The danger of underinflated RV Tires

 The danger of underinflated RV Tires

Do not drive with underinflated RV tires! We have some critical advice to save you lots of grief.

One of the most important but neglected parts of your RV: your tires. There is nothing more frightening than having a tire blow out while you are driving at highway speeds. Studies show that more than 30 percent of us drive with underinflated RV tires.

In an RV it is dangerous. 

Here's a video version of this article that we posted on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel, showing the items we mention.

If tire pressure is too low, too much of the tire's surface area touches the road, which increases friction. Increased friction can cause the tires to overheat, which can lead to premature wear, tread separation, and blowouts.

Underinflated RV tires lead to tire blow outs

underinflated RV tires are dangerous. This tire blew because it was under inflated.
Check your tires.

I just came back from LTM Truck and Trailer in Pontiac, MI, the place where we have our Class C Leisure Travel Vans Wonder motorhome serviced. I had a slow stem valve leak on my outer rear passenger side tire that I had them repair.

It's hard finding repair facilities with doors tall enough and lifts strong enough to handle the weight of an RV. I asked Tim Marriott, the owner, how big of a problem underinflated tires are, particularly on an RV.

He took me out back and showed me a blown tire that had just been removed that morning from a Jeep. “The tire pressure warning system activated and showed a low air pressure warning,” said Tim. “Less than 3 minutes later, this is what happened. It completely blew. It hadn't gone more than a half-mile and there wasn't even time to pull over.

If that had been on an RV, there could have been really serious problems, like loss of steering control, swaying, even a fire.”

Tim Marriott, LTM Truck and Tire

I told Tim we had planned to do a story on the problems of underinflated RV tires. “It's a very big deal,” he said. “A serious safety issue”

To avoid underinflated RV tires, check the pressure regularly

So the first thing we need to talk about is knowing what your RV tire pressure should be, and then what it is.

What it should be is supposed to be prominently displayed on a sticker on the driver’s side doorjamb of most Motorhomes.

The danger of underinflated RV Tires 1
To know what your tires should be inflated to, check the sticker on the doorjamb of the driver's side door.

The simplest way to know their current state is with a tire pressure gauge. The experts tell us we should all get in the habit of regularly checking our tires, especially when starting a trip. 

Get a TPMS System

to avoid underinflated rv tires get a TPMS like the Tireminder
A Tire Pressure Monitoring System helps you avoid underinflated RV tires

Clearly, a tire pressure gauge belongs in every RV.

But there is a better way. You should consider having what is known as a TPMS—- a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

Some RVs come with them built-in as standard safety equipment. We’re lucky, on our Leisure Travel Vans Wonder we have one that came as standard safety equipment and displays a readout we can check at anytime to get realtime status reports on all six of our tires.

If a tire gets too low, it sounds an alert and flashes a message, showing which tire is underinflated.

But if you don't have a TPMS as part of your RV, there are DIY kits that are so easy to add that we really want to recommend you seriously consider getting one.

A while ago I did a video review for RV.com and I showed the Tireminder 77-6. The six is for 6 tires, but you can get a system that will handle up to 22 if you tow a fifth wheel or trailer.

It's wireless. You screw sensors on the valves of each tire. Each is battery-powered. And they transmit to a receiver unit both the pressure and the temperature in each of your tires,

You can mount the receiver with a suction cup anywhere in the RV. This system is expensive – $429 – but if you don't already have a TPMS in your RV, this is what you want.

Here's the video review I did:

To avoid underinflated RV Tires, invest in a portable air compressor

You should never drive your RV if the tire pressure is more than 15 pounds under the suggested setting, except in an emergency and for very short distances. Be safe and know your tire pressure.

That's why we invested in a portable air compressor. You never know when a tire is going to get low.

The air compresdor we have is the Viair 40047-400P RV model. The RV means it is made for RVs and the unit is powered by jumper cables that attach to the battery of your vehicle.

It comes in a sturdy canvas bag and has all the accessories, including a hose, inflators, and a pressure gauge. It is very easy to hook up and operate. 

The unit costs $314 and while there are certainly less expensive models I chose the Viair because of all the positive reviews I found from other RVers. For us, the peace of mind we have in knowing we can always have properly inflated tires wherever we are makes the cost a wise investment. 

If you do break down, use emergency flares

There’s one more item we want to recommend should you get a flat or somehow be stuck on the side of the road — Hokena LED Road Flares.

There are 3-flare and 5-flare kits to choose from and all the lights are very bright. You can set them to flash, send an SOS or display a steady light.

You can even use them as a flashlight. The company says they can be seen for more than a mile.  

They come in a compact case and the kit also includes two mylar emergency blankets and a rescue tool that can break automotive glass and cut seatbelts. The cost is $35.

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

5 Comments

  • Interesting post. I rented from Cruise America back in April in Las Vegas and my tire pressure indicator light illuminated. I headed for the neared gas station and found the offending tire. My 80lbs tire was less than 60lbs. I pumped it up to 70 (that’s as high as the automated pump would allow) I called their hotline to report it and they saw no urgency in it only being 10 lbs under and in fact said I could continue to drive with much less.
    I shudder to think what could have happened. I took it in to get checked and found the tire had continued to deflate due to a bad valve stem. Most renters are ignorant of such things and trust CA to give them correct advice. I hope other renters see this article and advocate for themselves and take precautions to get tires fixed before their journey.
    Thank you!

    • We purchased a brand new RV in January and our TWO rear driver side tires and wheels flew off the Jayco Greyhawk RV while driving it about 55 mph. You might want to mention torquing the lug nuts since we were told that is why the lugnuts sheared off. Fortunately we weren’t killed but knowing that you are expected to know about torquing tires AND having a torque wrench seem to be something an RV Center might want to tell their customers before they drive off the lot, especially newbies like ourselves that had never driven an RV ever before. Tires are rather important, inflating AND torquing.

  • Mike, Glad you talked about low air pressure! My Dad always said; “Tires and brakes are your life!”. I believe the best way is to actually check each tire yourself (unless you physically cannot) regularly! Those TPMS are not always accurate. Even the factory ones on cars are a false sense of security! Case in point, that Jeep you mentioned. Air gauges are cheap and you can use them often. I check prior to every trip and about every other overnight stay before we leave. It also means you can visualize the tires! Keep this in mind! Thank you!!

  • Thanks Mike great article. My problem is the different advice on TP. Airstream repair guru says 68 perfect though tire says 80. He said the stiffer ride is hard on the trailer components. Then on my RAM2500 tire says 80 but hubby wants 60 for softer ride when not towing. Another person says 60 up front 80 in back when towing. Another question my new RAM always has a TPMS warning on one or two tires but TP ok. So much confusion.

  • What if pressure on tire is different than the listed on the camper

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