For many campers, tires are only an issue when they need to be changed. Tires are unjustly relegated to a niche existence in caravans and motor homes. Somehow everyone knows that they are important – but for many campers, this is no reason to delve deeper into the matter.
But that’s exactly what you should do! After all, it’s the tires that ensure that caravans and motorhomes stay safely on track and survive even the toughest road trip. So it’s time to take a closer look at tires.
What distinguishes tires for caravans and campers?
Caravans are trailers that are attached to a towing vehicle and pulled. Actually, the caravan only has to roll behind. However, the tires are exposed to completely different influences and loads than those of normal passenger cars.
The most important factor is the weight, which differs significantly from that of a passenger car. Since caravans often weigh considerably more than normal cars, the tires must also be able to withstand a correspondingly higher weight. The load index of the tires plays an important role here. The tire tread should also not be ignored in the case of caravans. If the tread depth is insufficient, aquaplaning can occur in the rain and the entire caravan can break away.
In addition, there are various environmental influences that are more severe for motorhomes than for normal cars. Depending on the country of travel, the road conditions are worse and one moves a lot on gravel roads or roads with many potholes, unlike in road traffic with a passenger car. This leads to greater abrasion and reduces the service life of the tire. Strong sunlight in southern countries also takes its toll on tires.
Are there special tires for motor homes?
The situation is a bit different for motorhomes than for caravans, since you drive the motorhome yourself. Here, the size of the vehicle is the most important factor for the tires. Small motorhomes in the size range of vans and VW buses can often be driven with conventional car tires, as long as the load index fits. In some cases, motorhomes weighing less than 7700 lbs are also equipped with transporter tires – but this can lead to problems. Tires for vans are designed for permanent everyday use. In a motorhome, however, you usually don’t drive that often, but you do a lot of driving at once. In addition, motorhomes usually have long downtimes. The downtimes in particular put commercial van tires under a lot of strain and can reduce their service life and safety when driving.
Some manufacturers, such as Continental, therefore now offer special motorhome tires, so-called camping tires. These tires offer greater driving comfort and withstand adverse environmental conditions. The rubber compound of these camping tires is optimized in such a way that they do not suffer any quality degradation even during longer periods of use and extreme influences, such as strong UV radiation. For motorhomes over 7700 lbs, different rules apply once again. Depending on the vehicle, truck tires may have to be fitted. Check the vehicle registration document of your motorhome.
Finding the right pressure for the caravan tire
Pressure is an important factor in caravan tires. Indeed, the pressure (and not the carcass) absorbs the entire load of the trailer. Tire manufacturers usually require values above 2.5 bars for a cold tire, and the maximum pressure can be up to more than 3 bars. You can find the corresponding information in the vehicle’s manual.
In general, you should check the tire pressure of caravans regularly and adhere to the values recommended by the manufacturer of the vehicle. Especially before longer journeys, you should measure the air pressure while the vehicle is still cold and adjust it if necessary. Why go to all this trouble? Quite simply, incorrectly set pressure can lead to premature tire wear. If the pressure is too high, the center of the tire will wear more than average. If the pressure is too low, on the other hand, the sidewalls wear more. If the tire is underinflated, it also loses stability. The carcass buckles and the tire sags. This not only worsens the handling of the motorhome. In the worst case, the inner workings of the tire are irreparably damaged. Under certain circumstances, this can even lead to the tire bursting – even with new tires.
When do the tires on caravans and motorhomes need to be changed?
The service life of caravan tires is limited, and even if you don’t drive the caravan around the world, the tire will age. UV rays, heat, oxygen, and the elements all take their toll on the material, causing fatigue over time. The first sign of this is cracking on the sidewall of the tire. That’s why you should make sure to replace tires regularly, even if they still look good on the outside.
For vehicles with a speed limit of 60 mph, the tires must be replaced after six years at the latest, as mentioned above. This does not apply to other vehicles – here, the law stipulates a minimum tread depth of 0.06 inches. If the tread of the tire reaches this depth, a new tire is required. In practice, however, a change should be considered as soon as the tread of the caravan tire falls below the limit of 0.15 inches.
When this point is reached depends very much on individual driving behavior. However, you should change the tires after eight to ten years at the latest, possibly even earlier if you travel a lot with the camper. Also, note that the tires of the towing vehicle also wear out – especially if you drive with a heavy trailer and without four-wheel drive.
Is it worth buying all-weather and all-season tires?
Every winter, many campers ask themselves again whether it is really necessary to switch to winter tires for their motorhomes. The tire manufacturers have long since recognized this and now offer all-season tires and all-weather tires for caravans and motor homes. These all-weather tires are marked “M+S” (mud and snow) and the alpine symbol (snowflake on the mountain) for winter tires and are intended to allow comfortable driving even in adverse conditions. Note that a sole marking with M+S is now no longer recognized as suitable for winter use, as it does not meet the conditions prescribed for winter tires. Real winter tires have an advantage in terms of traction, lateral guidance, and braking performance. If you also go camping in the winter, you should not forgo the change between summer and winter tires.
In order to properly manage the weight of your RV trailer, all tires must be identical in size and the combined capacity of the tires must equal or exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of the axle. In fact, the combined capacity of all the tires should exceed the loaded trailer weight by 20 percent.
The common rule of thumb for changing your RV tires is anywhere between three and six years. If you are on the road often, and you think your tires need to be changed, then it may not be possible to last as long as six years.
Measuring for tire covers is quick and easy. Look for the tire code on the sidewall of the RV tire and use that number to match to the tire covers. If you can’t find the tire code, simply measure the tire from tread to tread across the rim.