Tire care for RV owners in 7 easy steps
With all the online debate about tires, pressure monitoring systems, and the mystery of how to change a trailer tire, we're not surprised that most people feel it’s a confusing subject—and avoid it. It’s less intimidating to simply think “I’ll call roadside service when there’s a problem.”
But trust me, speaking as long-time RV travelers, we can say that you do not want to end up in a situation where you’re waiting for someone else to come cure a tire problem. Usually it means a long wait in a place you don’t want to be, and sometimes there no help to be had at all because you’re out of the service area or there’s no cell signal.
It’s really simple to take good care of your tires and avoid problems on the road. The trick is to build tire maintenance into your routine. Here’s how.
- Make sure you have the right tools on hand to do these things:
- check air pressure
- change a tire
- inflate a tire, and
- identify a problem before it gets serious.
Keep these tools in your RV all the time so you never can forget to pack them. Read on, and you’ll see exactly what you need.
- Before every trip you take, check the air pressure of all the tires.
You can do this with a simple air gauge (obtainable at any hardware store or general merchandise store like Wal-Mart).
But I prefer to just turn on my TST Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and let it verify all the pressures for me while I’m doing something else. This is the easiest, most accurate, and most efficient way possible. If any of the tires need air, the TST system will let me know on its digital display. I highly recommend this system.
Tires have a rating for the amount of air pressure when they should have when they are “cold” (measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI). "Cold" means before you start towing. This is why you want to check the pressures while you’re getting ready to go. A tire pressure monitoring system like TST makes that easy, because it shows you all the tire pressures at once, automatically.
If the temperatures have dropped in your area recently, or you’ve changed altitude during your trip, you may find that the tires need a little more air in the morning to reach 80 psi. That’s why I make the next recommendation…
- Have an air compressor in the RV at all times.
It’s a real pain to search for a gas station with an air compressor in an unfamiliar town. That’s why I always carry a portable air compressor and an extension cord. I can add a little air to the tires anywhere, anytime—and that’s a huge convenience.
Look for them at auto parts stores, hardware stores, and general merchandise stores.
- While you’re preparing your RV for a trip, do a visual inspection of the tires.
You may see a problem that can be fixed before you go. For example, look for objects embedded in the tires (a bit of gravel is normal in the treads, but a screw or nail has to be removed and patched).
You might also notice that the tire tread is getting thin, the sidewalls are cracking, or the tread is worn unevenly. These are all signs that there’s a problem or it’s time to get new tires.
- During your trip, take a moment to look at the tires again at every rest stop.
You’re checking for the same things as in step #4. It only takes a minute, and making this a habit will pay off some day.
- If you have a flat, make sure you have all the tools needed – even if you’re not going to change the tire yourself. Roadside assistance may not be equipped to change a trailer tire.
- Make tire inspection a systematic part of your pre-departure checklist.
The tire care checklist below is the one I use before every trip. Print and keep it handy for your next trip.
RICH'S PRE-DEPARTURE TIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST
_____ (Night before departure) Plug in TST Tire Pressure Monitoring System to top up its charge.
_____ (Morning of departure) Turn on TST & allow 5 minutes for sensors to update.
_____ Visually inspect tires for damage or wear. Look for -
____ Uneven tread wear
____ Embedded nails, screws, etc.
_____ Verify that you've got tire tools in your rig. These include -
____ Complete Tire Changing Kit
____ Portable air compressor and extension cord
____ Levelling blocks
_____ Check tire pressures on TST:
____ Top up any tires to "MAX PSI COLD" as indicated on the sidewall of the tire
____ Check tire pressure on the spare tire, with a gauge (if it's not equipped with a TST sensor)
_____ If any wheels have been removed in the last 100 miles, check lug nut torque with the torque wrench.