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RV tire basics

RV Tire Cheat Sheet: Tips for Maximum Performance

Published on December 6th, 2021
Updated on January 28th, 2024

Safe and dependable tires are critical to enjoying RV camping. RV tire basics include how to read tire markings and how to maintain tires for travel trailers, motorhomes, and other recreational vehicles.

Let’s get started.

RV Tire Markings

RV tire markings

Think of your vehicle tires as air containers. Sealed inside is pressurized air that makes the tires firm but not rigid. Tires are constructed in layers to support the vehicle weight, absorb road shocks, provide traction and braking, and maintain the direction of travel. 

What’s the difference between tires? You can find out yourself by reading the required markings on the side of the tire.

1 = Tire width (in millimeters)

2 = Aspect ratio (% of a tire section width to height)

3 = Tire construction (Radial or Bias-ply)

4 = Rim diameter (in inches)

5 = Load index (measurement of load capacity; refer to manufacturer’s index chart)

6 = Speed symbol (maximum speed of tire design; refer to manufacturer’s symbol chart)

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In addition, this code is preceded by “P” for a passenger tire, “ST” for the special trailer, or “LT” for a light truck design.

The other code on your tire you should check is the DOT Code on the sidewall, specifically the last four digits.

They indicate when the tire was manufactured; the first two digits are the WEEK number, and the last two digits indicate the YEAR of manufacture.

If the DOT code ends in “1618,” the tire was manufactured during the 16th week (mid-April) of 2018. (Note that some tire manufacturers include additional codes, such as “M16K 18RX”.)

Most importantly, refer to the trailer, truck, motorhome, or other vehicle’s owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended tire size, rating, and air pressure.

RV Tire Maintenance

Set of 4 All Steel ST235/80R16 RV Radial Trailer Tire 16-Ply Load Range H 130/126M …
  • Heavy duty ALL STEEL construction, 16 ply rated, load range H, 4190 lbs capacity, Speed rating: M
  • Great for big heavy RV or trailers, to replace regular ST235/80R16 tires
  • This tire is designed for the trailer use only, rims are not included
  • This tire has been sold by large volume to trailer manufacturers and tire dealers nationwide

To keep your RV camping safer, make sure you read and maintain your vehicle(s) tires.

15 RV Tire Maintenance Tips

  1. Manufacturers recommend that tires not be used beyond 6-10 years of age. Tires parked in sunlight without cover are the most susceptible to sun aging and degradation.
  2. Look for checking and cracking on RV tires; trailer tires are often neglected between camping seasons.
  3. Maintain tire pressure following the vehicle and tire manufacturer instructions. If in doubt, ask a reputable tire retailer to recommend tire pressure.
  4. Don’t install passenger tires (P) onto a motorhome, towing pickup, van camper, or other light truck (LT) vehicle.
  5. Always carry a spare tire. Some RVs are not equipped with them from the manufacturer to save weight and space (and money!). Road service can install your tire but may not have a specialty tire in stock to bring you.
  6. On a camping trip, check your tires once a day for inflation, damage, and wear.
  7. Know where your tire jack and lug wrench are on your RV, if any.
  8. If you’ve purchased a new or new-to-you RV, make sure you know how to change a tire on it in an emergency.
  9. If your RV or tow vehicle has dual tires on the rear axle (dually), make sure you know how to check tire pressure on the inside tires.
  10. Periodically check the tread depth on all tires, which should be at least 2/32″ (1.6mm). If you don’t have a tread wear indicator, insert a Lincoln penny upside down in the tread; if you can see the top of Abe’s head, the tread is insufficient.
  11. Rotate your RV tires (or have them rotated) every 5,000 to 8,000 miles per the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation.
  12. Don’t overload your RV. Excessive weight in your motorhome, trailer, camper, or tow vehicle puts excessive stress on tires.
  13. Replace tires with the same tire size, type, and speed rating as recommended by the manufacturer. If not known, ask a trusted tire retailer.
  14. Consider an RV emergency roadside assistance insurance policy.
  15. Keep a frugal maintenance notebook with tire specifications and maintenance information.

RV Tire Basics and Safety Tips (Video)

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide

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