When was the last time you gave your caravan tires love?
These large rubber behemoths can be many times larger than the average car tire, but they are still likely to have the same problems: under-inflation, over-inflation, low pressure, puncture, and other external damage.
Changing and replacing your vehicle’s tires can be tedious due to their bulk, but it’s something you will need to do as a motorhome owner. As this work often involves lifting your vehicle on jacks, it is essential that you prioritize your safety.
In this article, I’m going to tell you exactly how to safely replace your caravan tires. I will also review many other areas where tire safety is important, such as tire inflation, tire pressure, blowout prevention and tire storage during the off season.
There are two ways to inflate the tires: a good old air compressor or a nitrogen system. Let’s talk in more detail about these two methods.
Air compressor inflation
This is the simplest and fastest option, mainly because your air compressor must already be somewhere in your vehicle. This means that you don’t need to go and buy a separate air compressor, unless yours is broken. How practical!
What is practical is not always the best, it must be admitted. Using an air compressor for tire inflation is an acceptable option, but entirely acceptable. Your engine must be running the entire time the air compressor fills the tires, which can take some time. The time it takes, combined with the release of exhaust fumes and all the noise, is a deterrent.
In addition, you will not always get correct tire pressure readings, as air compressors can cause pressure fluctuations.
System swelling with nitrogen
This is why portable air inflation systems such as nitrogen systems are more attractive to many recreational vehicle owners. You can choose from nitrogen systems of several sizes, such as:
An 88p compressor that reaches 120 psi (PSI) on 33 inch tires
A 300P compressor that can reach 90 to 150 PSI on tires of 34 inches and more
If necessary, you can even get a 400P nitrogen compressor.
The other advantages of nitrogen compressors are their ease of use and their silent operation. You will also make far fewer shows with one of these systems.
Can tires filled with nitrogen be used safely?
Perhaps your main question about nitrogen tires is about their safety. Can these tires be used safely?
If you’re worried, it’s probably because you think of nitrogen as more of a chemical. After all, when in liquid form, nitrogen is a popular ingredient for vehicle coolant. In its gaseous form, however, nitrogen is a natural substance. It has no smell or color.
You will find nitrogen in the air. In fact, according to Popular Mechanics, the air includes portions of argon and neon (noble gases), large portions of carbon dioxide and water vapor, little oxygen (about 21%) and especially nitrogen (78%).
If you use it properly, you can safely inflate your motorhome tires with nitrogen rather than oxygen.
In fact, some experts even recommend using nitrogen exclusively for filling tires. There are several reasons for this.
The first is humidity. Water vapor in the tires can cause corrosion and / or rust on aluminum and steel rims when moisture builds up. You will also face more frequent changes in the internal temperature of the tires as well as variations in pressure.
When you use your standard air compressor to fill your tires, the chances of moisture getting into the tires increase. For nitrogen-filled tires, there is a purge and fill method that removes excess water and oxygen.
It’s no secret that the tire temperature will not be constant. Tires can be cold when not in use, but as soon as you hit the road, they warm up quickly. When this happens, the air from your air compressor in the tires also becomes hot. This is because oxygen seeps into the rubber of the tires much faster than nitrogen. This could again change the tire pressure. With tires filled with nitrogen, there is less risk of pressure variations.
What is a 10-ply tire?
Each RV tire has what is called a load range or thickness. In the rest of this article, I will call this term only “load index”.
Okay, what is carrying capacity? These are the tire inflation limits based on the maximum vehicle load. If this load exceeds the limit, the tires may explode or deflate.
Now, each caravan tire also has its own plies. This total of folds does not contribute to the fold rating in any way. It may be a little confusing, but be patient.
At the time, tires were made with layers of cotton instead of rubber. At that time, the ply ratings counted the total number of plies in the tire to determine the tire resistance. This is no longer the case today, in all respects.
First of all, ply assessment has more to do with the load, as I mentioned. Second, the tires are no longer made of cotton. Could you even imagine if they were?
Unfortunately, all the terminology of the past has not completely disappeared. For example, if you know what you’re doing today about the tear resistance index, if you have a 10-ply tire, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that it has 10-ply? Yes, but it is not always true.
The heaviest tires have 10 plies, but in reality they may have up to three plies. The standard is usually two. Some tires even have a single layer.
If you want 10-ply tires, because they are the strongest, can withstand the heaviest loads, and can withstand high pressures, these tires do not have 10-ply. It’s just an old terminology that has remained. This does not make these tires weaker, but it is not the most accurate term.
Tire pressure test
Knowing how important tire pressure is, how can you make sure your tire is in the right place?
I recommend that you first consult your owner’s manual. There you will find the recommendations for maximum inflation pressure. If you cannot find the information there, check the certification label of your recreational vehicle. You can also contact the manufacturer of your RV directly and ask for it.
In most cases, each tire has a different maximum pressure. The recommendations are based on the tire load, which varies from tire to tire. This is why you should always rely on the information in your owner’s manual rather than assuming you know the right pressure.
Do not exceed the maximum inflation pressure recommended by your manufacturer. You could overinflate the tires, which would cause a myriad of problems. The overinflated tire will wear faster than the others. It will also have less traction since all this additional pressure pushes on the tread and the sidewall. In the worst case, the tire can even explode.
Maintaining too low a pressure, whether intentionally or accidentally, is also disadvantageous. Treads can fall apart, wear and tear can occur, and once again the tires can explode. Too much friction occurs when the under-inflated tires rub against asphalt or other driving surfaces.
You only need a basic pressure gauge to check the tire pressure. To get the most accurate reading, your tires must have been inactive and have a lower temperature. If you have driven more than one kilometer in your vehicle, you will need to wait for the tires to cool before checking the pressure.
Otherwise, hot or warm tires can cause the PSI to rise higher than it actually is. You could get an inaccurate reading of 10 to 15 PSI.
Knowing this, you could theoretically test the tires when they are hot, then subtract 10 or 15 to get your pressure. However, the reading will not be entirely accurate. It is really better to wait and then check the pressure.
It is recommended that you make it a point to check the tire pressure of your recreational vehicle every month. Once you’re on the road, start each day with a pressure check. Before the offseason and immediately after, you should check the tire pressure again.
Replacing your tires
Ultimately, the tires on your current recreational vehicle will disappear to the point of no return. This may be due to improper use or simple wear. In the latter case, you may have to wait four or five years before needing new tires, but it will happen.
How to remove your old tires and put new ones on? In this section, I will explain you step by step. I advise you to be as careful as possible when replacing your tires. Never go under your RV as it could fall on you and the results could be catastrophic.
Also, apply your emergency brake before removing the old tires and keep it in operation until the new tires are installed.
Recommended items and tools:
An adjustable wrench
New tire (s)
Recreational vehicle outlets (two)
Step 1: Park your RV in an open space where you can have full access to all sides of the vehicle.
Step 2: Install your emergency brake.
Step 3: Grab your first jack and place it against the front wheel. The jack must be placed against the chassis of the vehicle. Otherwise, it is not secure.
Step 4: Do the same with a rear tire.
Step 5: Start lifting the rear tire so that it does not hit the ground. The jack must be pressed against the chassis of your vehicle.
Step 6: Repeat with the front tire. Continue to inflate it three times beyond where the rear tire is located.
Step 7: Reassemble the rear tire three times.
Step 8: Repeat pumping for both tires. If you can turn the tire all the way without touching the ground, then the tires are high enough.
Step 9: Starting with the first tire, remove the lug nuts with your wrench. Don’t throw them out!
Step 10: Place your new tire in place of the old one, screwing it in with the old tire’s wheel nuts and your wrench.
Step 11: Repeat with the other three tires if necessary.
How to avoid tire bursts
Two of the main ways that your recreational vehicle tires can burst is to under-inflate or over-inflate them. I mentioned the dangers of these two sections above. By checking your tire pressure regularly when it is cool or cold, you can ensure your tire pressure is ideal before the start of each adventure.
It is not enough to keep tires healthy on the road, as there are other ways to cause blowouts. If, for example, your tires are older and you haven’t had them checked for a while, you can never be sure that the tires are healthy enough for long-term or even short-term driving. It is recommended to have your tires inspected every 90 days.
The weight you put on your tires could also harm them. If you have too much load, the tires cannot support it and sag under pressure. If you cannot distribute the weight correctly, the tires that support the most weight may also burst.
If the tread of your tires is old or worn, this is another sign that a blowout may be imminent. To determine if you need new tires based solely on the treads, try the coin test. Take a 25-cent coin or a penny and insert it into the grooves of your tires. The piece should stand straight. If it can’t, it’s because the tread is too worn for you to keep driving.
Know the ABCs: The Meaning of the Letters on Tires
If you look at the tires of your caravan, you will see a series of letters and numbers. These letters and numbers may vary from tire to tire in your vehicle. What do these letters and numbers mean? Is it worth learning them or can you just ignore them?
You should absolutely not ignore them. Letters and numbers give you a lot of valuable information about your tires. Let’s decipher them now:
B: B, D, and R are all types of tire carcass construction. B refers to the bias of the belt.
D: another letter referring to the construction of the tire carcass. In this case, it is a diagonal bias construction.
DOT: The DOT number is an abbreviation for the serial number of the United States Department of Transportation. It can have three or four digits. If your tires were manufactured in 2000 or later, it will have four digits. If they were manufactured before 2000, there will be three figures. The figures refer to the week and year of manufacture of the tires. The week is in the first digits and the year in the last two. Remember, it’s the week, not the month. Thus, 05 refers to the fifth week of the year (late January or early February), not May.
H: An H on your tire is part of a maximum speed classification. You can see the letters A to G, but the most common are H and following. They tell you how fast you can drive without damaging the tires or risking them to burst. In the case of H, it is 130 miles per hour (MPH).
P: If you have a passenger tire, it will be marked with a P. In this case, P does not mean “passenger tire” but rather PMetric.
Q: The maximum speed is 100 miles per hour (MPH).
A: To return to the construction of the tire carcass, R designates the radial construction.
S: The maximum speed is 112 MPH.
T: 118 MPH is the maximum speed.
U: 124 MPH is the maximum speed.
V: 149 MPH is the maximum speed.
W: 168 MPH is the maximum speed.
Y: 186 MPH is the maximum speed.
Z: 187 MPH and more is the maximum speed.
How to keep tires in good condition during storage
When the time has come to winterize your vehicle, it is recommended to remove your tires and keep them in stock during the low season.
You can’t put them anywhere. Be sure to store your recreational vehicle tires in an indoor environment that is free from drafts and direct sunlight. The space should also be dry, cool and clean (no grease, oil or moisture).
Most tires can withstand water, ozone and exposure to the sun, but the rubber does not last as long. If you store your tires indoors as described above, you extend their life.
You can do more to keep your tires in the best possible condition. Here are a few tips :
Keep snow, sand and other reflective surfaces away from your tires. They will wear out faster.
In addition, heat absorbing surfaces can be just as damaging. This means that your tires should not be covered with asphalt.
Make sure that the space in which you store your tires is free of ozone generators such as electric motors.
Do you have a warmer winter? It is very good. Make sure your tires are at 15 PSI pressure.
This way, when winter finally arrives, the tires will have some pressure to lose.
Remove your rims if possible. If not, check the tire pressure and make sure it is 10 PSI.
It is recommended to use poly bags for each tire. The bags should not be completely
translucent. When used properly, poly bags can prevent most damage from ozone and oxygen.
If you store more than one tire, put them on top of each other. Make sure the tires are evenly placed.
When maintaining an RV, it is always important to put safety first. By filling your tires with nitrogen rather than oxygen, checking the tire pressure often and knowing what is causing them to burst, you can prevent them from suddenly bursting.
You will have to change your tires at some point. With the use of jacks, it is not difficult to raise your RV to the correct height, but you should always be careful not to injure yourself. Finally, by storing your tires in the right way, you will know that you can count on them in the spring.