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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New trailer sat for 5 years. Does it need new tires before a long trip?

Got this question:

"Good Afternoon Roger;  I have kind of a critical need for your expertise.  I've been a "Hardtopper" since 1970, and have always made every attempt to take good care of my travel trailers.  My latest and last, is a 2013 Flagstaff with of course dual axles.  I brought it home new after trading with a dealer, on August 31st, 2012.  Then the fun started !!  The tires are covered and are on wood planks, never having touched ground.  Rather than being able to realize a life-long dream of just once getting out of this horrible Winter climate, say to Florida for a season's stay, I was hit with the need for surgery and lengthy PT.  Each year since, I have been stricken with yet another number of surgery's for different reasons, and this past December fell on the ice at my home, breaking 3 ribs, thus cancelling once again, any hopes and dreams.  Now, after all that drama, I wonder if you might offer some "practical" advice on my tires.  I am a long ways from a rich man, barely getting by on my Social Security, so I'd really hate to have to replace the tires sitting unused as they have been after five years BUT, I would defer to your advisory.  I have read posts on RVTRavel.com and others have posted any number of articles in the past on tires, so I am a bit apprehensive, and sure to heck would appreciate your input.  Many Thanks in advance,  Grant M."

My reply:


"Sorry to hear about your situation, Grant. Your tires may be 2012 or even 2011 vintage (you can check the last 4 numbers of the DOT serial to confirm) but either way that's pretty old. How often did you check the air pressure? It should have been every month.  While they are covered and on boards, which is good, they were still under load without ever moving, which is bad, especially if they ever lost more than 5 to 10 psi.
If they are Radials there is a chance the steel belts may have lost some adhesion to the rubber due to moisture never being driven out of the tires with the warmth of being run down the road.
I would suggest you sell the tires to someone who has a utility trailer that only travels locally. If they have very little wear, you should get a reasonable price for them. You didn't say where you live but if you are thinking of travel from "North" to Florida I would recommend against the trip with a trailer that has just been sitting for 5 years. As a minimum you need to have bearings and brakes checked and yes, I am afraid new tires. You are just pushing the odds of having problems on the road that would be much more expensive to fix on the trip than confirming they are all OK before the trip.
Here are some of my posts on tire AGE from my RV Tire blog you might want to review."

Good luck.

##RVT804

Friday, July 21, 2017

When should you replace your tires?

Saw the following question on an RV forum from a motorhome owner.
"Does anyone ever just replace their front tires after 7 years? It seems that a tire failure on the front is much worse than the back. If the tires have a lot of tread and no sign of cracking, why replace the back ones?"

One reply correctly said, "There's more to consider than age. Were they properly inflated? Did you bang into curbs to damage the sidewalls? There are many failures due to improper operating conditions. Not just age."

I would first ask if you know the "life experience" of the tires:

Did the RV have a previous owner?
While they may claim they always checked inflation, can we be 100% certain?
Did you purchase the tires direct from a major tire company and know the complete use history?
Have you confirmed your load on all the tires from day one?
Did you ever discover one of your tires 20 or 30 psi low one time?

There are many things to consider, but if you are confident the tires have always been properly inflated for the actual load the following should help.

"Blowouts" (look at the picture at the top of my page), or more properly Run Low Sidewall Flex failures, happen because of running on low inflation. This can be avoided with the use of TPMS.

Belt separations, which are much less common on commercial grade tires, may occur after the rubber at the belt edges degrades due to cumulative damage from heat.

UV does not affect the internal structure of tires and external cracking is only one symptom of exposure to sunlight. I consider external cracking like having a person run a temperature. Having a temperature is just a symptom of some other illness, usually an infection. You can be seriously ill but not be running a temperature. Think of heart disease or cancer as two things that can kill you but don't cause you to run a temperature.

The suggestion on when to replace tires is only based on probability, as it is impossible to know just how much damage has been done to the components of a tire. The general suggestion is to have tires closely examined by a tire expert at 5 years and each year after that. Tires should be replaced at 10 years no matter what is visible on the surface of a tire.

I wrote a blog post on a suggested inspection and "step replacement" concept. A version of this suggestion could result in your keeping newer tires on the front, which in theory should improve your chances of not having a belt separation on the front. Of course also running TPMS will improve your chances of not having a Run Low Flex Failure too.

##RVT803

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How are RV tires developed?

 By Roger Marble

If a tire is being designed for a specific vehicle manufacturer such as Ford, Chevy, Toyota, or BMW, there will be a number of tires submitted by competing tire companies all trying to deliver the best overall compromise in performance characteristics. Please note that all original equipment ("OE") vehicle manufacturers have slightly different requirements but all make similar requests for performance improvements in many areas. In the future I will use the term "OE" to include these car and pickup manufacturers.

Compromise: Now is a good time to talk about some of the various trade-offs the engineer is faced with when trying to meet conflicting goals and customer wants. I am sure we would all like an RV that has all the interior space and amenities of a 40’ diesel pusher but gets 25 mpg and can be driven down crowded city streets without knocking off our mirrors. Oh yes, it should also cost under $30k. Well, Bunkie, that just ain’t gonna happen in real life.

The same goes for a tire that handles like an Indy tire, is as quiet as the proverbial mouse, has great off-road traction, is good for 100k miles, and costs $25. One thing few people realize is that most if not all performance characteristics are a compromise. For example, if you improve wet traction you probably hurt fuel economy unless you use a special type of rubber that costs double per pound and is more difficult to process. If you improve handling you might hurt ride and noise. When you improve noise you can significantly increase the cost of making the molds used in manufacturing. The cost of a tire mold can be as low as $10,000 and can approach $100,000 each. Depending on the production volume needs, a tire manufacturer could need 30 or more molds. The list of trade-offs goes on and on.

The competition for a tire application might start three or more years before scheduled start of delivery with two to five tire manufacturers competing for the contract, knowing that only one or two will end up being selected to actually provide tires. The costs associated with building and testing special prototype tires can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and are absorbed by the tire company. The only way a tire company can afford this type of activity is by landing a contract for a few hundred thousand tires so the costs can be spread out.

Unlike “OE,” an RV manufacturer may only need a couple thousand tires, so a custom tire designed for a specific RV would be cost prohibitive. Since the RV manufacturer won’t be trying to get custom tires, it doesn’t have staff engineers working on developing specifications for such tires. The RV company will in all likelihood either take what comes already on the cut-away chassis or the bare chassis for Class-C or A vehicles, and in the case of trailers, may buy the tire with the lowest cost that can meet tire size requirements and expected delivery schedule.

For RV applications the one thing that is in the control of the manufacturer is “Reserve Load.” This is the difference between the load placed on each tire with the RV normally loaded and the load capability of the tires at specified inflation.

##RVT802

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"Care and feeding" of your valve stems

I suggest that if you are looking for long "bent" metal stems you ONLY get them installed by a Truck Tire store. Preferably not just a "dealer," as anyone can sell tires, but a "company store" that is owned by a tire company or a store that is part of a large chain, as they are more likely to have a selection and actual training on proper installation of long truck valve stems. The shop should have the proper tool for bending the long brass stems without cracking them, if bending is needed.

With long stems it is also important to remember to not just press the air chuck or pressure gauge onto the end when adding air or checking pressure as you can generate a lot of force on the joint between valve and wheel. Always support the stem or hose extension with your other hand even if the stem or hose has a hard mounting, as you can loosen the mounting point too.

There are specifications for torque of the metal nut for bolt-in valve stems. (25 to 45 inch pounds) This is especially critical on your car or truck if it came from the factory with an internal Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Many of the internal TPMS are made of aluminum for light weight and as such have very low torque specs. It is easy to break the aluminum nut or, even worse, the stem itself – which could cost you $50 to $100 to replace.

"Tire Review", a trade magazine for tire dealers, had an article on TPMS sensors and they point out the following:

"What is the torque value required for the nut?
Typical torque values for the base nuts on a TPMS valve stem range from as low as 35 in.-lbs. of torque to as much as 80 in.-lbs. of torque. That’s quite a range. This doesn’t mean that any torque value within this range is acceptable. It means that the torque specifications for the base nut on one vehicle might re­quire 44 in.-lbs., another might re­quire exactly 62 in.-lbs., yet another might specify exactly 71 in.-lbs., and so on. Don’t guess. Look up the torque specifications for the vehicle you’re servicing to make sure you use the correct torque.

Why should the nut be replaced every time a sensor is serviced?
The nut is made of a softer metal than the stem, so it will be damaged – not the sensor – if it’s over-tightened. The material of choice is typically aluminum. If the nut is over-tightened, it will develop hairline cracks."

NOTE: Those specs are INCH-Pound, not your normal Foot-Pounds. Here is a picture of my TPMS Inch-pound Torque Wrench.




Standard "metal bolt-in valves" also have specs for the nuts and those valves are usually brass or plated with nickle or chrome. I am not aware of any stainless steel valve stems for regular automotive use. There are some aluminum bolt-in stems too, but those are expensive lightweight units made for race car application which would not normally be sold without being identified as such.

Even valve core have a spec (2 to 5 in-lb) as there is a tiny gasket that can be distorted and even broken if you over-tighten the core. There are some special tools. But rather than buy some special tools I suggest you tighten core till air stops, add no more than 1/4 turn more, then confirm no air leak by testing with soapy water. When no bubble forms the core is tight enough. I then attach the metal valve cap to ensure no air is leaking. There have been a few cases of slow leak through the valve core that ended up as a tire failure as no metal cap was used. The cap is primarily intended to keep dirt out of the core area but is also a "backup" on preventing air lost past the core.

Whenever "messing" with your valve it's always a good idea to confirm there are no leaks with a quick spray of soapy water.

##RVT801