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Monday, September 26, 2016

How old is too old?

Been following an RV forum thread on tire age and have been trying to explain why there is no strict guideline for exactly when a tire should be replaced. I summed up my position...

The general guidelines for motorhomes is to have the tire inspected starting at about 5 years and to replace at 10 years no matter what the inspection indicates. Due to the Interply Shear effects on belt durability, trailer tires need to be closely inspected after a couple of years and it appears that 5 years may be the max life for most applications.

I do understand that people would like a nice clear precise answer but the problem is that with load, speed and temperatures all having an impact on the life of a tire it is impossible to give a precise time of when to replace a tire.

In today's society no company can give a specific answer to the question as they would be sued if a tire failed before the "end of life" time and they would be sued if the tire lasted past the "end of life" time. We are talking about probability.

You have a sticker on your RV telling you the inflation to use based on an estimate of how much "stuff" you will be carrying. Federal Regulations say the tire load capacity at the specified inflation must be able to support the load rating of the axle. This assumes an exact 50/50 side-to-side load split all the time. It also assumes you do not put more or less load in your RV than what would result in each axle being exactly at GAWR. Many have learned of the importance of getting the actual load on each tire.

Maybe it would help if we thought about tread depth instead of age.

Exactly how much tread can be worn off before a tire becomes "unsafe'. Most states say 2/32" for passenger car tires but does that mean the tire with 3/32" tread will always perform equally to a tire with 10/32"?  Of course not. As the tread wears the wet traction capability goes down. Do you always wait till each tire gets to 2/32" before replacing it? If not, why not?

Conversely the dry traction can go up as tread depth goes down, so there is a trade-off. I dare say that if you live is an area with lots of rain or even snow, you probably change tires before they are that worn. However, if you live in the dry Southwest you may be tempted to run less than 2/32" tread as you have seldom if ever have wet traction problems.

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