Trailer Tire Care
How to I care for my trailer tires?
There are two factors that affect tire life: proper application and good maintenance.
For most of us choosing the right tires for our travel trailer, fifth wheel or cargo trailer is easy, we use the tires installed by the manufacturer. However, while the tires installed by the manufacturers may be adequate, they may not provide a sufficient margin of safety if the trailer is loaded to the maximum GVWR.
To know if your tires are the right ones for your travel trailer, fifth wheel or cargo trailer it's important to compare the fully loaded weigh of your trailer to the weight rating of the tires. Ask your trailer tire dealer or the trailer tire manufacturer for a weight rating chart for your tire brand and model. Most manufacturers also have these charts on their web sites.
When it comes to maintenance, keeping your trailer tires inflated to the proper pressure is the most important thing you can do to insure their long life. Follow the guidelines in your trailer owner's manual if you have one. If you don't have an owner’s manual then asked an expert, either a good tire man or your trailer service tech.
The maximum pressure allowed for a tire is embossed on the side wall. That's the maximum pressure when the tire is cold. It's okay for it to be over that by as much as 10 psi if tire pressure is checked while hot. However, always check air pressure when tires are cold for accurate reading. The proper pressure for your RV tire may not be the maximum tire pressure. The right pressure is determined by the weight carried by each tire on the RV and the pressure recommend by the tire manufacture for that weight.
Running a tire in an over pressure condition will cause uneven tread wear. Running a tire in an under pressure condition will also cause uneven tread wear and can cause damage to the side walls of the tire.
Keep in mind that a tire can lose as much a 1 psi per month and as little as 5 psi can make a difference in the load carrying capacity of a tire. So, it's especially important to check and adjust your tire pressure before taking your rig on that first trip of the season. Then check tire pressure once a month.
Improper inflation pressure isn't the only thing that can cause unusual tread wear. It may also be caused by a mechanical problem such as wheel alignment, a bent wheel or an unbalanced tire. If you spot unusual tread wear it's time to see a mechanic. If you're not sure what you are looking at is unusual then check with a mechanic or tire shop.
The amount of tread on a trailer tire is not the best indication of the its condition. While some people put lots of miles on their rigs and may actually use all the tread on a tire most of us don't get to travel that much. Our trailers may never wear all the tread off our tires before they need to be replaced.
Ozone and UV Rays
Ozone is the biggest natural cause of tire failure. Ozone is a gas which causes the rubber to become brittle which results in surface cracks which, over time, become wider and deeper.
UV Rays can also deteriorate the tires and cause dry rot cracking. Keeping your tires covered and out of direct sunlight is the best method of avoiding this, but you can also use products such as 303 Aerospace protectants. Tire manufacturers typically recommend that the best treatment for your tires is to simply keep them clean with regular soap and water.
If you do use tire dressings they should not contain petroleum products or alcohol.
Long Term Tire Storage and Care
Long term tire storage, or storage of seasonal use recreational vehicles requires special preparations.
Trailers should be raised on blocks, so weight is removed from the tires. Storage should be in a dry, cool, sealed garage.
If blocking is not possible, tire pressure should be increased 25% from inflation required for the loaded vehicle. The trailer storage area should be level and well drained. Care should be taken to avoid prolonged tire contact with petroleum based substances: oils, fuels and asphalt. This can be accomplished by placing cardboard or plywood between all tires and storage surface.
The trailer should be moved every three months to prevent flat spotting and ozone cracking at the tire sidewall flex point. Flat spots usually disappear, when the tires warm-up, after a 25+ mile drive. Flat spotting, which occurs on vehicles not moved for six, or more months may not disappear.
Tires on travel trailers, fifth wheels and cargo trailers stored outdoors, should be protected by opaque covers to prevent damage from sunlight.
Tire Repairs and Your Trailer Tire
All repairs to your trailer tires should only be made by a tire professional using only RMA approved materials and procedures. Any tire containing a repairable injury must always be removed from the wheel, thoroughly inspected and if determined to be repairable only be repaired by properly patching the inside of the tire and filling the injury channel. Refer to RMA tire repair procedures.
One Last RV Tire Care Tip:
If you use leveling blocks under your tires the blocks should be large enough so the entire foot print of the tire will fit on them. If you have a dual wheel axle both tires must be completely supported. If you have a multiple axle trailer the tires on the side being raised should be supported equally.