Motorhome Wheel and Tire Maintenance
April 8, 2011
Filed under Tech Tips
Proper tire maintenance is an essential part of a safe and worry-free RV trip. Michelin reminds drivers that tire safety starts with good tire maintenance. Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that more than one-quarter of all private vehicles ride on at least one substantially under-inflated tire, with nine percent riding on at least one bald tire.
Sudden tire failures can be dangerous. Michelin produced an excellent video for the RVIA called “RV – The Critical Factor” about how to handle a blowout safely. You can see it on the Michelin website or watch it on YouTube.
How should you keep your tires in shape? Michelin suggests the following:
Proper Tire Pressure
Here’s how to determine what pressure to run in your motorhome’s tires. The tire-inflation pressure needs to be matched to the load on each corner. First, the individual wheel weights must be measured on a scale. Then refer to the tire maker’s website or literature regarding inflation. Each manufacturer provides load and inflation tables specific to its products to help you determine the correct tire-inflation pressure for your vehicle’s loading. Check with your local tire dealer if you need further assistance.
Inspect Your Wheels
Inspect tires monthly – knowing what to look for is only useful if you actually take the time to look. Get in the habit of frequently inspecting tires for proper inflation, damage or wear. If something doesn’t look right, take your car to a tire dealer for closer inspection. Whenever tires and wheels are changed or rotated on a motorhome, make sure the lug nuts are properly torqued at the time of installation, and rechecked at several short intervals (approximately 100 and 500 miles) after the coach is driven.
Many motorhomes, even brand-new ones, have wheel alignment that is out of specification. This can result in tires that are quickly worn crooked and ruined, and that are not covered by the tire warranty. Get your wheel alignment checked, especially if the coach pulls to one side or the other, or if the tires show any signs of uneven wear upon close inspection. Have your motorhome’s front wheels re-aligned when you buy new tires, if you notice uneven wear or if it has been awhile since your last alignment. A suspension that is not aligned properly can wear out new tires after only a few thousand miles and adversely affect fuel mileage.
A tire-tread depth gauge is a simple, inexpensive and useful tool for monitoring the tires on your motorhome, dinghy and other vehicles owned by the family. It can be purchased for just a few dollars at most tire and auto-parts stores. Tread depth is shown in units of 1/32 of an inch on these gauges. Measure the tread depth near each edge and in the middle of the tread, and record these figures for later reference. Regular inspections can detect front tires that are wearing crooked from misalignment, even before the problem would be noticed by visual checks. This may save an expensive set of tires from being ruined. Check state laws for minimum tread-depth regulations. Use the tire-tread depth gauge to make certain that all your tires are above legal limits.
For more detailed tire maintenance tips, see our feature article RV Tire Maintenance.