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RV Reviews Top Tip: How to properly check your RV tire pressures


Every week or so for years now we’ve wrapped up our blog articles by gently reminding readers to check their tire pressures before hitting the road. While this may appear to be a glib sign-off, we genuinely believe what we write. 

Under (or over) inflated tires are dangerous, adversely affecting handling in the best case scenario, or failing without warning in the worst case. A blow-out is startling enough in a passenger vehicle but when it happens at highway speeds in a travel trailer or motorhome loaded to the groaning-under-the-weight level, things can go from bad to worse before you’ve even comprehended what is happening. Not only is the loss of a tire significant, but so is the subsequent (and sudden) shift of weight. Ideally you manage to wrestle your bucking steed to the berm and stop safely, hazards on, palms sweating, and possibly in need of a trip to the restroom to “freshen up”. We’ve all heard stories of hapless RVers who didn’t manage the ideal ending.

If that isn’t enough motivation to justify spending five minutes checking your tire pressures before aiming your RV at the distant horizon, consider this: properly inflated tires can provide up to 4 more miles of travel per gallon. We could go bonkers here with various examples and charts but in the interest of time let’s consider that a common Class A gas powered motorhome (2013 Tiffin Phaeton) averages about 8 miles per gallon, fully loaded (according to one rather obsessive reader with the spreadsheets to prove it). While we doubt that properly inflated tires will magically provide 12 miles per gallon, we will imply that improperly filled tires very well could result in 6 miles per gallon. Without belaboring the point, a 1,000 mile trip at 6 mpg equals 166 gallons of fuel burn, whereas 8 mpg would only require 125 gallons. An extra 41 gallons purchased at $2.85 per gallon equals $116.85. 

For many of you, the blow-out scenario mentioned above will have convinced you of the importance of checking your tire pressures. For others (like my father: Hi Dad!), the thought of spending more on gas will have sent chills down your spine. Regardless of which scared-straight tactic worked, let’s briefly discuss the “How”.

  • Spend fifteen to twenty bucks and get a decent tire pressure gauge. The newer digital ones are proving to be more accurate than the old plastic dip-stick type.
  • Check your tire pressures when the tires are cold -before you’ve left home. Manufacturers provide optimal tire pressures based on cold tires. Warmed up tires (after driving for a while or sitting in the hot sun) will provide artificially elevated pressures. In a nutshell, rubber tires heat up from friction or ambient heat, the air inside the tire is heated, heated air expands.
  • All tires will have a “Max PSI” listed on the sidewall but keep in mind that this is a PSI determined by the tire manufacturer -NOT the RV manufacturer. Somewhere on your RV (or, failing that, in the owner’s manual) there should be a label with tire pressure specifics. Your RV manufacturer’s recommendations always trump the tire manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Tire pressures should be checked every 30 days or whenever the outside air temperature moves 10 degrees or more in either direction. Some people recommend checking tire pressures every time you gas up but we don’t know anyone that actually does that.
  • Did you know that tire stores will check your tire pressures -and fill or deflate as needed? We don’t know of any tire store that charges for this service, either. Just make sure to use a local store and give the tires some time to cool down before they are checked. 

That’s it for this week. Short and sweet. Have fun and –it almost goes without saying– check those tire pressures before hitting the road!

Happy travels,

The Team


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