experience you want to have. We were lucky to come out of it alive, and with only minimal damage to our MCI bus conversion when the flying rubber chewed up an airline and an airbag. A Texas highway patrolman who came along while we were waiting for road service to bring us a replacement tire told us that just a week before, a motorhome had blown a front tire in almost the same place and both occupants were killed when it rolled.

A tip I learned when I took a heavy vehicle driving course in the Army a lifetime ago helped us avoid an accident when we had that blowout. Your first instinct is to get on the brakes and slow down, but that can kill you. It was a right front tire, and the bus immediately started swerving toward the right shoulder of the highway. I remember the instructor in that course so long ago telling us that in a situation like that, downshift and floor the accelerator. That goes against everything you think you should do, but it works. As soon as I went to a lower gear and stepped on the accelerator, the bus came right back around. Once I had it pointed in the right direction again I eased off on the throttle until I could get our speed down enough to safely pull onto the shoulder and stop. By then I think it was too late to worry about what kind of toilet paper or black tank chemicals we needed!

Check your tires. Check them often. Know how to read tire date codes. Get a good tire pressure monitoring system. At one time or another, just about everybody in the business has sent me their systems to test, and the one I trust our motorhome and our lives to is the TireTracker.

But as good as the TireTracker is, don’t get lazy and think that it will just automatically handle everything for you. Be proactive. Get a good tire pressure gauge and check your tires before every trip. Physically look at them, and that includes the inside duals, even if you have to get down on the ground to inspect them. Even relatively new tires can develop bulges, or separate, or come apart on you. Road debris can chew up a tire and you won’t know about it until it’s too late.

There is not a tire pressure monitoring system in the world that will tell you about that until after you have a problem. It’s up to you to put your eyes and your hands on your tires before every trip, and to check them when you make pit stops during the day. It only takes a few minutes, but it can add years to your RV’s life, and to yours.

When I have tire questions, my go to guy is Roger Marble, who runs the RV Tire Safety blog. Roger is a retired tire engineer and the guy really knows his stuff. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years. Read his blog. I bet you learn a thing or two yourself.

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Thought For The Day – A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits. – Richard Nixon

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  5 Responses to “Let’s Talk Tires”

  1. Thank you for this. I’m a lone trailer puller. Last year, I pulled into a station to gas up as well as get some propane. While there, the propane attendant called my attention to a tire on my trailer. That tire looked under inflated. Turned out, it was actually FLAT from a leak. It was from a staple that looked suspiciously like the ones we used in a remodel of our home, 120 miles away, and it was so inconspicuously hidden, I had not seen it before leaving home. Someone was watching out for me. If I had not needed gas, I would have been on the side of the highway, maybe upright, in a desert south of Blythe. Yikes.

  2. Emjay, I strongly suggest you get and use a TPMS on the trailer tires to.lower and hopefully eliminate the potential for a run low sidewall flex failure. You have seen how it is possible to loose air and not realize the situation. You were lucky as it doesn’t take many miles of driving on a flat tire to end up with a tire coming apart and potentially doing significant damage to the trailer.

    I have a number of trailer specific posts with a specific one on “inspection” on my RV tire blog on what owners can do to discover belt related problems that a TPMS can not warn about.

  3. Thank you for this article.
    Trying to access Roger Marble’s tire safety blog, but all that turns up is a notice that “the domain name has expired”. Really? Or perhaps a problem with our internet connection here?
    Sorry to bother you, but I can’t find any other email/web address for him.
    Thanks for your help…although maybe this is a Greg question :).

  4. Yes, currently am having some problems with Google and their management of our blog.
    Short term you can email me at
    dot com

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