Check your Tire Pressure

It may be the most effective use of time you can spend in maintaining your RV. The few minutes it takes to make sure your tires are adequately inflated can greatly reduce the chances of tire failure as you’re traveling, and will assure the best performance from your tires.

Under-inflated tires are a major concern. Studies regularly show that up to one-third of all vehicles has at least one under-inflated tire.

There are several reasons for this widespread problem. Radial tires, now used on nearly all-personal vehicles, are much less likely to “blow out” when punctured by a nail or similar small sharp object when compared to older bias-ply tires with tubes. But they can leak very slowly; you won’t notice the loss by casual observation.

Another reason is the disappearance of service station attendants. The days of getting your tire pressures checked with a fill-up are long gone. You need to take matters into your own hands.

Air pressure is what lets your tires support the load of your RV. Air pressure and load-carrying ability are directly related: Higher pressures allow your tires to carry heavier loads, up to the maximum weight limit indicated on the sidewall.

RV manufacturers make sure the tires they select for their trailers and coaches are rated to handle the maximum rated load for the vehicle. They may also have recommended tire pressures that take into account weight differences between the front and rear axles. Sometimes different pressures are recommended front-to-rear to enhance ride or handling qualities, but tire pressures must always be the same from side to side.

Air pressure makes a big difference. An ST205/75R14 tire, which is a popular size for many trailers, can safely carry 1,950 pounds at 60 psi, according to a Goodyear specification sheet, but only 860 pounds at 15 psi. Because radial sidewalls bulge even when they’re inflated to maximum pressures, you can’t tell simply by glancing whether that tire is properly inflated.

So here’s what you need to do:

1. Know the weight of your rig when it’s loaded. Make sure it’s less than the maximum weight rating listed for the vehicle, and for your tires. If it’s overloaded, you must reduce the amount of gear you carry or get higher-capacity tires. Do not run over the maximum allowable weight for your RV and for the tires, ever.

2. Get a high-quality tire gauge. The new digital ones are accurate and easy to read. Some truck and trailer tires require far higher inflation pressures than passenger car tires — as much as 100 psi or higher for big coach tires. Be sure you have a gauge that meets your needs.

3. Know the recommended inflation pressure for your tires and load.

4. Check air pressures when the tires are cold, before the vehicle has been driven.

5. Check air pressures frequently. And while visual observations aren’t a replacement for using a gauge, get in the habit of always glancing at your tires every time you approach your vehicle to see if any look low. Remember you can pick up a nail 50 feet after you last checked your tires.

6. Use valve stem caps. They protect the valve stem and help retain air.

7. Fix leaking tires. It’s not unusual for tires to lose very small amounts of air pressure over time. But if you’re frequently adding a few pounds, the tire’s leaking and it needs to be fixed.

For more information: Tire manufacturers Goodyear and Michelin both have detailed information on RV tire selection and care at their websites: www.goodyear.com and www.michelin-us.com.

 

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