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Thursday, August 17, 2023

Can you change a tire on your RV?


Can you change a tire on your RV? This is not a question of your physical ability. While that is something you need to consider, let us set that question aside for this post. Let’s imagine we are in great physical shape; or even if we can’t lift 150 pounds off the floor, we might be in a situation where there are others around who can lend a hand with the physical aspect of doing the task.

The intention of this post is to help people focus on the parts, information, and tools that might be needed to change a tire on the side of the road.

#1 Safety: You need to be sure it is possible to change the tire without putting you or others in danger. This means getting far enough off the highway that moving traffic isn’t going to be involved. There are almost an infinite variety of locations or situations, so I can only remind you to think first and review where you are. Since you have considered the proximity to moving traffic let’s move on.


Even if you are not going to change the tire yourself you should probably have a couple of wheel chocks to place in front and behind the tire on the opposite side of the one you would change. This will help stabilize the RV when it is jacked up. When I was racing and towing my Camaro in a 26′ box trailer and needed to re-pack wheel bearings, I would leave the trailer hooked up to my 1-ton dually truck AND still I used wheel chocks.

#2 Information: No, tools are not the first thing to consider as there is some minimal information I would need to know before I even reached for a wrench.

A. Do I have a spare? Yes/No? That’s pretty basic, but I bet there are some folks that assume they have a spare when in fact they do not, as many RVs are sold and delivered without a spare.

B. Is the spare mounted on a wheel and is it inflated? Have you confirmed the inflation in the last year? Wouldn’t do you much good to change out a tire if the spare is also flat. I have suggested that sometimes having a dismounted spare can save you hundreds of pounds and dollars by not forcing you to pay the service truck premium price or even having to wait days for a tire of the proper size and load range for your RV to be located and shipped in. Some folks have found they have space for a spare and save the cost and weight by having just a tire that is not mounted. There is a lot of space in the center of an unmounted tire, so having one still allows you to place some of your “stuff” in the tire. This is most likely something owners of Class A RVs might consider.

C. Service trucks can mount and inflate a tire by the side of the road, but you need to know before the service truck is called that you have a tire. Or, if you do not have a tire, Question C is exactly what size (the numbers) and what Load Range, “F”, “G”, “H”, etc., you need. Are all of your tires the same size and Load Range? Many Class A’s have different-size tires front and rear. You do not want to pay for a service truck to come out only to find they did not bring the correct size. This is some of the basic information you need to have written down and easy to find so when calling for service you can give them that information. If you are going to rely on a service truck, the other questions about tools and air will not apply. Can you reinflate the spare if it is just low?

#3 Tools: So, moving on, let’s assume you and your co-driver and passengers or friends have the physical strength to change a tire and you have a mounted and inflated spare of the appropriate size.

Some basic items I carry myself:

Lug nut socket of the correct size. Have you confirmed the “6-point” socket fits the nuts on your wheels? 6-point sockets are less likely to slip and round out your nuts as seen here. Don’t just look, but confirm the socket is not too large. A 13/16″ socket will fit over a 21mm nut, but might be so loose that the socket spins on a tight nut and now you are stuck with a nut you cannot remove. Some nuts come with chrome covers that make proper fit difficult. Ask a mechanic, if you are not sure.

Socket extension. I have a Class C with dual rear wheels. The nuts are deep into the wheel so I needed a 12″ extension (be sure the extension is long enough) to allow a proper 90° between the socket and my “breaker bar“.

The 2-foot breaker bar allows me to generate the torque needed to loosen the tight lug nuts. My wheel nut torque spec is 140 In-Lbs., so I am using the extra leverage the 25″ bar provides to make it easier to loosen the nuts.

Speaking of lug-nut torque, what is the spec for your RV? Do you have it written down in an easy-to-find location? While we are on the topic of torque: Do you have a torque wrench that can measure at least 120% of the torque you need to ensure your nuts are properly torqued? When I am tightening the nuts I use the appropriate pattern or sequence of tightening the nuts, as covered in THIS post from my blog. Maybe in your notes you should include the sequence along with the torque spec.

For my Class C, GM specified 140 Ft-Lbs. I start with all 6 nuts “snug,” which means I turn the nut till it bottoms on the wheel. Then I step up in about 1/3 of the ultimate level so I set my “clicker” torque wrench to 50 Ft-Lbs. and, after following the sequence back and forth around the wheel, I then set for the second step at 100 Ft-Lbs., and again move back and forth in the sequence. Finally, I set the wrench to 140 Ft-Lbs. and tighten all the nuts. Side note: Checking torque does not mean removing the nuts and torquing again, but rather setting the wrench to your value and applying the appropriate torque. I would suggest you check torque every 50 miles until you find there is no movement of the nut. If you see a nut still turning after 100 miles, there is something amiss and you should learn why and take appropriate action.

Jack. Also under tools is the jack you use to raise the tire off the ground. There are many options, but I prefer a “bottle jack” as this doesn’t take up much space in the RV basement. I selected an 8-ton model as my rear axle “weight” is 10,256 lbs., so my 16,000-lb. jack is adequate. You need a jack with more capacity or the safety valve in the 5-ton jack may not allow you to lift 10,256 pounds reliably. I also carry a piece of 2″x8″x8″ board to help stabilize the base of the bottle jack if I am parked on sand or soft dirt.

Regarding jacking the RV and replacing the tire/wheel assembly: READ your owner’s manual as some RVs have a specific location on the RV that if not used could result in damage to the RV.

Suggestion: Once you have reviewed your owner’s manual and have confirmed you have the spare tire and all the tools and information you need, you can decide if you need to practice changing a tire or just review with a fellow RV owner.

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