Nothing can ruin your camping trip like having tire trouble! Besides being a hassle, you can’t predict when and where you will be on your excursion when trouble sets. Seems that you will either be on the freeway, off the beaten path or in an area where your cell phone won’t work.
Tire safety, for the most part, is in your hands with proper awareness and checking of your tire pressure before each trip. Now, proper tire pressure doesn’t prevent you from getting a flat if you run over nails, but it will protect you from blowouts and worn tires that are caused by improper inflation.
Get a tire pressure gauge.
First, before you can confirm if you have the right tire pressure, you need to get a tire pressure gauge. These are not expensive and can be digital or analog. Both are fairly accurate, and for camping, being within a few PSI is really what we are after. Don’t rely on gas stations or borrowing a tire pressure gauge, for the small investment, it is wise to have on every trip and before you hit the road.
Now that you have a pressure gauge, you will be able to determine when you are indeed under or overinflated (both are not good by the way). Tire pressure (measured in PSI – pounds per square inch), is the pressure within your tire, which is ultimately holding up your camper or RV. Yes indeed, it is the AIR in your tires that hold up your camper and not the tire itself. Think of it this way, there is a flat portion of the tire the meets the surface of the ground. This flat surface has a dimension, say 7 inches by 9 inches – or 63 square inches). Now since your tire has air that is rated in pounds per square inch, 50 PSI pressure multiplied by the 63 square inches, lets you know that the tire can hold a maximum of 3,150 pounds (50psi x 63 square inches of tire contact).
What could go wrong if you don’t have the correct tire pressure?
You can now see why it’s so important to have this pressure just right. Without that proper tire pressure, you’re not holding up the weight of your camper and can cause serious strain on your tires. Not having the correct tire pressure can cause all sorts of problems, for example:
An underinflated tire can cause
- Premature and uneven wear to the OUTER treads of your tires.
- Cause additional strain to your tow vehicle as this low-pressure causes drag.
- Cause a blow-out or flat tire and leave you stranded.
An overinflated tire can cause
- Premature and uneven wear to the CENTER tread of your tires.
- Cause a rough ride and bouncing to your camper.
- Likely to cause a blow-out and leave you stranded.
Checking your pressure is fairly easy and should only take a minute. The key is to check your pressure when the tire is COLD. This means you check the pressure before the tire is warmed up from driving on the road. What happens when check a warm tire? Well, if you remember science class, warm air expands and that means your tire pressure will increase and give you higher PSI readings. Now, this is not bad, it’s just that manufacturers give their ratings in cold pressure. So I would stick with measuring cold.
Where do I find out my PSI requirements?
Alright, so now that you have an understanding of tire pressure, let’s find out where you can get the correct pressure for your specific camper. You will have two main areas to check, the first is your camper VIN tag and the second is the sidewall on your tire.
- Your camper VIN Tag (i can insert a photo) should give you the specific tire pressure for your camper. Your camper’s overall weight and tire contact (like we mentioned above), were calculated at the factory to determine how much pressure will hold up your camper. Remember, this will be given to you in COLD pressure. So always check this before you start driving on the road.
- Your tire sidewalls also should be checked (photo). This is usually given as MAX pressure for that specific tire. You never want to exceed the tires MAX PSI. Tire manufacturers test for max pressure at certain speeds and under certain loads. They also sell tires to many industries (not just for campers), so don’t just assume that your tires can handle what your VIN says. You must confirm you are complying with both the VIN and the tire manufacturer.
There is not much to tire pressure, but it is important to keep you on the road with your camper. Getting your tire gauge and checking before each trip will give you that peace of mind on the open road. Safe travels!