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Your RV’s tires are the only connection you have to the road below you while barreling down the interstate. Choosing the correct tires for an RV is vital to have an enjoyable time while on the road traveling and camping as well as when storing it for the off-season.
So, how do you choose the right RV tires? To begin selecting the right tires for your RV check the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Then you can do further research based upon what the manufacturer of the RV recommends such as:
- Choosing the correct tire size
- Choosing the correct weight rating
- Choosing the correct sidewall strength
- Choosing the correct load rating
There are also other things to consider when choosing an RV tire that fits your budget while still giving you a safe and smooth ride. This guide will give you recommendations and much more to guide you to the correct tires for an RV.
Choosing the Correct Tire Size
RV tires come in a variety of sizes depending on the wheel diameters and widths used by the different manufacturers of the vehicle. For any size tire, the higher the load range (ply rating), the more weight the tire can carry safely. The amount of weight depends on the inflation pressure plus the size and construction of the tire.
First and foremost, know what type of vehicle the tires will fit well. There are huge differences in size requirements for a travel trailer as opposed to a motorhome. To find the manufacturer specifications for the vehicle, search for a placard on the wall behind the driver’s seat in a Class A motorhome and in the front left corner on the exterior of a travel trailer or 5th wheel. In a Class B or Class C RV, the placard may be located in the glove box, on the gas tank hatch or inside the driver’s door jamb.
Always use the size of the tire recommended by the RV manufacturer’s manual or placard and follow them carefully. Ignore those who say that the recommendations are too restricting. The size of the tire is crucial to the safety of those occupying the RV as it rolls down the road.
It’s worth checking the size of tire currently installed on your RV but make sure to cross check it with the placard. You never know if the former owner actually followed the proper tire size recommendations.
If you are unfamiliar with how to read your tire size it’s usually found in the form pictured below, for example, 205/45R17.
In this example the section width is 205mm, basically how wide your tire is when you look at the tread. The sidewall aspect ratio is 45 which means the tires sidewall height is 45% of the section width. So the tire above would be 92.25mm from rim to tread.
The R is commonly thought to mean rim but it is actually an indication of tire’s internal construction. An R means the tire is a radial tire versus a D which would be diagonal or bias. I’ll cover this more later.
The last number in the tire size is the rim size. In our example the inch rim size is 17 meaning the diameter of the tire and the wheel or rim would both need to be 17 inches to fit.
Choosing the Correct Weight Rating
Overloading an RV isn’t only hard on tires; it can turn deadly on overstressed tires going down the interstates at high speeds. RVs come in many sizes and shapes, so each one will have different manufacturer recommended weight ratings.
A good rule of thumb is to remember that the cumulative maximum load capacity of the tires of an RV should meet or exceed the maximum load rating for the RV listed in the manual .
The maximum load rating includes the total weight of the vehicle, fuel, cargo, passengers, and any other objects that add weight to an RV. Also, it isn’t just the tires that need to meet the above requirement. The rims or wheels the tires are mounted on must also be able to meet or exceed the rating.
Stick with name brand tire size charts because generic ones found on the internet may not be correct and buying an RV tire that is too large or too small can become dangerous. Many brand charts offer useful information that can help in the decision on which tire to purchase.
Choosing the Correct Sidewall Strength
Sidewall strength is how well a tire resists punctures and tears on the side of the tire. The sidewall strength is typically the number of plies extending into the sidewall, tread design, and tread pattern down into the sidewalls. The greater the sidewall strength, the more the tire will not flex, even at lower pressures.
When choosing a tire, determining the tire’s sidewall strength is important because different RV manufacturers suggest different air pressures to inflate the tires. It is vital to remember that the pressure on the sidewall cannot meet or exceed the pressure stated on the tire because that is the maximum pressure allowable. Keeping the pressure a little lower will help the tire handle the weight of the RV better.
The listed tire pressure on an RV or in its manual may be completely different than what you might think, but those measurements are meant to be taken when the tire is cold, not after it has been on the road a while.
Choosing the Correct Load Rating
At one time, the load rating or load range was how much air a tire could hold and the weight it could carry safely within it. The higher the load rating, the more weight capacity of the tire. Since RV tires, like all tires, were made of rubber and cord layers (plies), more plies meant the more weight that tire could handle.
Today, manufacturer’s manuals define load range as the tire’s toughness and maximum allowable air pressure, not its composition. To find the load range that is right for your RV, check the manual and placard of your RV to find to correct load rating for your particular vehicle. Then check your current tire’s sidewall to find the letter indicating the load range to see if it’s correct.
The ply ratings are designated with alphabetic lettering from A-N, excluding I and K, to prevent confusion. The earlier the letter in the alphabet the lower the maximum allowable pressure and the lower the ply rating. Meaning A would have the least amount of plys and lowest allowable pressure and N would have the greatest amount of plys and highest allowable pressure.
Other Things to Consider When Choosing Tires for an RV
Although finding the correct tires for an RV can be very frustrating, a little research can equal a lot of money saved and danger avoided.
Other considerations when choosing RV tires are:
- Maximum weight limits of each
- The terrain that will be traveled
- The weight of the load that will be hauled
- The climate (hot or cold) the RV will travel through
Considering this information will determine the size and rate of tire you should choose to make the decision of which tire to purchase much easier.
Tires Determine the Quality and Safety of the Ride
Because tires determine the quality and safety of the ride, it is important to make sure that your RV is equipped with the proper tires. For instance, if you are planning on navigating rougher terrain, you will need to purchase tires for your RV that are made to do so. Having the proper tires helps to make your ride safe and enjoyable.
The size of the tires is one factor you must consider. If you purchase tires that are too small, you can have issues with your ride; it can become rough even on smooth roads and highways. This can cause a dangerous blowout.
Additionally, tires that are too large can also put you in danger of a blowout. If the tires are too large, they will rub against your RV while you are driving. This causes odd patterns to wear into the tire and increases your chances of a blowout.
To learn more about why RV tires blow out and how to prevent it, read our detailed article here.
Discounted, used, or cheap tires may seem like a good idea for your bank account, but they can make your RV ride very dangerous. You want to make sure that you purchase well-built tires from reputable manufacturers. In addition, you want to check to make sure there are no recalls issued for your tire before you purchase it.
When considering the safety and comfort of your RV ride, tires may be the last thing you think about; however, good tires are crucial for the quality of your ride. Be careful when choosing them, and make sure you equip your RV with strong tires that will last.
How to Tell What Tire Size is Correct for an RV
Tire sizes rely on the wheel diameters and widths to determine which tires are correct for different RVs. The size of the tire is found on the sidewall of the tire, and they consist of either single or dual tire ratings depending on how many axles you have per side.
The first lists the max load for a single axle in either kilograms or pounds. The maximum pressure is also given in kilograms or pounds along with the word cold. The second row tells the same information only for a dual tire situation.
For instance, if the first row reads 2830 LBS AT 550kpa (80 PSI) COLD, it is translated that the tire will carry 2830 pounds of weight at 80 pounds per square inch inflation as measured while the tire is cold. The second row would tell the same information except for a dual tire arrangement.
Knowing how to choose the correct size of the tire is vital to finding those that will safely tow an RV or be on the RV itself for a smooth and uneventful trip.
Considering the Load of an RV When Choosing Tires
Choosing the best RV tires to purchase for an RV can be a little tricky because most owner’s manuals do not take into consideration how much stuff you can cram into an RV. This includes food, equipment, and clothing.
There is a max weight that a tire can handle without bulging or blowing out, and considering these maximum weights is crucial to maintaining your safety in your RV when it is loaded.
Some vital information to know that can change which size tire is chosen for an RV is knowing how the cargo will be distributed. Knowing this will give an idea as to which tire to purchase.
This information includes:
- Keeping the cargo balanced
- Keeping the cargo secured
- Keeping the center of gravity low
Choosing the right tire for an RV depends heavily upon the knowledge its owner has of these three important tips.
Choose RV Tires by Becoming Aware of How Much Weight Your RV Can Manage
While RVs are large, they are only capable of carrying a certain weight. Knowing the weight limits of your RV and matching your tires appropriately is important to prevent damage to them because overloaded tires will squat, making them vulnerable to bulges, bubbles, and blowouts. There are several ways to determine the maximum weight of the RV and cargo:
- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
- Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
- Tongue Weight
- Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
When you purchase an RV, you should be informed about the gross vehicle weight rating (GAWR) of the vehicle. This number tells you how much weight your RV can hold. There are two types of GAWR that are measured for an RV, and they are:
- Dry Weight: the weight of the RV without any oil, water, coolant cargo, passengers, or fuel
- Curb Weight: the weight of the RV with everything inside of it
If you have an older RV the GVWR should be found on the same placard you found your recommended tires size.
While the dry weight might be interesting to know, it is much more important to know the gross vehicle curb weight. Meaning, how much your RV weighs when you are fully loaded, including passengers, fluids, food, etc. Having too much weight inside your RV can be very dangerous to you and others on the road.
The best way to find the curb weight of your RV is to get your vehicle weighed. For specifics on how to weigh your vehicle, head over to our article about Sizes of Motorhomes, specifically to the weight section, this link will take you there directly.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
The gross axle weight rating (GAWR) is the maximum weight each axle of your RV can safely take. This rating will help you load your RV properly so it’s important to check this one as well when you are getting weighed at a scale.
An improperly loaded RV can quickly max out the allowable load on the axle and tires. Best case scenario this leads to uneven tire wear, worst case scenario a tire blow out and accident.
The Tongue Weight
Tongue weight, the weight that a towed RV or trailer puts on the hitch of the towing vehicle, is another weight rating you should be aware of. But, there are two sides to tongue weight: the effect it has on the vehicle towing and the effect on the trailer being towed.
If the RV is a towable type, such as a travel trailer or fifth wheel, choosing a vehicle that can safely tow your trailer is highly important to both tire wear and general controllability of your rig.
If the RV’s weight is too great, it will cause the tongue to droop onto the hitch of the towing vehicle and cause unnecessary wear and tear on both the RV and the towing vehicle. Learn more in our article, Should a Trailer Be Level When Towing?
This also holds true if you are towing a trailer with your motorhome. You need to be careful not to exceed your motorhome or camper’s allowable tongue weight and the gross vehicle weight rating. For further information on the ins and outs of towing with your RV, read our article Towing with Your RV: The Ins and Outs.
Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
The GCWR is the maximum weight the vehicle and trailer can be when combined together and fully loaded. When choosing appropriate tires for your RV, trailer or tow vehicle you need to ensure the tire load rating is at or above the vehicles GCWR.
The best way to determine the actual weight of your setup is to take your loaded RV to a truck stop and weigh it. If the GCWR of the vehicle and the trailer exceeds the weight that is suggested by the manufacturer, then you must remove items from the RV to lighten the load.
A higher GCWR than is suggested in the owner’s manual can cause bulging tires and possibly blowouts while going down the road leading to an accident.
Where You Plan to Take Your RV Affects Your Tires
The type of travel and where you plan to travel in your RV can greatly affect the type of tire you choose. If you plan to visit mostly lowland areas in the summer or areas that rarely get snow than an All Season tire will more than suit your needs.
If you plan on seeing a bit of snow and some colder temperatures then you’ll need a tire that is equipped for that too. Having at least the “M+S” rating on your tires is a minimum. The “M+S” stand for mud and snow and the tire has been tested on packed mud and snow.
If you are a die hard skier and plan to visit every mountain in the USA and Canada then the Mountain/Snowflake Symbol is a MUST. Many provinces in Canada require by law the Mountain/Snowflake Symbol between October and March especially when driving over mountain passes.
Tires that are all season with the snowflake rating are pricer than ones without. So seriously consider where and when you plan to travel so you aren’t caught without the right treads.
When to Replace RV Tires and Choose New Ones
Part of owning an RV is replacing your tires periodically. This ensures a comfortable and safe ride. While there can be many physical indications on a tire that tell you it needs to be changed, you also have to consider how the tire has been used. How long have you owned the tire? Has it gone on many long trips? Has it sat unmoving for months?
These questions can help you determine if you need to change your RV tires before you take your next trip. Not all indications of tire replacement can be seen. Some of them depend on the usage and age of the tires.
The Importance of Replacing RV Tires on a Schedule
Choosing replacement RV tires on a set schedule is a preventative measure that can not only protect the RV from damage but also makes the RV safer. Your tire manufacturer may not give replacement specifications for your tires, but it is necessary to replace your tires when they have passed their prime.
The recommended mileage for getting your tires checked by a professional is 3,000 miles. Every 3,000 miles, you take your RV into a professional, so they can check to see if your tires need to be replaced.
There are three main factors that are considered when decided if your tires need to be replaced:
- How often you use your RV throughout the year
- How you store your RV when it is not in use
- The type of climate you live in
These three factors affect the life of your tires. Surprisingly, the more you drive your RV, the longer your tires will last. This is because the tires aren’t sitting around not being used. There is a protective coating built into tires that is released when they rotate.
The longer an RV sits in storage the less of this protection is released. Long term storage can also lead to misshaped tires due to flat spots. The amount of time you store your RV without moving can lessen the life of your tire.
Covering your tires while in storage can be beneficial by protecting them from sun damage. We purchased these tire covers from Amazon to use on our RV while it is in storage. See our article on Why You Should Cover Your Rv Tires.
The type of climate you live in is another important consideration because different types of weather affect tires in various ways. Warmer weather is known to wear tires out faster than cooler weather.
The Length of Time the Tires Have Been Owned
Knowing how long your tires have been on your RV is information that every RV owner should know. Generally, RV tires are replaced every 3 to 6 years. If you use your RV very frequently or let it sit in storage for most of the year, you will need to change your tires sooner rather than later.
If your RV usage is more moderate without extreme temperatures then your tire’s life span can be a bit longer.
The Length of the Trip Being Planned
The amount of time that you drive your RV will affect the life of your tires. If you are planning on going on a long trip, you should check your tires beforehand to make sure they can safely get you through your trip. Short trips may not need this precaution, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Many blowouts happen because the owner of the RV has not kept a close eye on their tires. It only takes a moment to check your tires before a trip and that moment can save your RV – and your life.
The Way the Tires Have Worn
Checking the condition of your tires often is important. Sometimes, tires will wear unevenly or treads will wear down quickly. If you notice excessive wear and tear on your tire, you should change it immediately – no matter how old the tire is.
Pricing RV Tires
The average cost of RV tires ranges from around $100 to over $300 per tire. There are several factors that cause these prices to be so wildly different, including the brand, the quality of the tire and the website or store you are purchasing them from.
As with any other purchase, when purchasing RV tires, you get what you pay for. While cheap tires sound great and may work in a pinch, never expect them to last or do as good of a job as their more expensive counterparts. Cheap tires often have smaller widths, less inflation pressure, and weaker tread widths.
To put it bluntly, cheap tires are less safe.
There are some alternative places to purchase brand name tires; however, be cautious. Look the tires over well and try to get a warranty if possible.
Alternative places to choose and purchase RV tires include:
- RV Rallies
- Truck Tire Dealers
- Camping World
While buying tires at an RV Rally sounds dangerous, if one takes the time to familiarize themselves with the different things to look for in a good tire, they can find great tires and save tons of money.
One word of warning for Class A and Class C owners. Make sure you speak with a technician at the tire dealership first and ensure they understand the type of vehicle you will be bringing in before going to the trouble of taking your RV there. We personally ran into an issue sourcing new tires for our 25′ Class A and finding a place that could actually install them.
The Importance of Realigning the Tires on an RV
Proper tire alignment is vital for maximizing the life and performance of your tires. When tires are aligned properly, they take much less wear and tear, have better traction, stay on roads better, and have longer lives.
If your RV tires are not aligned, you should bring it in to a professional to have an alignment done. Many places offer a free alignment check when doing other services like an oil change.
Tire Rotation is Crucial
The wear on tires does not happen evenly. The way a vehicle drives and the location of the tires causes specific wear and tear to happen. For instance, front tires tend to wear more on the outside edges because of turning corners, but back tires tend to wear out more evenly.
To mitigate the wear on your tires and prolong their lives, you can rotate the tires. Some common tire rotations are moving front tires to the back and moving tires from left to right (or vice versa). Changing the position of the tires will change the way they wear, so they will last longer and continue to be safe.
Remember that tire rotation is not a permanent fix for tires that have worn down. You will need to replace them eventually. However, in the meantime, you can use tire rotation to keep your ride safe and smooth.
Warranties Extended Warranties & Roadside Assistance
The last thing you want to worry about while enjoying an RV vacation is tire failure. That’s why it is a good idea to purchase a tire warranty that will cover any tires purchased for an RV and to have proper RV Roadside Assistance.
As stated above, RV tires can be expensive, and the last thing needed on a vacation is the cost of buying a new one if it blows out or goes flat.
Since there are so many road hazards out there for RV tires, including nails, glass, heat, and potholes that can damage your tire, a warranty is vital when choosing tires. They can save you time and money. Some tire dealerships include this type of warranty with every tire you purchase, so look for it when you are tire shopping.
Most extended warranties will cover the replacement cost of a tire should it fail while others offer roadside assistance as well to help get the RV off the road and fitted with a new tire.
Even if you have an extended warranty on your tires, having roadside assistance takes a weight off your shoulders while traveling since you know you have help should you need it. Just make sure you’ve upgraded your coverage to include your RV so you aren’t caught unawares.
Choosing Between Specialty Trailer Tires or Light Truck Tires
To start specialty trailer tires (ST) should only be used on towable RVs. If you have a motorhome or camper van you CANNOT use specialty trailer tires on your vehicle.
ST tires are recommended for towables since they have heavier duty construction and stiffer sidewalls which means they are less prone to sway. While you can use Light Truck (LT) tires on your fifth wheel or travel trailer it’s better to use tires that are specifically designed to be towed.
On motorhomes, an LT tire is the best option since it are designed to be used on heavier vehicles.
Bias-Ply or Radial Tires?
Radial tires have plies that run in a perpendicular style across the tire and belts below the tread and around the tire. Bias-ply tires have plies that run below the tread around the tire with their plies running at thirty-degree angles.
The choice of which type of tire to use on an RV depends on the way the RV handles. Bias-ply tires have stiffer sidewalls and help reduce swaying and can carry heavy loads. Radials are superior to bias-ply tires. They have longer tread lives and are less prone to developing flat spots on one side when parked in the same position for weeks. They also tend to run cooler on long trips.
To choose which tire is best for an RV, it is important to consider the manufacturer’s recommendation, and if the RV goes many miles per year, radials would be worth any extra cost that may be incurred.
Choosing RV tires may be an extensive process, but you will reap the benefits of taking the time to choose the right tires for your RV by having a safe and enjoyable ride for much longer. Make sure you know the recommended tire size for your vehicle, the maximum allowable weight as well as your actual loaded weight, and don’t ever purchase cheap tires. This advice should keep you traveling for a long time!
Recommended Tire Products
- Digital tire tread depth gauge (Amazon) is an inexpensive and handy tool to help you keep an eye on your tire health
- RV tire pressure monitors (Amazon) are an inexpensive and simple way to check your tire pressure quickly during your daily walk around. Make sure to buy ones that show the right tire pressure for your tires.
- Portable Air Compressor (Amazon) a real lifesaver when the nearest service station is an unknown distance away. This one is perfect for RVs can reach over 100 psi and can even be directly connected to your battery