Have you ever wondered why RV tires fail? Have you ever experienced a tire failure or seen something like this happen on the highway? Maybe you know of someone who has.
This person probably thought everything was good. They may have checked the tire pressure a couple of trips prior to this one and maybe even checked for tire damage. Now they’re wondering “Why do RV tires fail?”
Well? Some of the reasons might surprise you.
Before we get into this post I should let you know that there are some Affiliate links to products associated with this post. If you click on any of these links and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission and there WON’T BE ANY EXTRA COST TO YOU.
We all know that air can escape from a tire if something punctures it causing a slow leak. That is probably the most common reason for losing air. Sometimes that puncture will cause an immediate blowout. Nobody likes those.
And of course, there is the attack “POTHOLE”. Who hasn’t encountered at least one of those? They can cause some serious damage not only to tires but rims as well as other more serious outcomes.
Side Note for Pot Holes: If you have actually hit a pothole but have not experienced an immediate blowout, take a couple of minutes to check your tire/s for any bulges. If you’re not sure if there is damage go to a tire center right away and have them check them out.
Another reason could be a loose valve stem or an improperly installed rim which causes a slow leak. This kind of leak could happen over a period of weeks or even a couple of months.
When this slow loss of air occurs or the tires are underinflated, it causes the sidewalls of the tire to flex more than they were designed to under normal conditions. This flexing causes extra heat to build up in the rubber and if enough heat is created in the sidewall by that flexing it can cause the core to melt.
In the case of Class A RV steel-belted tires, that flexing can cause the belts to break, kind of like the way a piece of wire breaks when you bend it back and forth. This back and forth motion creates fatigue in the wire and it eventually breaks. The steel belts start to separate from the tire and “BOOM” you have a tire failure.
Tires are like Clocks?
Here’s the thing, and I don’t know many of you might already know this, (I didn’t until I started researching the issue), but tires are made from organic material. That’s right, it comes from a tree and is always changing its structure, its chemistry if you will.
Think of a clock, one of those wind-up type that you can adjust to go faster or slower. Tires are a bit like that clock. The higher the temperature gets in that tire the faster the tires clock ticks.
This means that 2 years in Las Vegas, where temperatures can reach into 100+ degree range for many days in the late spring and through the summer, would be the same as 5-10 years in a place like New York City where temperatures are much cooler for most of the year.
This can happen even if they are just sitting in the sun. It’s very hard to tell what condition and how much life is in a tire just by looking at it.
That’s why, if your not sure about how much life your tires still have, you should get them checked by an expert. Preferably a store that sells that particular tire and, even better, one that is owned by the tire manufacturer. Let them do a full inspection of the tire/s.
The dealer may say they are OK which means they might be good for another year. If that’s the case, get them checked BEFORE the end of that year and every year thereafter if your tires are 5 years old
Another Side Note: No matter what your tire looks like or how much tread they have on them, they should be totally replaced after 10 years, (maybe only 5 if you’re living in Los Vegas or another hot spot). You really don’t want to push it any further than that according to the tire experts.
Sorry, another Side Note: My owners manual says that tires deteriorate over time even if they are not used or driven on. This deterioration can cause tires to fail even when there is no visible sign of damage. Lack of use, overloading, and under-inflation can cause tires to deteriorate faster. While there is no hard and fast rule or expiration date on tires, most experts recommend replacing tires every 4 to 6 years depending on use and climate. (I added hi-lights)
The Surprising Part?
What this all comes down to is that there are many RV’rs out there driving around putting hundreds or thousands of miles on their RV tires and many of them aren’t properly maintaining them.
- Lack of protection from the sun – causes the rubber to decompose faster
- Too much pressure – uneven tire pressure and added stress on the sidewalls
- Low tire pressure – or too much creates uneven tire wear and sidewalls to flex
- Driving faster than the recommended limits of your RV tires – heats up the tires faster
- Too much weight load on the tires – increases tire pressure and sidewall flex.
All of these contribute to early tire failure. In my research, I found that most experts agree that tire failures happen because of user errors/mistakes like tire pressure and too much stuff in their trailer. This may come as a surprise to you but more than 50% of trailer owners do this.
I don’t know the name of the company but they have been travelling around to various RV shows and conventions since 1994 or so, putting together data from 1000s of RVs. Owners have brought their RVs to these events and put them on the companies scales (each individual axle) under each tire, getting the real weight/load and checking the tire inflation and, as I said, 50% of all those they tested had one or more tires or axles that were overweight.
When that happens, the aftermath can be horrendous and it could all be avoided with a few simple steps.
How many RVs did they check? Well, I couldn’t find that number but, over a fifteen-year period that would have to be at least in the ten’s of thousands. That means that at any given time there have to be thousands of RVs on the road that have too much weight in them and they are a tire blowout just waiting to happen.
Today is July 29 th. I just learned this today. According to a survey done by the RV Safety Education Foundation, 40% of all RV’rs go 6 months or more before checking the air pressure on their tires. They also say that 1 in 4 RV’rs run on overloaded tires, they carry too much weight.
That means that 1 out of every four trailers or RV’s you see on the road are overloaded and 4 out of every 10 haven’t checked their tires in 6 months or more.
That’s really bothersome to me. Does that bother you as well? It should.
Folks, I know I’m being rather blunt here but, we have to check our tires and NOT carry so much weight. These are just accidents waiting to happen and people are going to get hurt, or worse, KILLED. Do you want that responsibility? I don’t.
I know his sounds harsh but these are our family members and friends that we might have in our vehicles. WE are responsible for them and their well-being if we are driving.
As RV’rs we need to be more diligent about checking the condition of our tires, making sure they are properly inflated, not over the load limit and the lug nuts are tightened to the correct torque rating.
Towing and Speed
First a question. Have you ever been driving down the highway in your RV and another RV fly past you doing – 15 MPH over the speed limit? Well, you might be surprised to know that it happens all the time and it’s dangerous.
Do you know why it’s so dangerous? It’s dangerous because tires have limits to how fast they can be driven.
Most of us who own trailers know how to tell one tire from another but, for those who don’t here is a shortlist of the tires used on different RV’s.
- ST tires – Special Trailer Most trailers are equipped with these
- LT tires – Light Truck For pickup trucks.
- P – stands for Passenger. For passenger vehicles (not including trucks)
I’ll talk a little about the others but I want to focus on the Special Trailer tires in this segment. Load limits for these tires are based on a maximum speed of 65 MPH. (Keep this in mind) These maximum speed ratings were established when the maximum speed LIMITS on the highways were only 55 MPH. This gave some margin for safety purposes under normal inflation and load conditions.
These ST tires are typically classified as either a J or K speed rating and are installed on pretty much all travel trailers and some smaller 5Th wheels.
There are other ST tires that have higher speed ratings, such as an L rating of 75-mph or an M rating of 81-mph.
LT and passenger car (P) tires are rated at higher speed ratings so I’m presuming that many people think they can go faster for that reason. However, this is far from true. If your ST tires are rated for 65 MPH it would be better if your max speed was only 60 MPH.
Think of it this way. If you’re travelling with your travel trailer to a destination you have probably already reserved. Make sure you leave with plenty of time to get there. That way, your trip will be less stressful and you will be in a better frame of mind for getting settled in. The whole idea of going on vacation is to relax. Part of that should be a relaxed road trip to get there, right?
60 MPH will get you 300 miles in about 6.5 hours (traffic and potty stops included). Add an extra 5 MPH to that might decrease that by, what, maybe 20 min and, 70 might save you another few minutes. But, is it worth the risk of a blow-out to go that much faster and risk losing your rig and endanger the lives of your family? I don’t think so either.
And, by the way, you’ll save on gas as well.
The next time you see someone in an RV sitting at the side of the road fixing a flat ask yourself, “Were they going too fast?” Judging by the evidence, the chances might be pretty good.
What about Class A Motorhomes?
Tires for Class A Motorhome tires have a maximum speed rating of 75 MPH.
I want to reiterate what I said earlier about the study that was done by the RV Safety Education Foundation.
The Recreation Vehicle Safety Education Foundation has stated that on average, 25%, of all the RV’s weighed, have loads that exceed the recommended capacity of their tires. What surprised me when I read it was that this extra weight is, on average, as much as 900 pounds.
Apparently, Bridgestone conducted their own separate study and also found that at least one in four tires, out of every five RVs, had under-inflated tires.
If you’re a Class A RV owner, when did you last check your inner duels? Have you ever had your RV weighed?
As I said previously, it seems that we, for the most part, take our tires for granted. Overweight vehicles with under-inflated tires make it more expensive to run your rig.
Tips For Better Tire Safety
I’ve covered a lot of stuff here and offered up some reasons behind tire failure. Some of them may have surprised you. There is a lot more information available so I’ve included some links below to a couple of websites that you can check out.
There is probably way more information than you need but I think they are worth checking out just so you know that I’m not just offering my own opinion. This is important stuff and I want you to be safe.
I may have already lost a few of you but for those who have stuck around, I applaud you. I want to bring it all together and give you a list of things you can do to assure less risk of tire failure and major damage to your RV and to those you love most. I hope it all makes sense to you. So, Here we go.
- Always check your COLD tire pressure before leaving on a trip and TOP THEM UP IF THEY ARE LOW. Check BOTH the trailer tires and your tow vehicle tires. This goes for all classes of Motorhomes as well. If you’ve been driving for a while and want to check them, let them cool for a couple of hours first. Hot tires are going to have a higher temperature. This is normal so don’t let the air out of a hot tire. You will end up being underinflated.
- Check them for any visible cracks or other tire damage like nicks and cuts in the tire walls.
- Use tire covers when not using your RV. They really do work to prevent deterioration of tire rubber. The time clock on a tire exposed to the sun is running 4X faster than the one that is covered.
- If you can afford one, I highly recommend purchasing a Tire Monitoring System. They will save you a lot of time AND stress. Most come with a low-pressure warning.
- If you’re not sure about the condition of your tires, have them looked at by a reputable tire dealer, preferably one that is owned by the particular tire manufacturer
Note Concerning Tire Covers: The owner of RV Safety.com did an experiment on his own RV tires. He left one tire exposed to direct sun lite and another tire had a tire cover on it.
The temperature was about 90 degrees in the sun. The covered tire was only one degree hotter than the cover, maybe 95 F. The exposed tire was 136 F. That’s a huge difference.
Do you know? I had never heard of this term until I watched a video done by “The RV Wingman”. If you haven’t heard of him, I suggest you check out his YouTube videos.
The video was a segment about these so-called “China Bomb” tires and inspired me to learn more about tire failures and write this article. Check out the video below.
Well, it sounds like many people have heard this term “China Bomb” and many also have a hard time believing that anything good could come out of China. The truth is, Tires are made all over the world.
According to Roger Marble at tiresafety.net, Three of the major tire companies in North America, Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear, are producing tires in more than 50 countries and each of these companies are producing tires in China.
So maybe the question should be, “Is it reasonable to believe that one country or another is responsible for all the bad tires on the market?”
Check out this link for more info on this subject. Even though this article was written back in 2012, I believe the information would still be accurate for today. Standards may have changed a little since then but that’s part of the science behind tires and can only make their safety better.
Let’s Wrap I Up
I’ve written a lot of stuff here about why tires fail and stuff we can do to help avoid this kind of thing from ever happening. Not that it won’t but If we can do just these few things that I listed earlier:
- Check the tire pressure before each trip. All tires… Truck, trailer, motorhome, the tow behind
- Check for wear and tear
- use tire covers
- purchase a tire monitoring system
- have them checked by a tire professional if you’re not sure
These steps only take a few minutes and can save you hours of downtime and give you added peace of mind in the process not to mention a much more relaxed vacation and happy memories with your family and friends.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and have learned a few things about tires you didn’t know before. I know I have.
If you have any questions or comments about this post or anything else on this website, just leave them in the comment section below and I will be glad to answer back, usually within a day or two.
We really need to be diligent about our tires so, please check them often and have a safe and amazing camping trip and always DRIVE SAFE.
Thanks for hangin in there folks. Maybe I’ll see you in a campsite somewhere,
Owner and writer for rvsafetytipsandtricks.com
Information for this article was researched at these sites: