You’re driving along when you hear a loud pop! You guessed it. You just had a tire blowout. Not only can a tire blowout ruin your plans for the day, but you have your family in the RV to worry about. RV tire blowout season runs from May through early October, according to tire manufacturers. The reason for the abundance of tire disasters during those months is because it’s just plain hot outside. Also, drivers are on the road more and for longer with their RVs loaded to the hilt. That’s not to say that a blowout can’t happen in the middle of February, however, especially in warmer climates.
Blowouts & Flat Tires
An RV tire blowout can be lethal. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire blowouts result in more than 400 deaths and 78,000 crashes each year. When a blowout happens, you only have a few seconds to make the right decisions to bring your vehicle to safety.
The most dangerous aspect of experiencing an RV tire blowout is that it’s easy to lose control as your tires lose air. The weight of your RV only exacerbates the problem. In hindsight, you may have realized that you should’ve replaced your RV tires awhile ago.
There are 3 different types of flat tires:
- The first is a basic one, which is caused by a nail or some other object that punctures and deflates a tire. In this instance, the tire stays intact but air seeps out through the hole.
- The second type of flat tire is a blowout. This happens when there’s damage to the side wall of the tire. Tire failure is a tricky thing for RVs. Even if you haven’t put many miles on your tires, the aging process often causes problems with the sidewall which leads to a blowout.
- Third, there is catastrophic failure. This is when the tire explodes or unravels completely. This is the most dangerous form of a flat tire because within seconds you end up with one less tire.
What Do I Do If I Hear a Pop or Feel My Tires Losing Air?
Whatever you do, don’t panic. If you hit the brakes hard, your chances of having a disaster and possibly getting hurt are very high. If you do slam on the brakes, your RV will most likely pull to the side of the blowout causing you to lose complete control of the vehicle.
It may seem intuitive to slow down as you try to weave out of traffic and onto the side of the road. However, the fact of the matter is that you don’t really have the luxury of time in an RV. According to Michelin Tires’ Safety Professionals, the best way to avoid disaster in the event of an RV tire blowout is to accelerate carefully. Yes, that’s right: Hit the gas! Speeding your way to a safe place away from traffic will help you maintain control of your quickly deflating tires.
You’ll know if you’ve had an RV blowout, too. If the front tire(s) lose air, the vehicle will droop. The drooping creates a sideways force which is very dangerous and could pull you into another lane. If you’re driving slowly to get off the road, it’ll be even harder to fight against that sideways pull. Your best bet is to wait until you’re clear and speed up to get off at the nearest exit or emergency lane. If it’s your back tires which blew out, you’d do the same thing – accelerate! Really, the only difference between front and back tires blowing out is that you don’t feel it as markedly when it’s the rear tires. It’s also a little harder to turn the steering wheel when the front tires blow out.
What Kind of Damage Can a Blowout Do to My RV?
An RV tire blowout can do extensive damage to your rig. You can easily destroy your electrical and propane lines near the wheel. There have been cases where the floors got ripped apart near the wheel well and/or the sidewall got destroyed too. There have also been major fires caused by the gas line rupturing in the midst of a blowout. This sort of disaster can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Preventing a Blowout
So, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prevent an RV blowout from happening. Checking your tire pressure before heading out is a good idea, but it’s not always enough. Unfortunately, having a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is not mandated in RVs, but it’s really the only thing that can alert you to a blowout in real time. Even though your RV may not come equipped with a TPMS, consider buying an aftermarket one.
A TPMS places a sensor on each wheel, which then signals a dash receiver. You can then constantly monitor your tires as you drive and will be alerted to emergencies. If you notice a continuing dip in air pressure, you can very safely pull over. Without the sensors, you’re relying on visible changes in the way your RV handles, which makes it less probable that you will safely get off the road in time. Another great thing about a TPMS is that it also measures tire temperature. This can be a strong indicator that you’re about to experience a blowout. The TPMS will give you a warning signal when there is a problem, so you have time to pull over as soon as you can. It will also tell you which tire is about to blow.
Choosing the Right TPMS
There are a few different types of TPMS sensors. Some need to be professionally installed inside the wheel. Whatever model you buy, just make sure it’s from a reputable source that isn’t creating Frankenstein sensors from different parts. Also, definitely buy from a manufacturer who will be around to sell you replacement batteries, which are surprisingly inexpensive. Ask if the battery needs to be charged or if it is connected to the RV’s electrical system and recharges automatically. The latter is, obviously, much easier to maintain, but you will need to check the battery every few months to make sure that it’s still good.
For the TPMS to detect a problem, the tire will have to be significantly under-inflated, so don’t skip on checking your tire pressure before heading out. Also, if you end up losing air and have to drive any distance with a radically under-inflated tire, you should have a professional inspect the inside of the tire for any damage the low air pressure and the weight of the RV may have caused.
The size of your RV should play a major role in what kind of TPMS you decide to buy. Whether or you get the alerts and warnings will depend on the signal transmission range from the tires to the onboard receiver. Make sure the TPMS meets the needs of your RV according to its range. Some larger rigs require a repeater unit, which basically lengthens the range and enables the signal to reach the receiver and monitor onboard.
Don’t Overload Your RV
Overloading your RV with all your things can cause problems too. Just because there’s room doesn’t mean your tires can handle the weight of everything. It’s a good idea for you to fill your RV with what you plan to take and weigh it. Plan to evenly distribute the weight too. If one tire takes on too much of the burden, it may collapse.
Packing your RV is a big job, and now it’s going to get even bigger. You should always pack the weight of your cargo as evenly as possible. Taking this precaution will help you avoid a blowout. Also, when you pack the weight evenly, you can recover from a blowout easier. If the weight of your cargo is unevenly distributed when a tire fails you, the drooping could happen even faster than if you’d taken care to pack a little more conscientiously. Don’t ever overload your vehicle. Going over the maximum weight is asking for an RV tire blowout.
Always Do a Walk-Around
Check for nails and anything that may have punctured a tire before you leave, even if you have a great TPMS. Why get on the road only to be alerted of a problem while you’re driving. Do this at home and at the campsite each time you set off. If you’re camping in the woods or other unpaved areas, you’ll definitely want to take an even closer look before you head out.
Go around potholes if you can. If you go over a pothole and hit hard, you could easily damage the internal structure of your tires. Sometimes the tire collapses right then and there. Other times, the damage becomes apparent several months later.
ST versus LT Tires
ST tires, short for Special Trailer tires, have the higher load ratings than LT tires. This can explain why tire manufacturers recommend ST over LT tires, which are really made for trucks. ST tires are built for higher weight requirements and higher heat conditions. The tie cords in an ST tire are also bigger than the ones in an LT tire and are made for heavier cargo. ST tires are also built to resist UV damage, which dries and cracks tires very easily.
The best way to care for your ST tires is to clean them with a gentle soap. Do not apply anything containing petroleum or alcohol. Inflate them to their max cold pressure before getting onto the road. Under-inflated tires and heat build-up are the two biggest causes of blowouts. During storage, keep the load weight to a minimum. Keep your tires covered and off cold, wet ground. Every few months, start your RV and move the trailer back and forth just to rotate the tires.
Replacing Your RV Tires
As for replacing your tires, you should change them every 5 years at the maximum, regardless of how few miles you’ve driven on them. An RV tire blowout is much more costly than getting new tires, and you do not want to take a chance on the road.
If you want to avoid an accident or any kind of disaster while driving, you’ll want to replace your tires as soon as they start cracking or if the tread starts wearing thin. Chances are that more than one tire will need replacing, as well. Consider replacing all of them, just to play it safe. Even when tires are barely worn they may be in pretty bad shape. This is especially true if you’ve kept your RV in outdoor storage. A tire may have sufficient tread but if it’s cracked, it’s a dangerous tire to continue using. Time takes its toll very easily on rubber, so old tires just need to go. You do not want to take your chances in a heavy vehicle like an RV. Play it safe and make sure all four of your tires are in pristine condition before you leave for a trip.
RV Insurance & Roadside Assistance
An RV tire blowout is not typically covered by RV Insurance. However, if you have roadside assistance, you could easily save upwards of $5,000 towing your RV to a garage. It’s always a good idea to have the proper Specialty RV Insurance, especially if you do ever lose control during a tire blowout, veer into another lane and hit another car. Call an RV Insurance Specialist at (866) 501-7335 to get a free quote and see what low rates from top carriers are available to you.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements. Nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms, and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here. Such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.