What’s the most important component of your RV?
The engine? The steering wheel?
If your vehicle’s tires didn’t come to mind, they should have. Without your RV tires, you’re not going anywhere, literally.
Of course, just like the tires on your car or truck back home, your RV tires are not designed to last forever. These rubber behemoths may look mighty, but they too will eventually wear down, especially if you log many hours on the road per year.
In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about your RV tires. This includes the various types, tire brands and costs, how to change your tire, where to store spare tires, and what wears tires down. This way, you can check the age of your tires and adequately replace them if need be.
The Types of Tires
There are three types or classes of RV tires: Class A through Class C. We’ve touched on these three classes in other blog posts in the past, but let’s take a more in-depth look into each of them now.
Class A RV Tires
Class A tires are the largest of the three classes. If your vehicle weighs between 15,000 and 30,000 pounds and measures about 30 or 40 feet, then you’re in line to get Class A tires.
Class B RV Tires
Then there’s Class B tires. These are the smallest of the three, so they’re ideal for lightweight or tiny RVs as well as some travel trailers. Class B tires can support vehicles that weigh only 6,000 or 8,000 pounds and measure 17 or 19 feet.
Class C RV Tires
Lastly, there’s Class C tires. These are smaller and weigh less than Class A tires, but they’re bigger, bulkier, and heavier than Class B tires. In short, they’re a good in-between choice. If your vehicle is 30 feet and weighs between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds, you should get Class C tires.
Which Tire Brands Are Most Popular?
Many of the same tire brands you’re already familiar when buying car tires also produce RV tires. These include Goodyear, Michelin, and Firestone. Then there are some brands that specialize in RV tires, such as Trailer King. Other common brands include Taskmaster, Sailun, Hankook, Yokohama, Samson, Cooper Roadmaster, and Deerstone.
RV Tire Replacement Costs
By this point, you know that not all RV tires are the same. Some are larger and weigh more than others depending on their class. That also means the cost of these tires won’t be the same. We’ll break down some prices from popular tire manufacturers for each class.
Class A Tire Costs
- Firestone’s Transforce HT Highway 235x75R15 104R tires cost $125
- Cooper Roadmaster’s RM253 245/7OR19.5 136M tires cost $237
- Goodyear’s G670 RV ULT LT225/70R19.5 B tires cost $376
- Michelin’s XRV 225/70R19.5 58916 tires cost $306
- Deerstone’s D902 8.75x-16.5 DS1290 tires cost $86
By calculating a mathematical average, you should expect to pay about $226 for a single Class A RV tire.
Class B Tire Costs
- Goodyear’s G670 RV MRT 245/75R22.5 B tires cost $635.92
- Michelin’s XPS Rib LT225/75R16/E tires cost $235
- Power King’s LT8.75-16.5 Super Highway LT tires cost $114.44
- Hankook’s AH11 245/70R19.5 B tires cost $292.99
- Mastercraft Courser’s LTR Highway LT225X75R16 112R tires cost $102.59
The average price for a single Class B RV tire is $276.19.
Class C Tire Costs
- Michelin’s 265/60R18 Energy Saver LTX Tires cost $118.54
- Continental VancoFourSeason 195/70-15 tires cost $116.55
- Power King’s Towmax STR III 235/85-16 tires cost $89.80
- Hankook’s Dynapro 235/85-16 H/T RH12 120S BSW tires cost $123
- Goodyear’s Marathon Radial ST225/75R15 tires cost $100
The average price for a single Class C RV tire is $109.58.
Now, these are just averages for the five tires of each class. Class A tires generally cost the most, but the expensive Goodyear Class B tires that cost about $650 pushed the Class B average up. Those are outliers. So too are the very cheap tires, like those from Deerstone, which you can typically get for under $100 a pop.
How to Tell When It’s Time to Change Your Tires
You may be wondering, how do you know when it’s time to change your tires in the first place? That’s a good question.
The U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) both produce what’s known as Tire Identification Numbers. Although the abbreviation is TIN, Tire Identification Numbers are more commonly called DOT numbers.
So what is a DOT number? It’s simply a visual representation of when the tire was manufactured.
Most DOT numbers are three or four digits, but some can be up to 13 digits. The more digits the DOT number has, the better, because it’s much easier to read the date in which the tires were made.
That’s because the DOT number manages to squeeze in the month, week, and year of manufacture, and sometimes in only three or four digits!
How do you make sense of these numbers? Here’s an explanation.
Let’s say your DOT number is only three digits long: 127. This means your tires were made the 12th week of 1997. That puts you in the third week of March of that year.
If you have a four-digit DOT number, it’s easier to determine the date of manufacture. First, you can already rule out the ‘90s as the production decade, because the Department of Transportation and NHTSA began moving away from three-digit DOT numbers as the 2000s dawned.
If your DOT number was something like 1106, for instance, that means the tires were made the 11th week of 2006. If the number is 0517, they were produced the fifth week of 2017, so early February. You get the idea.
Even if you take great care of your tires, they will probably only last you seven years. Sometimes you only get five years out of them. By deciphering your own DOT number, you can determine if it’s time to get new tires.
Changing Your Tires
If it is indeed time for a new set of tires, you can buy new ones from one of the retailers listed above. First you have to take off the old tires so you can put the new ones on, though. This can be a little nerve-wracking to do if you have never done it before, but with practice, it will become second-nature.
That said, as a word of caution, NEVER CLIMB COMPLETELY BENEATH THE RV. This can be fatal in rare instances, especially if the vehicle is suspended via a jack.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A wrench
- The new tires
Now you’re ready to get started.
First, you want to fit one jack against the back wheel and the other against the front wheel. Make sure these jacks cannot move or even wiggle.
Once you’re sure of that, lift the vehicle via the jacks, going slowly as you do so. It’s best to go in increments of three as you lift the jacks. The back of the vehicle is up high enough if the back tire and RV frame are now touching. You’ll know you’ve lifted the front of the vehicle up enough if the front tire and the RV frame now meet.
Now, first in the back tire and then in the front, increase the jacks slowly, again following increments of threes. The tires should hopefully be off the ground by this point. The best way to tell that you’ve raised the tires up enough is by doing a spin test. If the tire can spin and doesn’t touch anything, you’re ready to proceed. If not, try a few more lifts.
To take off the tire, use your wrench. There are lug nuts around the tire, and you want to unscrew each one of these. Keep them on hand, as you’ll need them to secure the new tire.
Gently remove the old tire. Replace it with the new tire, screwing it in via the lug nuts with your wrench.
Next, going in increments of three once more, gently bring the front and back wheels back to the ground. Take the jacks out.
If you’re not sure what to do with your old RV tires, you can always donate them. Tires can be used to make footballs, tire swings, and plenty of other cool stuff.
Storing Spare Tires
Perhaps you bought two tires for your RV just to be on the safe side. Can you stash the second one somewhere in your vehicle, or do you have to leave it at home?
That depends on a couple of factors.
First, there is your vehicle to consider. If your RV is much older, like say from the 1980s, then you can probably find a compartment that was designed solely to hold your spare tire. If your vehicle is from the 1990s, 2000s, or even the 2010s, though, there is rarely such a space for an extra tire.
That doesn’t mean you can’t bring your spare with you, at least in most instances. Again, though, this depends on the second factor: the size of the tire. If it’s a Class B tire, you can probably squeeze it in there somewhere, although you’d have to give up a good deal of storage space.
If it’s a hefty Class A tire, expect to unmount it and deflate it at least halfway before you can bring it along on your travels. You’ll probably also have to do the same for Class C tires, but again, this depends on the manufacturer in which you buy your tires.
Also keep in mind the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), which we’ve talked about in a prior article. This includes everything in your RV, such as the chassis, the RV body, the engine and its fluids, all fuel and water, any accessories, every single person on board (including yourself), and the cargo, including a spare tire.
If your spare tire weighs several hundred pounds, it’s possible you can disrupt the balance of the GVW. You might have to rearrange some things in your RV to accommodate for this.
If you absolutely cannot keep a spare tire on your RV, you can always bring it home with you. It’s recommended you get a wooden slab no smaller than the size of your tire. Store the tire on the wood in your garage or anywhere else where UV light is not strong (we’ll explain why later).
What Wears Down RV Tires?
After the time and expense of getting your new RV tire installed, you definitely don’t want to have to do it again any sooner than five years. By knowing what wears down RV tires and performing regular maintenance, you should be able to keep your tires in good shape for the next several years or more.
- Age, as you now know, is the biggest contributing factor to the death of an RV tire. When you get new tires, be sure to write down the DOT number somewhere. Whether you keep this information stored in your phone or on a slip of paper in the glove compartment, at least it’s somewhere. The DOT number is often obscured when the spare tire is on, making it a pain to try to read it.
- If you bought your RV used, it’s worth it to raise the tires up so you can see the DOT number. This way, you can plan for when you’re going to need to buy replacement tires.
- Don’t try to drive on old tires if they’re more than seven years old. You’re just begging for a flat.
- Watch your driving conditions. Your RV is not meant for off-roading. Avoid sticks, glass, rocks, stones, and other sharp debris which can shred even a mighty RV tire.
- Avoid driving in ice, heavy snow, dusty terrain, and rocky terrain. This too can limit the life of your tires.
- Regularly rotate your tires. By doing this every few months, you can avoid the unfortunate issue in which some tires begin to erode faster than others.
- Although it’s tempting, avoid sudsing and hosing down your tires more than you have to. Most experts say you should limit tire baths to twice annually. The tire dressing, antioxidant compounds, and anti-ozone layer not only keep your tires running well, but they provide that pretty shine, too. You can easily clean these compounds off, though, which wears your tires down faster.
- Don’t ever try to substitute tires. If your RV is a Class A, it needs Class A tires. It’s as simple as that. Class B or Class C tires may look compatible, but they’re not. You could end up in an accident.
- Do not overfill tires. Too much air pressure could lead to them exploding, which means you just blew several hundred dollars.
- Don’t underinflate tires, either. They may also explode, and plus you could be more likely to get into a crash.
- Check tire air pressure often, just like you would with your car. You can use an extension hose , an angled dual foot pressure gauge, or a simple inflation gauge for the job.
- If you have a spare tire on board, check each axle in your vehicle. Make sure one isn’t more weighed down than the others. If it is, redistribute the weight in the RV.
- When winterizing your RV for the off-season, remove all tires.
- UV rays and ozone can also ruin your tires if you’re not careful. Look for telltale cracks, which indicate tire rot. You will have to buy a new tire.
RV tires typically cost a pretty penny, about $200 each depending on whether your vehicle is a Class A, Class B, or Class C. Of course, then, you want to do the best you can to take care of your tires so you can at least get five years out of them, if not seven.
Looking at the DOT number is the first step. Knowing how old your tires are will prevent any unwanted surprises later down the road.
Replacing your own tires isn’t too difficult, but you should be sure to take it slow the first time you do it. Once you do learn how it’s done, you can drive with confidence, knowing that if you ever do have a flat tire, you’ll be able to get your RV back up and running very soon.
Of course, you may want to keep a spare tire on your RV. Sometimes there’s room for one and sometimes there isn’t. If not, you can always keep the tire at home away from the sun.
By following the above maintenance tips, including avoiding conditions which can degrade tire quality, your tires should be ready to go the long haul with you.