Nothing deflates the fun of a road trip faster than a flat tire. While it may be intimidating to think about changing a tire on an RV, it’s really not much more involved than changing a tire on a car. Just like any other emergency, the best advice is to prepare before a crisis happens. Everything else, you can handle step by step.
1. Find a Secure Place to Pull Over
When you notice a tire is going flat, you may be tempted to ride it out to the next stop. Don’t. Sometimes, what seems like a slow leak can turn into a full-on flat quicker than expected, and driving on a flat can cause structural damage to your wheels. We recommend pulling over at the first secure place you find—somewhere flat with enough room that you can pull all the way off the road. Avoid stopping on an incline or a decline; gravity is not your friend. Look for steady ground, staying away from mud or rocks that may shift under your jack. And of course, always set out appropriate markers to let other drivers know you’re servicing your vehicle. Cones and flares both work to let people know to slow down for your safety.
2. Loosen the Nuts on Your Flat Tire
Before you put your ramp jack in place, give your lug nuts a quarter turn or so to loosen them. You want your tire securely attached, but it’s helpful to loosen any stubborn nuts before you raise the tire off the ground. Over time, driving or professional servicing can result in lug nuts that are difficult to turn, and it’s easier to give them some extra elbow grease while the wheels are securely on the ground.
3. Pull Onto a Ramp Jack
Place your ramp jack behind a nearby wheel on the same side of your vehicle as the tire you need to remove. Then drive onto the ramp jack to lift your flat tire off the ground, making it easy to remove. Note: if your RV has independent suspension, you may need a higher ramp jack than you think. And it always helps to have a standard jack on board for back-up or secondary support, just in case.
If you have a travel partner, it helps to have them get out of the vehicle and guide you into position for this part. Be sure to engage your parking brake once your RV is in position.
4. Secure Your RV With Tire Chocks
Place tire chocks on the opposite side of your RV from the flat tire. This will help ensure the RV doesn’t roll inadvertently when you’re changing your flat. An RV that rolls or shifts isn’t just an inconvenience, it could potentially cause grievous injury or death. (Not the preferred way to end a trip, clearly.)
5. Remove Lug Nuts and Old Tire
Once your vehicle is on the ramp jack and your chocks are secure, remove all the lug nuts on your flat tire. Keep the nuts someplace secure—somewhere they won’t roll away, scatter or blend in with a similarly-colored background. We recommend putting them in a baggie, a pocket, even a hat. Just contain them somehow so you don’t lose any, especially if the light is low. With the nuts off, remove the flat tire and set aside for now.
6. Replace With Your Spare
Remove your spare tire and place it on the wheel where you just took your flat from. Store your flat where you got your spare to save space elsewhere. Replace your lug nuts and tighten them until they’re securely in place. Then tighten them a little more.
Note: Always check your spare tire periodically to ensure it’s inflated to the proper level and ready for service if you spring a leak. Over time, spares can lose their inflation, and we can’t think of anything worse than removing a flat tire only to discover your spare is also flat. When you’re doing basic maintenance checks on your RV, take an extra minute and check the pressure on your spare.
7. Remove Chocks and Drive Off Ramp Jack
With your spare tire secured in place of your flat, remove the tire chocks from the opposite side of your RV. If you’ve used a secondary jack alongside your ramp jack, remove that as well. Then, start your engine, release your parking break and drive slowly off the ramp jack. Have someone grab the ramp jack, or engage your parking break again and retrieve it before you drive off. Fingers crossed that you won’t need it again for a long, long time!