By Mark Polk
RV Education 101
It seems as though I talk about tire safety all of the time. The reason I do is because tires are an important safety topic concerning motorhomes, and are often overlooked.
Just recently I read a newspaper article that summed up just how overlooked tires are, in general. The article stated, “The Rubber Manufacturers Association found that 29 million drivers believe that tires require no regular maintenance.”
Let’s take a look at my top 7 tire tips for safer RV trips.
1. Two of the biggest problems with motorhomes today are overloading the RV and under inflated tires. With multiple slideout rooms, large holding tank capacities and the ample amount of storage space available on today’s motorhomes it’s easy to see why so many are overloaded. We have a natural tendency to fill every nook and cranny of available storage space on our motorhome.
2. Another problem is out-of-balance loads. You can be within an axle or tire’s load capacity on one end of an axle, and be over capacity on the other axle end. This is a common problem with motorhomes, and many times the cause is poor weight distribution and/or improper loading of the motorhome. When this happens the tire or tires on the end of the axle that is overloaded are subject to tire failure.
The bottom line is overloaded motorhomes and under inflated tires can be extremely dangerous. The only way to make sure your RV is not overloaded is to have it weighed.
3. Weight ratings for motorhomes are established by the manufacturer and are based on the weakest link in the chain. When you exceed a weight rating, you are overloading one or more components on the motorhome and risk wearing out the component prematurely or complete failure of the component. In many cases the tires on your motor coach are the weakest link.
Just like the axles on your motorhome, your tires have load ratings, too. The maximum ratings are molded into the side of the tires. Keep in mind these are maximum ratings. The sidewall of the tire shows the maximum load and the inflation pressure for that load. Never set the inflation pressures below the recommendations you find on the vehicle manufacturer’s placard, and do not exceed the maximum inflation pressure ratings found on the tire’s sidewall.
4. The tires on your motor coach are the most vulnerable component affected by overloading the motorhome. There are numerous reasons for this. First and foremost is when the tires are not inflated properly for the load. Failure to maintain correct tire pressure can result in fast tread wear, uneven wear, poor handling and excessive heat buildup, which can lead to tire failure.
The only way to correctly measure the inflation pressure in your tires is with a quality inflation pressure gauge. Using your boot, a club or a hammer is not accurate, and don’t ever depend on your eyes to check tire inflation. There can be as much as 20 PSI difference between tires that look the same to your eye. Invest in an accurate inflation pressure gauge. Get one with a double, angled foot. This makes it much easier to check the outer tire of a dual set.
5. Check all of your tires on a regular basis and adjust the pressure according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Never check inflation pressure when the tires are hot, because you will get a higher pressure reading. And if you let out some air, the tires will be under inflated when they are cold.
If you have dual wheels, you’ll want to add extension hoses to the valve stems to make the job of checking tire inflation easier. It can be nearly impossible to check the inner dual without extension hoses. The best extension hoses will have stainless-steel reinforcement and external braiding for long trouble-free life.
6. Ozone in the air and UV rays from the sun shorten the life of your tires. It’s not uncommon to see motorhome tires with low mileage and plenty of tread that are ruined by the damaging effects of ozone and UV rays. Ozone in the air causes tires to dry rot and deteriorate. UV rays from the sun make it happen quicker. This is especially true of the tire’s sidewall. Inspect your tires for damage, such as cracks in the sidewalls. If you notice anything, have the tires inspected by a professional.
Also, keep the tires covered with covers that will block out the sunlight when you’re not using your motorhome. You should also place something like a piece of wood between the ground and the tires. Be sure that whatever you use is larger than the footprint of the tire. No portion of the tire should hang over the edge of the tire block. This can cause internal damage to the tire.
7. Occasionally washing your tires with soap and water is okay, but anything beyond that can actually shorten the life of your tires. Sidewall rubber contains antioxidants and anti-ozones that are designed to work their way to the surface of the rubber to protect it. Washing tires excessively removes these protective compounds and can age tires prematurely. The same is true of most tire dressing designed to make your tires shine.
Tire failure can be extremely dangerous and can cause extensive damage to your motorhome. There are no guarantees, but by practicing good tire maintenance you can feel much safer and secure that the weakest link on your motorhome will do its job while you’re out exploring this wonderful country we live in.
|RV expert Mark Polk owns RV Education 101, a North Carolina-based company that produces and sells educational videos, DVDs and E-books on how to use RVs. Mark has more than 30 years of experience in RV maintenance. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1996 as a Chief Warrant Officer Three, specializing in wheeled and track vehicle fleet maintenance operations. He and his wife, Dawn, started RV Education 101 in 1999. They travel with their two boys in a 35-foot Type A motorhome.