Worried that tire dealers and manufacturers are exaggerating when you need to replace motorhome and trailer tires? Well, here's when to replace RV tires according to real, experienced RVers…
When to replace RV tires is a very common question in our community that has a very important answer. An answer that can not only save you a lot of money in the long run, but a big headache, too. Not to mention it directly affects your safety!
A member of our RV Lifestyle Facebook group addressed this question recently. He offered sound (yet not all-encompassing) advice:
“If I can offer some advice to newbies, or just new to this group. Go replace all your tires tomorrow, I don't care how old they are, how good they look, how much tread they have. If you did not put them on there, just do it. You're welcome. “
While Bradley's advice may seem drastic, it's based on a sound foundation. I'll explain why in this article, as well as cover the exceptions. Hint: the key phrase is “if you did not put them on.”
If you buy something through our links, we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps keep our lights on so we can continue to provide helpful resources for RVers. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
Learn From Others' BAD Experiences
Bradley didn't explain why he lives by this advice, but it's easy to assume he learned the hard way. It's easy to assume that because many people shared why they agree with Bradley in the nearly 150 comments.
Granted, plenty of people disagreed with him, too, but I'll address their good points down below. First, I want to share several of the comments that further explain or express the reasoning behind Bradley's strong recommendation.
Steve frankly outlines why you shouldn't necessarily trust the tires that came with your trailer (either new or used):
“So many trailer tires are garbage. Heat kills tires, they heat up from being overloaded, going too fast and just hot roads. A lot of trailer tires used to be only rated for 65 mph. There is a difference in quality between manufacturers.”
Stuart explained why you can't just go by age or tread of the tires:
“Actually, even if you put them on, and at some point ran them 30% or more below PSI for weight, replace them. That is the problem with trusting older tires from a prior owner or owners. You have NO IDEA of how often they were run at 80 psi or even flat and they are totally compromised and WILL blow out.”
Next, I'll share a horror story from Cindy and her NEW 2021 5th wheel:
“Yes blew 3 tires and ruined 2 rims on our 2021 new 5th coming back from Arizona back in June ended up buying 14 ply all around.”
How the Following Info Can Save Lives (& Already Has!)
Before getting into the deeper explanations of when you should replace RV tires, I want to share an email that we got from a reader since the publishing of this article. He wrote:
“[This] tire article about changing tires after several years quite possibly saved our lives and our 26 foot Sprinter Coachman. It had top of the line Continental Tires with only 10,000 miles… but they were 8 years old. After reading [this] article, I took the rig down for inspection. There was a bulge on the outside wall, ready to blow on the front passenger tire. Thank you…”
We are so glad (& humbled) that he took the information in this article to heart and proactively prevented a potential disaster. We hope that the following information will do the same for you.
(**At the end, we also tell you how to survive if your RV tire does blow out while driving!)
When to Replace RV Tires
The rule of thumb for changing your RV tires is around 3-5 years. If you peruse the Facebook post's comments, you'll see the consensus from RV owners leans to the 5-year end of that estimate. However, that rule of thumb only applies to quality tires that have been well cared for.
If you are driving on tires that you did not put on, you may not know the following:
- The quality of the tires
- If the tires were overloaded by a too-heavy RV
- If the tires were underinflated
- If the tires were extensively exposed to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight
All of the above can drastically affect the durability of RV tires without affecting their appearance. So, they may look like new tires with little tread wear, but that can be deceiving. Actually, they can even be new tires with no tread wear and still not be safe or reliable!
So, even if there's no dry rot, serious signs of wear or uneven wear, or obvious damage to the tire sidewalls, that's no guarantee you won't end up with a blown tire.
(By the way, if you don't know already, you should read about the Danger of Underinflated RV Tires.)
How to REALLY Know When to Replace RV Tires
As many commenters pointed out, it could be wasteful to blindly follow Bradley's advice. After all, some new and used RVs come with high-quality tires that received the proper care and were always driven at the proper tire pressure.
So, Bradley's advice should encourage you to carefully consider your RV's tires along with the following information…
Check the DOT Number
As many commenters shared, you can look at the DOT number on your tire to determine its age. A DOT serial number communicates a lot of information in a short series of numbers.
DOT Numbers Represent the following in order of their grouping on your tire:
- DOT (Department of Transportation)
- Tire manufacturer / plant code
- Tire size code
- Tire manufacturer
- Date tires were made (1st two numbers are week, 2nd two are the year)
Research the Type of Tire (& Quality)
Based on the second and fourth DOT number groupings, you can research the quality of the tire. Most tires usually have the name of the manufacturer engraved on the rubber, too.
A general rule (that a lot of RVers like to shout from the rooftops) is to replace any tire made in China. These types of tires have earned the dramatic nicknames of “Chinese bombs” and “Chinese poppers”… and for good reason. Chinese brands seem to blow more than any other.
Tip: You can even go as deep as researching the RV manufacturer and if they're known for tire blowouts.
Determine the Age of the Tire
By looking at the date code (the last four digits of the DOT), you can determine the age of your tires. If any tire is beyond the 5-year mark, this is a big tick on the “replace” side of your “Should I replace my RV tires” chart.
If your trailer or motorhome tires are less than 5 years old, and especially less than 3 years old, you can further consider the other factors in this article.
Ask the Previous Owner
If you're buying used, it's a good idea to ask the previous owner about their maintenance habits. Of course, you have to take what they say with a grain of salt. It's human nature to make it sound like you did a better job taking care of something than you actually did. But at least you can get an idea.
Questions you can ask:
- How often did you check the tire pressure?
- How much weight did you usually carry?
- Did you ever carry any particularly heavy loads on a long road trip?
- Did you use tire covers when you stored your RV?
- Did you often travel at high speeds?
The best way to ask these questions is to preface it with a “no judgment” disclosure. Start with something like, “I'm only asking the following to determine when I should replace the tires in the future. There's no judgment on my part… I just need to know for my own safety.”
For the most honest answers, you should ask these questions after you've settled on a price.
NOTE: Many new RVs sit on the sales lot for a long time. So even new RV tires can be exposed to too much heat and underinflated before even leaving the lot.
Best Tire Tips for Storing Your RV
Now that you know what factors to consider to determine the realistic life of your tires, I want to leave you with some tire winterization tips. The experts at Kenda Americana Tire and Wheel were nice enough to provide me with the following tips.
(*Note, we are not affiliates of Kenda Americana Tire and Wheel. We just appreciate their helpful advice.)
RV Tire Tips for Short-Term & Long-Term Storage
1. Visually inspect the tires before putting them into storage and again when getting the RV out of storage before the tires are back on the road. Look for any irregularities and differences or foreign materials in the tread that should be removed, such as stones or other types of debris.
2. Store the RV in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight if possible.
3. If storing the RV outdoors, place a surface barrier like a thin piece of wood or metal under the tires to separate them from the ground. This will help protect the tires from the elements while stationary over long periods of time. It also will help them not to sink with the weight of the trailer as the ground freezes and thaws.
4. If possible, lift the stored RV up off the ground to take the load off the tires and wheels. Jack stands, or lightweight trailer axel lift blocks, are great for this task.
5. Cover tires to reduce exposure to sunlight and ozone. White coverings will reflect the sun and keep the tires cooler than darker covers. Specially designed tire covers work best for this task, but so can white plastic trash bags.
6. Keep in mind that stored tires can lose air pressure and in two ways:
– Temperature: No matter the brand, tires can lose ~1.5% of air pressure per 10°F with temperature changes. Tires are subject to the “Ideal Gas Law” which simply means that as the temperature changes, so does air pressure within the tire – in other words, cold air contracts while warm air expands. So, it’s vital to check tire inflation when the tires are cold prior to use and re-inflate tires to their proper pressure as per the placard on the RV (or the original paperwork) before putting them back into service.
– Sitting static: Tires lose about 3% inflation pressure per month while sitting around inflated and not running (at constant temperature). Again, re-inflate the tires to proper pressures before putting them back into use.
Taking the time to prepare your RV or trailer before you store it for the winter can help protect your investment for the long haul.
3 Products That Help Maintain Your RV Tires
Like what you see in these videos? We'd appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!
It's time to talk RV safety, specifically your tire maintenance. Even if you only use your RV or 5th wheel occasionally you want to make sure your tires are road safe to avoid any damage or blowouts. We share our tips and favorite products to keep you safe while traveling.
No matter how well you take care of your RV tires, you should know how to respond if your RV tire blows while driving. All of the above information will help you minimize the chance of a blowout, but it can't guarantee you'll never experience one. Plus, other factors besides bad tires (like road debris) can cause blowouts.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of RVers losing control of their RV when a tire blows. We’ve seen the scary images of flipped RVs and shredded motorhomes.
But you shouldn’t be scared. You should just be prepared and know what to do if your tire blows while driving.
We’re going to walk you through what to do in the moment, and how to prevent it in the first place. IMPORTANT: what you should do is counterintuitive. So, please keep reading by clicking here…
Get the Home Study Course today and worry about the road, not the repairs!
Every time you move your RV it's like driving through a hurricane during an earthquake. Parts break and many items need to be maintained, this program will show you how you can save time and money by gaining the confidence to take on the majority of the issues you’ll come across. Don’t get caught with your RV in the shop! Learn how you can maintain and repair your RV at your own pace and at the most convenient time for you! This course is produced by the National RV Training Academy.