Kicking RV Tires: How to Buy with Confidence
RVs are our home away from home. But as anyone who’s ever owned a home knows, they need maintenance. So, it’s no surprise that RVs do as well. And the tires are critical. Your tires are what keep you on the road. They’re what let you get away from it all. Without tires your RV would be, well, just an R. Buying tires for your RV is a little more complicated than buying tires for the family car. So, what do you do when your RV needs new tires?
Read the writing on the sidewall.
How do you know when you need new tires? One obvious way is to find out that one of your tires has gone flat while in storage and you can’t seem to get it pumped up again. A slightly less obvious sign that your tire or tires, should be replaced is cracks in the sidewall. Any time you see cracks in your sidewall, you need to get right on that. And if one of them has cracks, you can pretty much bet your britches the others do, too.
But what about the age of your tires? Do you know how old they are? If you bought your RV new, then you can be pretty sure the tires are new, too. But if you bought it used, then it might seem like a guessing game. Unless you know about the DOT number on your tires—that can tell you almost exactly how old they are.
The DOT number is a four-digit number on the sidewalls of your tires. The DOT number always starts with the letters DOT and then ends with either a three- or four-digit number. That number is your key. The last two digits will be the year your tires were made and the first two (or one) will tell you the week of that year. So, if the last four digits read 1815 that means the tire was made in the 18th week of 2015. Now, if your tires are older than five years, you really need to think about replacing them.
Sometimes it’s not its age that does in a tire, but instead its usage. If you like to travel a lot with your RV then you should check the tread wear at least every 90 days. Just use the simple coin test. Grab yourself a quarter or penny, and fit it into the grooves of your tires. The coin should stand straight up. If it can’t, then the treads are too worn down to continue driving.
Gaining traction in your buying decision.
Decisions, decisions. When buying new tires for your RV, there’s a lot you need to consider—including price. Tires for an RV aren’t cheap. They need to support a lot more weight than a car, so they’ve got to be built extra strong. And because of all the weight, they tend to heat up more than car tires when traveling down the road. While we’ll leave it up to you how much you want to spend, we do want to leave you with some standard advice that you’ve probably heard time and time again: You get what you pay for.
How much weight are they rated for?
Make sure the tires you buy are going to be able to handle the loads you’re going to be carrying. If you buy a tire that isn’t rated for the weight you’re going to be putting on it, then it’s not only going to wear out faster, it will also stand a greater chance of getting a blow out.
You also need to take into consideration not just how much your RV weighs, but also how much stuff you’re going to put in it. It’s the overall weight that you need to be buying for.
How much traction?
Now think about how much traction you’re going to need. Where are you headed on your travels? Do you do mostly highway driving? Are you a boondocker? Are you headed up into the mountains, where the roads tend to be curvier? Are you going to be using your RV all year long? If so, you will probably be encountering inclement weather, possibly even snow and ice, and that means you’re going to need an all-season tire.
Take all these factors into consideration when you’re deciding what kind of traction you’re going to need. Tread pattern can help with traction, but so can the compound the tire is made from.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you do your shopping at a legitimate tire store, odds are, while this blog post may make you a little more tire-savvy than most, you probably don’t know as much as the person behind the counter. Tell him or her what kind of RVing you do. Describe how much stuff you like to take with you. Detail everything you can think of about where and when you like to travel. Then listen to their suggestions. Then you’ll be ready to make a smart purchase.
Where smart buyers tread.
You’ve got numerous choices when it comes to places to shop. And one of those isn’t the local junkyard. Used tires can’t be trusted, so don’t do it. That being said, here are some places where you can trust that the product you’re getting is high quality.
Tire vendors like to attend RV rallies since RV tires tend to get worn more quickly than other tires. Good news: here’s where you can easily go from one to the next to compare prices.
Costco or Sam’s Club
Of course, you have to be a member, but the cost of that compared to what you can save is negligible.
A truck tire dealer
Generally, truck tire shops have the widest selection of tires that will work with RVs, since trucks and RVs tend to use the same kinds of tires. This is especially true for Light Truck (LT) tires.
Shops like Walmart, Sears, Discount Tire, and others may be worth checking out as well.
Of course, the biggest name in RVs has RV tires.
Don’t blow it
So, there you have it. If there’s one thing to leave you with when it comes to tires, it’s this. A blown tire can do a lot of damage to your RV. Not just the wheel well, but the trim as well. In addition to that, a blown tire can cause an accident, which is even worse. So, do yourself and all the other drivers on the road a favor and don’t skimp. Being frugal is fine. You don’t have to buy the most expensive tires available, but don’t buy the cheapest either.
For a complete look at RV tires—with no hot air—check out the RV Tires Buying & Maintenance Guide. Then you’ll really be ready to roll!