You are more likely to suffer from an RV tire blowout, as compared to other types of vehicles for a number of reasons. These include:
- RVs tend to carry a larger load weight (more passengers and luggage) than regular vehicles. This can put excessive pressure on the vehicle’s tires.
- RVs often travel for long distances at a time. This can make tires prone to overheating which can then lead to blowouts.
- RVs are often stationary for long periods of time when you are not going out on a road trip. Tires deteriorate faster when not being used regularly which means that tires can be more susceptible to blowout out when they are eventually used.
In this article, we will go through the steps that you can take to minimize the chances of one of an RV tire blowout when you are on the road.
When a tire is fully inflated the pressure within it ensures that the downward weight of a vehicle is applied solely to the tire’s tread (the part of the tire that comes into direct contact with the road).
When a tire falls below its optimal inflation levels, some of the downward pressure from the vehicle shifts from the tire’s tread to its sidewall.
Since the rubber that makes up the sidewall of a tire is thinner and more brittle than the rubber that makes up its tread, a tire is more prone to rupturing when pressure is applied to its sidewall.
Keeping your tires at their recommended level of inflation is therefore the most important thing you can do to minimize the chances of blowouts occuring.
The best way to keep your tire pressure in check is to make sure that you always keep a tire pressure gauge and a portable tire pump with you in your vehicle.
You want to check your tire pressure with your gauge every 2,000 miles that you drive. If the tire pressure falls 10% below the recommended inflation in your driver’s manual (this usually amounts to 5-8 Psi of lost pressure) then you should inflate them to the recommended inflation.
Remember to always check tire pressure when your tires are cool (at least two hours after driving). This is because the heat that builds up in a tire when you are driving on it will raise the pressure within it leading to an inaccurate reading.
Although many modern RVs are fitted with a tire pressure monitoring system, these often fail to pick up on slow punctures before they have deflated your tires to the point where blowouts are more likely. We would therefore still recommend manually checking your tire pressure every 2,000 miles driven even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system installed in your vehicle.
Michelin recommends that you do not drive on tires more than five years old. This is largely due to the fact that the rubber in tires naturally deteriorates over time, becoming more brittle as a result of this.
You can check the age of a tire by looking at the DOT code on its sidewall. The final four digits of this code refer to the week and the year that the tire was manufactured.
For example, if the final four digits of the DOT code on a tire was 0220, this would mean that it was manufactured in the second week (January) of 2020.
Since a tire’s most fragile area is its sidewall, you should also replace any tire that has visible dents, bulges, or scratches larger than two inches long on its sidewall.
Even fairly superficial damage to a tire’s sidewall can make blowouts significantly more likely.
Driving an RV that is too heavy puts strain on its brakes, axle, and tires.
When it comes to your RV there are two weight limits that you should be aware of and not exceed. These are:
- Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR): This refers to the maximum weight that a vehicle can safely be, including all of the passengers and luggage that it carries. You can find this on the vehicle’s driver’s manual
- Tire load index: This refers to the maximum weight that a tire can support when properly inflated. This is a double digit number followed by a letter that you can find on the outer string of digits on the sidewall of a tire. A tire’s load index corresponds to a specific maximum weight. You can find a table which shows you how load index maps on to weight here.
If you are unsure whether your vehicle is overweight, it might be worth taking it to a truck weighing station before you set off on your trip.
Driving on tires that are not suited to your terrain can raise the chances of a blowout occurring for a number of reasons.
Driving on a highway with tires that are best suited for offroading means that your tires are likely to overheat and shred. Off-road tires are thicker than standard tires and have deeper tread, meaning that too much friction builds up when driving at high speeds. This can raise the pressure in a tire to the point where it can rupture.
Similarly, general “all-season” tires are liable to punctures if driven on gravel, dirt or other off-road conditions. Driving unknowingly on punctures can make blowouts more likely.
As a general rule of thumb, here are the types of tires that you should be used according to the terrain that you drive on:
Highway travel: All-terrain tires are best for highway traveling. These are the tires that usually come as standard on your RV.
Off-road traveling: If you plan to be traveling for a significant amount of time on dirt or gravel, you should up for tires with a 10-12 ply rating. These have a thicker tread than all-terrain tires and are therefore less prone to punctures from road debris. They can still be driven on highways for short distances.
Highway travel in hot conditions: Tires are more likely to overheat if you are driving in hot conditions (over 90 degrees Fahrenheit air temperature). Therefore it’s worth using low-rolling-resistance tires if you are traveling for long distances on highways in these conditions. Low rolling resistance tires are designed to minimize the friction between the tire and the road and thereby reduce the buildup of heat within the tire.
Friction from the road causes the inside of tires to heat up, the pressure within the tire increases and this can literally cause a tire to burst.
Your tires are most at risk of overheating if you are driving at high speeds for a long period of time (the higher speeds you drive at the more friction is created between your tires and the road), and if the air temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are driving in these conditions, make sure that you do the following to minimize the chances of your tires overheating:
- Make sure that your tires are fully inflated. Driving on underinflated tires greatly increases the amount of friction that is created between your tires and the road.
- Take at least a half hour break for every 2 hours of driving to let your tires cool down.
- When you take a break from driving, try to keep your vehicle off tarmac that is in direct sunlight as this will prevent tires from cooling down, even when stationary.
Again, if you anticipate driving in hot conditions for large parts of your trip you may want to consider kitting out your RV with low rolling resistance tires.
As we have mentioned earlier, the rubber in tires naturally deteriorates over time and becomes hard and brittle.
This process, known as “dry rotting” is exacerbated by tires being stationary. This means that if you go months without using your RV then dry rotting can be a problem that contributes to a greater risk of tire blowouts.
There are ways that you can store your RV when it is not being used that slows down the rate at which dry rotting occurs. These include:
- Keeping your vehicle out of direct sunlight: UV rays can speed up the dry rotting process. You should therefore keep your vehicle out of direct sunlight if you are storing it for a long period of time.
- Keep your vehicle in a cool dry area: Excessive heat, cold, constant exposure to wet, and rapid changes in temperature can contribute to the dry rotting of tires. Keeping your vehicle indoors in an area with some sort of temperature control should slow down the dry rotting process.
- Keep your vehicle away from ozone emitting appliances: Exposure to ozone speeds up the dry-rotting of tires. Common home appliances that sometimes emit ozone include fridges, freezers and washing machines. If you have these appliances in the garage where you store your RV then try to keep your vehicle as far away from these as possible.
Taking your RV out for a quick drive once a month while it is in storage will also go a long way to slow down the dry-rotting of its tires.
Tire blowouts are not that common, and although RVs are more susceptible to them than other types of vehicles, following these tire care best practices should make the chances of you suffering a blowout on the road very remote.