RV Tire Safety
with RV tire expert Roger Marble
This is a summary of a discussion I had on an RV Forum on tire pressure that started with a question and some comments.
Question: “I’ll give my take on maybe why we have travel trailer owners, motorhome owners that never had a TT, TT owners that moved up to a MH, MH owners that act like they still own a TT – maybe there is another I can’t think of right now. The point is, tire pressures are figured differently between the RVs’ owners involved. I have friends that own motorhomes and suffer blowouts all the time and their tires look good at the pressure they are using and not a Run Low Flex Failure that will most likely cause a blowout. Maybe Tireman9 will answer some of the differences between tire pressures of travel trailers and motorhomes to clear up some of the misconceptions people have.”
Here is my answer to the broad question:
Yes, the proper inflation for a motorhome and a “towable” RV are different. There is actually strong science behind why there is a difference. This blog post is a short explanation. You can read the technical info here.
The other issue is that some folks just do not want to hassle with vehicle maintenance required with RV ownership. They are used to cars that have thousands of man-hours of engineering design, testing and development to make those vehicles extremely reliable.
Some of us are old enough to remember that when we learned to drive we were taught how to change a tire, as 10,000 miles was good tire life. Many probably learned how to change oil or adjust a carb. Some even knew how to set the engine timing and change a set of spark plugs. Nowadays it’s hard to even see the plugs but with their life now at 50,000+ and the ignition computer controlled and many tires good for 40 to 60k miles, who needs to know how to maintain a car?
RVs have a number of systems that do need maintenance. The tires on RVs are an outlier. While top tier tire companies use essentially the same rubber compounds and tire building equipment, this blog post explains the concept of “tiers” in the tire industry. If you have a MH you will probably recognize the brands and names of the tires on your RV.
However, if you have a “towable,” and by this I mean both 5th wheel and more basic “travel trailers,” many of you probably have tire brands that don’t even fall into the 5th tier level. Some of these off-brand tires may not have a lot of up-to-date engineering built into them, but IMO the main problem is the selection of tire size and load/speed capacity made by the RV company.
Again IMO, many RVs are sold based on low cost but the unit has lots of “bling.” I don’t think I have ever heard of a salesman touting the benefits of the tires that come on an RV. I doubt that many even know the size or maybe even the brand provided on the various units they sell.
So the bottom line is that tires on RVs need more maintenance than the tires that come on cars, partially because of their usage but also because there is such a small margin of extra capacity provided based on the tires being undersized to keep costs down. Maybe if RV companies spent more, or even some, time evaluating better options, i.e., had better quality for the tire sizes and type they offered, the incidences of tire failure on RVs would be less frequent, just as they are less frequent on today’s cars.
Read more from Roger Marble on his blog at RVtiresafety.net.