How to Avoid & Prepare for a Flat Tire on Your RV or Trailer
Family adventures in your RV or with your trailer in tow can come to a screeching halt with just one flat tire. Now what? If you’re planning ahead and wondering what you’ll need to change a flat tire on your RV or trailer, we’ve put together some tips and a list of tire-changing tools you’ll need for your own vehicle.
We talked to some of our tire experts at Les Schwab who spend most of their summer weekends exploring their favorite places across Oregon in their RVs or with their trailers in tow. In fact, we even checked out some of the toolkits they carry in their RVs and trailers to see what they take along. Here’s what we found and what they recommend.
Start With the Spare
Your RV or trailer spare tire is one of the most important items you can carry when you travel. Without it, you may be waiting for roadside assistance or unhooking your rig and driving back into town to fix the trailer tire.
Before you head out, bring your RV or trailer into the Les Schwab Tire Center near you. We’ll check all of your tires, including your spare for cracks, separating tread, and other issues that could leave you stranded.
Les Schwab Tip: Be sure your spare is easily accessible. If it’s not mounted to the back of the RV or trailer, put it somewhere that is easy to reach.
Visually Inspect Your RV and Trailer Tires at Every Stop
It’s tough to tell if your RV or trailer tire is on the verge of tire failure or a flat. Every time you stop for gas, bathroom breaks, or meals, check all the tires for wear, escaping air, and cracks. If you notice anything unusual, get to the nearest Les Schwab before it becomes a problem.
Les Schwab Tip: If your tire goes flat anywhere near one of our locations, we may be able to come to you during regular business hours. Give us a call.
Check the Tire Pressure
A lot of RV and trailer tire failures happen because of low tire pressure. With a simple gauge, an electric pump, or a trip to Les Schwab, you can help keep your tire pressure at an optimum level. Check out Using a Tire Pressure Gauge for more helpful advice.
Pack Extra Tools
Do you have all the right tools to change ALL of the tires on your RV or trailer? This list should help you get back on the road quickly if you ever need to change a flat tire.
- Leather Gloves to protect your hands. Our tire experts have changed thousands of flat tires and they list heavy gloves as a must-have. Any gloves are better than nothing, but they affirm that leather gloves are more durable when handling heavy, hot metal.
- Bottle Jack is a compact lifting device that comes in a variety of sizes and lifting capacities. Bring a piece of plywood with your bottle jack to help stabilize it and prevent it from sinking into the ground if the shoulder is soggy, the asphalt is hot, or if it’s otherwise unstable. You’ll be glad you have it if you find yourself with a blowout in a muddy patch of road.
- Long Handle Lug Wrench comes in a variety of sizes and is essential for loosening the lug nuts. You’ll also need sockets that fit the lugs on EVERY wheel. Remember to check the spare, too. Those lugs can often be a different size.
- Torque Wrench will help you tighten the lugs properly without damaging the wheel studs. Incorrect tightening of the lug nuts can cause a loss of torque pressure between the wheel and the mounting surface, potentially causing the wheel to come loose.
- Socket Set and Cordless Impact Wrench and/or Gun to make some of the work easier. You’ll still need the lug wrench to loosen each lug and the torque wrench to tighten them properly.
- Bolt Cutter. Those who’ve been traveling by RV or hauling trailers for a while have changed a flat or two over the years. One thing they’ve learned to always carry is a bolt cutter to remove the steel cords from a tire that has failed and wrapped itself around the axle. Long handles can help reach where you need it.
- Reflectors or Flares don’t need to be expensive or heavy duty to help alert traffic and keep you safe. In addition to turning on your hazard lights, place one reflector close behind your RV or trailer and another 10-15 feet farther away. (Not Shown)
- Mat or Towel to protect your knees from the inevitable, unforgiving pavement and rocks. You’ll appreciate the protective layer to keep your clothes a little drier and cleaner when the road is hot and dirty in the summer or cold and icy in the winter. (not shown)
Other Tips for Getting Your RV or Trailer Ready for the Road
Before you head out, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips to get your RV or trailer ready for the road. As you’re planning your road trip, use this handy interactive essential road trip checklist to make sure you and your vehicle are as prepared as possible.
Les Schwab Knows RV and Trailer Tires
Your local Les Schwab carries the right tires, wheels, and accessories for your RV or trailer, plus we’re here to inspect your tires, including your spare, and offer helpful advice for your next outing. Stop by or schedule an appointment today.
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Tire Size Explained: Reading the Sidewall
Tire size can be confusing. Some numbers on the sidewall are listed in metric while others are in inches. Plus, the right size for your car, truck or trailer can differ depending on tire use and your driving habits.
You can see your original equipment tire size in your owner’s manual. This is the sizing recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
If you’re interested in switching out your tires for a different look or performance need, a good place to start is to look at the codes on your existing tires’ sidewall. Then have a tire professional help you determine a tire size range that will fit your vehicle and driving goals.
Here’s an explainer on what all the sidewall numbers and letters mean.
Tire Size Meanings
A: TIRE TYPE The first letter in the code tells you what class of tire it is.
P stands for passenger vehicle tire. P-class tires include cars, SUVs, crossovers, minivans and smaller pickup trucks.
LT means light truck tire, designed for vehicles that are towing trailers or have ¾- and 1-ton load capacity.
ST stands for Special Trailer. These tire sizes are meant for trailers, including fifth wheels and other travel trailers, boat trailers and utility trailers.
If there’s no letter before the first number, you have a metric tire most commonly referred to as European size. It’s also measured in millimeters but may have different load capacity than a P or LT tire.
B: TIRE WIDTH The three-digit number following the letter is the tire’s width (from side to side, looking at the tire head on) in millimeters. Also called the section width, this measurement is taken from outer sidewall to inner sidewall.
C: ASPECT RATIO The forward slash separates the tire width number from the two-digit aspect ratio. The bigger the aspect ratio, the higher/taller the tire’s sidewall, or “profile” as it’s sometimes called.
The aspect ratio is a percentage. It’s the height of the sidewall measured from wheel rim to top of the tread, expressed as a percentage of tire width. In other words, it’s sidewall height divided by tire width.
In this example, the aspect ratio is 65, meaning the sidewall is 65 percent as high as the tire is wide. To get the sidewall height, take the tire width of 215 mm and convert it to inches (8.46). Then multiply this by .65 and you get 5.5 inches, the sidewall height in inches.
D: CONSTRUCTION TYPE This single letter tells you about the internal construction of the tire.
R is for radial tires, the industry standard for most tires today. They have better road grip, lower rolling resistance for better gas mileage, ride comfort and durability than previous generations of tires. In a radial tire, the plies — layers of strong cords made of a blend of polyester, steel and fabric and coated with rubber — are laid perpendicular to the direction of travel.
D is for tires built with diagonal (crisscrossed) plies, called bias-constructed tires. They are also called conventional, x-ply, or cross-ply tires. Some motorcycle and trailer tires still use this internal construction.
Some run-flat tires are identified with an F followed by the type of internal construction.
E: WHEEL DIAMETER This two-digit number specifies wheel diameter in inches, how wide the wheel is across the center. It’s the distance between the two bead seat areas (where a tire gets slotted and tightly sealed onto the wheel).
F: LOAD INDEX The two-digit or three-digit number that follows the gap specifies tire load index. The load index symbol indicates how much weight a tire can support, based on the following standard chart. In our example, the load index is 89, which indicates the tire has a load capacity of 1,279 pounds.
G: SPEED RATING The last letter is the speed rating, which tells you the top speed it’s safe to travel at for a sustained amount of time. A tire with a higher speed rating can handle heat better and provide more control at faster speeds. The maximum operating speed of a vehicle is no more than the lowest speed rating of all tires mounted on the vehicle. (Of course, you should always abide by speed limits for safer driving.) Speed rating is usually, but not always, a single letter (see the chart).
LOAD INDEX LOAD (lbs) LOAD INDEX LOAD (lbs) LOAD INDEX LOAD (lbs) 65 639 94 1477 123 3417 66 661 95 1521 124 3527 67 677 96 1565 125 3638 68 694 97 1609 126 3748 69 716 98 1653 127 3858 70 739 99 1709 128 3968 71 761 100 1764 129 4079 72 783 101 1819 130 4189 73 805 102 1874 131 4299 74 827 103 1929 132 4409 75 853 104 1984 133 4541 76 882 105 2039 134 4674 77 908 106 2094 135 4806 78 937 107 2149 136 4938 79 963 108 2205 137 5071 80 992 109 2271 138 5203 81 1019 110 2337 139 5357 82 1047 111 2403 140 5512 83 1074 112 2469 141 5677 84 1102 113 2535 142 5842 85 1135 114 2601 143 6008 86 1168 115 2679 144 6173 87 1201 116 2756 145 6393 88 1235 117 2833 146 6614 89 1279 118 2910 147 6779 90 1323 119 2998 148 6944 91 1356 120 3086 149 7165 92 1389 121 3197 150 7385 93 1433 122 3307 LOAD INDEX LOAD (lbs) 65 639 66 661 67 677 68 694 69 716 70 739 71 761 72 783 73 805 74 827 75 853 76 882 77 908 78 937 79 963 80 992 81 1019 82 1047 83 1074 84 1102 85 1135 86 1168 87 1201 88 1235 89 1279 90 1323 91 1356 92 1389 93 1433 94 1477 95 1521 96 1565 97 1609 98 1653 99 1709 100 1764 101 1819 102 1874 103 1929 104 1984 105 2039 106 2094 107 2149 108 2205 109 2271 110 2337 111 2403 112 2469 113 2535 114 2601 115 2679 116 2756 117 2833 118 2910 119 2998 120 3086 121 3197 122 3307 123 3417 124 3527 125 3638 126 3748 127 3858 128 3968 129 4079 130 4189 131 4299 132 4409 133 4541 134 4674 135 4806 136 4938 137 5071 138 5203 139 5357 140 5512 141 5677 142 5842 143 6008 144 6173 145 6393 146 6614 147 6779 148 6944 149 7165 150 7385
SPEED SYMBOL SPEED (mph) A1 3 A2 6 A3 9 A4 12 A5 16 A6 19 A7 22 A8 25 B 31 C 37 D 40 E 43 F 50 G 56 J 62 K 68 L 75 M 81 N 87 P 93 Q 99 R 106 S 112 T 118 U 124 H 130 V 149 ZR* W 168 Y 186 (Y) Above 186
*For tires having a maximum speed capability above 149 mph, a ZR may appear in the size designation... above 186 mph, a ZR must appear in the size designation, including a Y speed symbol in brackets.
Buying New Wheels or Changing Your Tire Size?
A tire size calculator is a quick way to see whether the tire size you’re considering will likely fit your car, SUV, sports car, light truck or crossover.
But remember that will give you just an estimate. It’s important to stay within the sizing tolerances of your vehicle. Tires that are the wrong size could cause pull in the steering wheel, rub against the suspension or auto body, reduce clearance on hills or result in a stiffer or noisier ride than you expected.
If you’re considering mounting a different tire size on your vehicle, check with a tire expert. Find out whether the tires and wheels you have your eye on are the right fit for your vehicle’s suspension, gearing and bodywork. And ask how any differences in revolutions per mile, tire speed, load index and speed rating will affect your ride quality and vehicle performance.
See how new tires and rims will look on your car or truck using our Virtual Wheels simulator, available at any Les Schwab.
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Les Schwab Tech Tip: Quick Guide to Properly Inflated Tires
Having the right air pressure in your tires is vital. After all, it’s the air in your tires that supports the weight of your vehicle, not the tires themselves. Underinflation or over-inflation can damage your tires and wear them out faster. Plus, the wrong PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) can affect fuel efficiency and stopping distance. Here’s a quick guide to understanding tire pressure, and where to find the recommended tire inflation pressure for your vehicle.
Where to Find Your Recommended PSI
Remember your first real bike? On the side of each tire was a recommended PSI. That’s the number you used when inflating the tires. That’s not exactly how PSI works on your car or truck. The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is located in your owner’s manual or on the driver’s side door sticker. In some cases, it will list the PSI for both the front and back tires when cold for the original equipment or equivalent tires. (For example, first thing in the morning before the vehicle has been driven.) You may find the PSI for your spare as well.
Les Schwab Tip: Deviating from the original tire size that came with your vehicle can affect the recommended PSI. If you have questions, stop by your local Les Schwab.
What does the cold PSI on the side of your tire indicate? That is the maximum pressure the tire is designed to safely hold, which may be different from your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure.
As of September 1, 2007, all light motor vehicles (cars and trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating under ten thousand pounds) were mandated to come equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Most of these vehicles are equipped with a system that will alert you when one or more tires aren’t properly inflated. For more information, please see our Guide to Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems.
Check Your Tire Pressure Monthly
Your tire pressure will fluctuate as you drive. Weather, elevation, and how the vehicle is being driven can all be factors. Therefore, the best time to check and inflate your tires is in the morning, before you’ve traveled more than a few miles.
On average, tires will lose one pound of pressure per month. Plus, summer and winter months can play havoc with your tire’s recommended tire pressure. Summertime heat can increase the PSI while cold weather can lower it. You can see why monthly checks are a good idea.
Anytime you’re out and about, pull into your local Les Schwab. We’ll check your tire’s air pressure for free and get all of your tires to their proper inflation.
For more information, please check out our article How to Make Your Tires Last Longer.
Tires inflated to the correct air pressure will improve fuel efficiency year-round. When your tires are under-inflated, your car works harder to move forward. Just 10 PSI lower than recommended can reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report.
A crash causation survey done by the NHTSA found that improper tire inflation is, in part, the cause for 9% of crashes. When a tire is under or over-inflated, it can affect the handling, stopping, and impact crash-avoidance systems in some of today’s new vehicles.
What About Towing?
Some truck and other vehicle manufacturers recommend higher tire pressure when a truck is loaded down or towing a trailer. It’s always a good idea to stop by your local Les Schwab before over-inflating your tires when towing anything. See Trailer and Tire Do’s and Don’ts for answers to some common questions.
Les Schwab Knows Your PSI
Pull into your local Les Schwab and we’ll check your tire pressure, add air when needed to achieve the recommended tire pressure, and help you get safely back on the road.
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Les Schwab Tech Tip: How Flat Tire Repair Works
The tires on your vehicle come in contact with a lot of roads, highways, and more. Sometimes items on those roads include nails, screws, or other objects that can find their way into your tires. This is typically what causes a flat. At Les Schwab, we’re proud to fix flat tires across the West, and get you and your family safely back on the road. Here’s a quick rundown of our process that helps us fix almost 2-million flats at year — often at no charge.
Step 1: We put your vehicle on a lift and perform an inspection. This includes looking over the tread of the tire, the sidewalls, stem (air valve), and looking for exposed belts. This first step can often tell us if your tire can be repaired or needs to be replaced.
Step 2: We remove the wheel and tire assembly. To find all possible issues, we submerge the whole wheel and tire assembly in a water tank to locate and mark the cause of the leak. Once again, the tire expert will determine if the flat can be repaired.
When Replacement is Necessary
According to the Tire Industry Association guidelines, all repairs on any tire are limited to the tread area, not on the shoulder or sidewall. If your tire is damaged beyond repair, or the sidewall is damaged, the tire should be replaced.
Step 3: If it can be repaired, the technician working on your vehicle will remove the tire from the wheel and prep it inside and out.
Step 4: Oftentimes, we remove the object and drill the damaged area at the angle the object entered the tire. We then buff and clean the inside, cement it, then apply a plug/patch combination and sealer. Depending on the angle of the puncture, a 2-piece patch may be required.
Step 5: Before reinstalling the wheel, we double-check the patch by placing the tire and wheel in a water tank. This is done to verify the patch was done properly and there are no leaks.
Once your tire is back on your vehicle, we’ll check the pressure on all four tires. Then, we’ll ensure Tire Pressure Monitoring System is reset as part of our World Class Customer Service. After that, you’re good to go.
Get the Les Schwab Tire Warranty
When you buy your tires from Les Schwab, they come with our Best Tire Value Promise, including free flat repairs. And when you bring your flat tires into Les Schwab for repair, you’ll go home with information on your repair, your tire’s tread depth, air pressure, and information on what caused the leak.
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