When it comes to safety on the open road, it pays to be cautious. This is especially true for your trailer tires. A blown tire can not only spoil your trip, but is a significant safety hazard.
When an RV trailer tire has a blowout, there is the potential for massive damage to the trailer. A shredded tire can shred your propane and electrical lines, floor, and fiberglass. In worst case scenarios, fires caused by burst gas lines can destroy the entire trailer.
Most RV trailer tires will last 3-5 years, but should be replaced after you reach the mileage specified by your tire’s manufacturer. There are also signs of wear to watch out for that will indicate that they need to be replaced sooner.
New RV Tire Options
Let’s start from the beginning, and assume you are ready to replace your tires. The tire you pick will impact your gas mileage, the comfort of your ride, and your safety on the road.
Special Trailer (ST) Tires
First things first: Never use passenger tires on a trailer. They are designed for a smooth ride and have flexible sidewalls. Tires need solid walls to stabilize heavy trailer loads and withstand high temperatures.
ST, or Special Trailer, tires are the opposite. They are meant only for use with trailers. Their stiff sidewalls are designed to support tall loads and the high heat generated within the tire as it spins down the road.
For comparison, passenger tires are rated Load Range B, or 4-ply. Special Trailer tires are rated starting at Load Range C, which is 6-ply.
You can always replace standard tires or improve the quality of your current ST tires with an upgrade. Load Range improves with letters, so D or E load range is an upgrade for existing standard or ST load range C tires.
This upgrade improves tire heat resistance and prevents tire failure.
Light Truck (LT) Tires
An emerging trend among some trailer owners and manufacturers is to put Light Truck (LT) tires on trailers.
Light truck tires are engineered to withstand the heavy stress generated by long-term hauling. They are best suited to pickups, heavy SUVs, and commercial fleet vehicles. They are very stable and well-suited for tow vehicles.
Some RV manufacturers, including even Airstream, have started offering light truck tires as an option. Other camper dealers even offer light truck tires as the standard option.
ST Or LT Tires?
There are some important differences between ST and LT tires that you should consider before investing in a new set for your tow vehicle.
The main difference between the two is their top speed. Light truck tires can typically rate up to 100, or even as high as 106.
You probably don’t want to go at top speed while hauling a heavy trailer. But that higher top speed rating indicates better heat resistance. Heat is your tire’s biggest enemy. The better the heat resistance, the stronger the tire (basically).
Maximum inflation pressure is another key difference between the two tires. Light truck tires have a lower maximum pressure.
Always check your trailer’s tire pressure sticker. On LT tires, be sure to follow the guidelines on the sidewall of the tire. Over or under inflating any tire can lead to troubles on the open road.
Both options have great longevity for long-haul trips. LT tires can last anywhere from 40-65K miles, depending on how well they are maintained and the overall environment they’re kept in. The expected mileage for ST tires, on the other hand, are just 5-12K.
When Are Tires Due For Replacement?
Regardless of what tires you end up going with, it is essential to know when your tires are due for a replacement. Even if you go with light truck tires and maintain them perfectly, they will still eventually need to be replaced.
If nothing goes wrong, most specialists recommend that you start considering replacement tires after 3-5 years.
However, chances are good that your tires will tell you when they need to be replaced.
Dry rot is a good sign that tires are wearing out. Cracks more than 1/16 of an inch might seem small but they are a sign of big trouble if you keep rolling down the road.
Many RVers also take their tread for granted. RVs very rarely wear the tread down to bald tires. Always check the tread; if it gets below 1/8 of an inch, it’s time for a replacement.
How Do I Get The Most Out Of My Tires?
You want your tires to last for as long as possible, because replacement tires are definitely not cheap. Fortunately, there are a few easy steps you can take to extend the longevity of your tires.
- Keep your tires clean by washing them with a mild soap and water
- Inspect your tires for cuts or damage after long hauls
- Check your tires’ inflation. Under-inflation is the leading cause of tire blowouts
- Keep your tires dry and covered when storing your RV
- Keep weight to a minimum during storage
- Rotate your tires occasionally during the off-season
How Much Will Replacement RV Tires Cost?
Good camper tires don’t come cheap. They’re your first line of defence against disaster on the road so they are well worth the investment.
Most good RV tires will run you anywhere from $200 to $350+ each.
The amount you spend on tires is of course going to depend on your rig. For example, Class A tires are much heavier, so they’ll cost more than Class C tires.
Keep an eye on your tires and watch out for any signs that they need to be replaced. This will include cracks, defects, deformities, or low tread.
If you’re putting a lot of miles on your trailer, you should refer to the manufacturer’s specifications. Remember that different tires have different lifespans, which can range anywhere from 5k-65k miles, depending on your tire.
If all goes well, you can generally expect to get 3-5 years of road trips out of your tires. Stay safe and keep rolling on down the highway!