Tires are the single most important item on your RV. Face it, without them your RV is just a small home/storage shed.

Tires are what allow us to transport our cargo and family to wherever we want to go. They put the mobility into our RVs, whether it’s motorized or towable. Yet, as important as they are, tires are not fully understood and often neglected. This can lead to excessive wear and can create some serious safety concerns.

Air Pressure

When you think about it, the tire itself really doesn’t support anything. One look at a vehicle with a flat tire will easily tell you that. What really supports the vehicle is the air inside the tire. The air pressure fills the tire and applies pressure to the area of the tire where it meets the road, which is called the contact patch. Multiplying the contact size by the air pressure will determine what the load capacity is. For example, a tire that has a contact patch of 16 square inches will support 800 pounds if inflated to 50 psi, because 16 x 50 = 800. Increasing that tire’s pressure to 100 psi would then double its capacity to 1,600 pounds.

Age and Types

Old age is hard on everyone, and tires are no different. On your daily driver you’ll generally replace your tires when the tread is worn out. An RV doesn’t put that many miles on it, so for most RV owners that tread will seemingly last forever. Unfortunately, there’s more to tire life than tread wear. RV tires are typically replaced due to age as they weather. Just as a rubber band placed in the hot sun crumbles into a pile of dry rubber shards, your RV tires will also degrade over time.

Tire compounds are fairly high tech and incorporate special natural lubricants, which are impregnated into the rubber compounds to prevent sidewalls from drying out and cracking. These lubricants are designed to be released via the natural flexing of the tire as it is being driven. But since an RV spends a fair amount of time being parked, those lubricants don’t get to do the job they were intended for. The sun’s damaging UV rays accelerate the aging of the tire sidewall as well and the lubricants in the tread will also be wicked away if parked on a concrete or asphalt surface. Parking for an extended period of time will also tend to harden that area and flat spot your tires. So, you can see that long-term parking your RV is not the best thing for your tires. They need to be driven.

Most RV tires will have a service life of five years. However, a recommended lifespan of up to 10 years can be obtained when certain factors, such as weather, storage conditions, inflation pressure, speed, exposure to ozone, and maintenance are more favorable. Michelin recommends having your tires inspected annually after the first five years.

Fortunately, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has established a uniform tire identification code that identifies the date of manufacture so that you can determine just how old your tires are. Keep in mind that a tire on a new vehicle may be much older than when you first purchased it. The tire may have sat in a warehouse for a bit before finally being installed on the RV. When examining the DOT number for the build date, check the last four digits. The first two of these refer to the week of the year while the last two refer to the year itself. For example, a tire with a DOT code of 0610 was produced in the 06th week of 2010.