Tire failure on RV’s can be extremely dangerous and can cause extensive damage to your RV. There are lots of reasons for tire failure on RV’s, like under inflation, over inflation, overloading and the age of the tires. Today I want to discuss how the age of your RV tires, and exposure to the elements, can lead to tire failure.

Tires are designed and built to be used. The rubber used in tires ages faster when they are not used, so more use results in longer tire life. The problem is lots of RV’s don’t get used that much.

When tires are manufactured compounds are added to help protect the rubber from weather cracking and ozone damage. The problem is the tire needs to be rolling down the road, heating up and flexing for these compounds to work their way to the surface of the tire and protect the rubber from damage. So, when tires sit still, like in storage they start to dry out causing them to age faster.

Weather cracking or checking occurs on all tires when they are exposed to heat and sunlight. This is especially true of the tires sidewall. Ozone in the air and UV rays from the sun shorten the life of your tires. It’s not uncommon to see RV tires with low mileage and plenty of tread that are ruined by the damaging effects of ozone and UV rays. Ozone in the air causes tires to dry rot and deteriorate. UV rays from the sun , and not using the RV make it happen quicker. 

You need to inspect your tires for weather checking or cracks in the sidewalls before each trip. Cracks less than 1/32 of an inch deep are ok, but if the cracks are more than 2/32 of an inch deep the tire should be replaced immediately. If you notice damage to the tires and you’re not sure what to do have them inspected by a professional.

This faster aging and weather cracking are why tire manufacturers recommend replacing the tires on RV’s when they are 5 to 6 years old, especially if the RV isn’t used that much.

So how can you tell how old the tires are?  All tires manufactured in the United States have a DOT number. The DOT number may be on the inside or outside sidewall. At the end of the DOT number the last three or four digits in identify how old the tire is. Older tires used three digits. The first two identify the week of the year the tire was built and the third identifies the year. Newer tires use four digits. For example 3208 is the 32nd week of the year and 08 is the year 2008. If you question the age of your tires, especially on a used RV, and you can’t find the DOT number have them inspected by a qualified tire center.

Even though there are many other factors that can affect the life of your RV tires you can see that the age of the tires is one of the most important consideration.

Watch a 20/20 report on how the age of tires can result in dangerous tires http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDgSk5xWkrI

Now that we know how age and the elements can affect the life of your RV tires what can we do to help extend the life of tires when they’re not being used?

Considering where and how your RV is being stored can add life to your tires. Of course a covered, dry garage is the best scenario, but we know this isn’t always possible.

The first step is to clean the tires. Clean the tires with a mild soap and water. Avoid using tire dressings.  Sidewall rubber contains antioxidants and anti-ozones that are designed to work their way to the surface of the rubber to help protect it. Washing tires excessively removes these protective compounds and can age tires prematurely. The same is true of most tire dressing designed to make your tires shine.

Inflate the tires to the recommended inflation pressure on the tire sidewall when in storage.

Avoid storing tires on petroleum based products like asphalt and other heat absorbing surfaces, and avoid storing tires on frozen ground.

If stored outside you should place some type of barrier between the tire and the ground surface. Make sure the blocking is wider than the tires tread and longer than the tires footprint. If tires are not blocked properly and the load distributed evenly the tire sidewalls can be damaged.

 Avoid any exposure to heat and sunlight. If the RV is stored outside cover the tires with covers that block out the sun.

The RV should be stored with the least amount of weight on the tires as possible. That means it should be unloaded prior to storage.

You should move the RV every few months help prevent sidewall cracking from the tire sitting in one position for too long.

Following these simple tire storage tips can add life to your RV tires, but keep in mind that tire age and exposure to the elements are leading causes for tire failure. Make sure you know the age of your RV  and automobile tires and always inspect your tires for signs of weather cracking before each trip.

Happy Camping,

Mark Polk

RV Education 101

RV University

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  22. Jerry Robertson

    No comments, just a couple questions. It was asked – which tire pressure should be used? On the tire or recommended by the RV? Should we elevated our RV off the ground or just park on concrete? Seems like placing a jack on the axles wouldn’t be good on them.

    Thanks, Jerry

  23. Miles

    You can use a thin knife blade or a thin wire pick to check the crack depth.

    When the cracks get deeper than about 3/16 inch and the tires are 7+ years old, it might be time for new ones. I didn’t want to risk tire failure in the high desert of NV, and I have seen the damage that a blown tire can do to a trailer. Not pretty, and it costs a lot to repair. I like having fun on vacation and not worrying about what will fail next. :o)

  24. bob

    Carlisle did or does make bad tires! I bought a new Tahoe travel trailer in 2002 with carlisle tires on it. I took a trip from Texas to Yellowstone Park two weeks after I purchased travel trailer, I blew three tires and the fourth had loose tread on it when I stopped in Cody Wyoming and had a new set of cooper tires put on. I checked weight of loaded trailer and checked tire pressure daily. When I got back to Texas I notified dealer where I bought trailer he stated they were having a lot of problems with that brand of tire, he stated why didn’t you bring them back they were under warranty? I stated when you are on vacation you don’t bring a truck load of tires back. I have since bought two other trailers and the first thing I check is the brand of tires, I haven’t seen any Carlisle tires yet but I wouldn’t buy a trailer with them on it.

  25. Jeff Robinson

    How do you get into the tire crack far enough to measure?

  26. Don

    After much research, I’ve found 303 Aerospace Protectant to be a great product to use on RV tires. 303products.com From their literature: “Recreational Vehicles: 303 is the only manufacturer-recommended maintenance product for RV EPDM roofing. Excellent for tires, all rubber seals, and components.” I’ve found it for sale in boating/marine supply stores.

  27. Miles

    I bought my camper new in 2002 and it came with Maxxis ST (trailer tires) that had a load rating that just matched the load rating of the camper axles. I was servicing the bearings and brakes and noticed that there were cracks in the root of the tread on all four tires. I was planning a 4800 mile trip and decided to get new tires. After some research and checking local dealers for stock, I elected to get a set of Goodyear Marathon tires one size larger and a higher load range.

    Why? I drive at speeds between 65 and 70 mph. ST rated tires have a maximum speed rating of 65 mph. Using the load / inflation tables and the load adjustments for speed worksheet provided by Goodyear I was able to determine the load rating and the inflation pressure for the tires in my application.

    Rims… Larger cross section tires required wider rims. The original rims were bent / warped from tight turns with a double axle. When replacing tires, check the rims to make sure they are true and have no cracks.

    Information is available from tire manufacturers and the Tire and Rim Association to give direction in choosing tires for various applications.

    As far as the general care of the Maxxis tires, they were always kept at the maximum inflation pressure rating and checked several times during trips. No covers were used and the camper would sit on gravel, grass or concrete for six months at a time. There was no cracking of the side walls, but as noted above, cracking was found in the root of the treads in approximately equal amounts on all four tires. I also avoided running over curbs and other large objects that might damage the belts.

  28. Francis

    i had a blowout on the inside dual tire on my class c motorhome. it tore through the flooring and did extensive damage, including my exhaust pipe. the tires had good tread but i later learned were 9 years old. we had just purchased the motorhome used from an RV dealer so we figured the tires were ok. We now have 6 new tires with a 2009 date on them. Wish we had known before. Could have saved us time and money.

  29. David

    Most RVs have a rubber roof. They recommend a rubber roof treatement to preserve the life of it. Can it be used on tires to preserve the life and keep them plyable?

  30. I thought I read somewhere that Bridgestone, Michelin and others all recomend that wheels be covered during outside storage. In fact, you see wheels covered in many campgrounds. However, that same article quoted Goodyear as saying that tire covering was unnecessay for their tires. Any truth to this?

  31. Warren A Norman

    How true! Great article.
    I have a 2001 MH with the tires that came on it. Unsure of manufacture date.
    On a trip from Chicago to Seattle I had 2 blowouts, right front and later outside left rear. Repair cost more than $7,000.00.

    Cheaper to have replaced all the tires!

  32. john shean

    Thank you for the email and saw the clip on 20/20. this explain why my tires on my trailer haveen creating a bubble on the side wall. bought one new tire and the warranty that came from it has already replace two of them. now I going to look at the date on the rest of the tires and the ones that I have gotten. thank you agian for this info and will be sending the clip to all my freinds so they know how to check the dates of there tires

  33. Pete Curtis

    Armorall is petroleum base product. Don’t put it on anything.

  34. Tireman9

    ■Don Techen
    A good chance that “brown dirt” are the waxes and other chemicles designed to protect your tire.
    I would not scrub tires with anything I would not use on the side of my rig.
    NEVER use anything with Petrolium Distilate. (read the fine print) even if it says Tire Dressing.
    Many that make those products aren’t big enough to have any chemists or experienced tire engineers on staff so they just mix something up they think is good for tires that get replaced every couple of years.

  35. Tireman9

    ■Michelle McCarroll
    The key is that you had multiple tires all fail on the same rig. If this was a design or manufacturing issue NHTSA (see link above) would force a recall.
    Since you know one had a puncture why would you blame the tire construction?
    How many miles did you drive at how much under inflated?
    Tires simply do not “blow-out” for no reason. Most (90%) of the time with a complete examination one can find the root cause which is seldom a design defect but is usually due to service damage.

    what is the real load on each side of each axle of your rig? If you don’t know that then how do you know you have the right amount of air in the tire.
    How often do you check the inflation of your tires? Is your pressure gauge accurate?

  36. Tireman9

    The key seems to be you have only used it for short runs. Personally I would not want to put my family or others on the highway in danger. External visual examination by untrained person is notorious for being wrong many times. Sometimes even an experienced person misses important warning signe. Unless you got x-ray vision you have no idea how poor the adhesion in between the steel and rubber internal to the structure of the tire.
    25 year old tire is only good for static display.

  37. Tireman9

    Harry P
    In general the recomendation on what to park on is aimed at preventing excess moisture from migrating into a tire when parked for a long time.

    Some folk use a piece of plywood. Others buy a piece of heavy plastic.

    My rig (Class-C) has the tires covered to protect from UV. The fronts are on concrete that is sloped so no standing water. The rears are on open gravel, also no standing water.

  38. Tireman9

    ■S.C. Okie
    Plugs are not an acceptable repair in any location of a tire.

    A Combination patch/plug is only acceptable if it is small (ususually 1/4″ or smaller) and is not in outside shoulder of tread or any part of the sidewall. This is policy from NHTSA, Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear, Firestone, Toyo etc.

  39. Tireman9

    ■Jim Mullany

    I think he meant that when you place your rig in storage or are going to be parked for more than a month you can help the tire by inflating it to the maximum shown on the tire as long as that doesn’t exceed the maximum marked on the rim.

    Your traveling inflation should be either the MFG placard or higher if you know your real axle by axle side to side loads. With that information you can then check load & inflation tables to find the minimum inflation needed to carry the load. I recommend you increase that by 5 psi.
    Again you never should exceed the tire or rim MAXIMUM when setting the COLD inflation.

  40. Clarke

    Problem today is now you will not see any AMERICA made tires. Mostly are made from CHINA. China tires are cheap and tend not to hold rubber well. It is shame. I am sure you have heard about Govt was thinking about tarrif tax on China tires. I hope they will pass it.

  41. Don Techen

    Good info. What about a little armorall wipe down after cleaning with joy dishsoap on a scrub brush to cover brown dirt? that won’t wash off.

  42. Michelle McCarroll

    We bought a 2002 TravelStar Expandable Travel trailer. We had taken at least one very long (across many states) trip each year and about 5 weekend trips. Our camper was kept outside, but shaded. Within 24 months all 4 Carlisle tires had blown: 2 in one trip and 2 in the next long distance trip. The first one had a flat due to a piece of metal and we didn’t think it was a problem. Then that same trip another one blew shortly after the first and we thought we must have picked something up on the road. The next trip 2 tires went (we are getting pretty good at changing tires on the fly). We took the tire to a shop and they told us that the tires were manufactured 3 years before our camper was made. He also told us that Carlisle had made some bad tires. The last flat ripped off our grey and black tank handles and damaged the bottom of our trailer. We won’t be buying a camper from Tommy Schaeffer in PA anytine soon and I will be checking tire codes when we buy our next camper. BUYER BEWARE even when buying new.

  43. Pkunk

    Ever since I’ve been on RV forums I’ve heard of the tire age thing and have replaced old RV tires that were old enough to have sidewall cracks.
    Question!! ?
    Why in the world is the spare tire on my pickup -code date may/84- attached in the bed, exposed to the sun,rain, freezing temps, still in like new condition. There is not one crack, the rubber still looks like new, the tread is good, and it has performed when needed when needed. It is an off brand (I’d have to go look if it’s pertinent) & the only reason I’ve not changed it is it’s mounted on a split rim and you know how tire shops are about those.

  44. Harry P Anderson

    We are newbies and need some help regarding tire care. We noticed that you said there should be a barrier between the tires and concrete is stored outside. What type of barrier do you recommend? Really do need help on this. Thanks

  45. Joecool,

    Let me cite a couple references that support my conclusions.

    1) Goodyear’s warranty for weather cracking is four years from purchase date.http://www.goodyear.com/rv/tirecare/tire_replacement.html

    2) Goodyear tire replacement guidelines states that tire replacement is dependent on these factors: Usage per year – more frequent usage will result in longer life, vehicle storage practices (6 months loaded with little or no rotation is not good!), usage in warmer climates can also negatively impact a tire’s overall life due to greater extreme ozone exposure, RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) says, ”Statistics indicate that the average life of an RV tire is five to seven years.“

    3) Bridgestone states RV users often put no more than a few thousand miles on their tires a year. Their tires may need to be replaced because of age long before their treads are worn out. Is a 10-year old tire too old? Probably. Is a 6-year old tire too old? Maybe. Have your tires inspected. http://www.trucktires.com/bridgestone/us_eng/press/zip/RV_Brochure.pdf

    4) Michelin states that replacing tires depends on many factors such as weather and storage conditions, they go on to say it is recommended to have RV/Motorhome tires, including spare tires, inspected regularly by a qualified tire specialist. Tires that have been in use for 5 years or more should continue to be inspected by a specialist at least annually. http://www.michelinrvtires.com/michelinrv/toolbox/reference-material.jsp

    5) Michelin states If weather cracks are less than 1/32″ deep the tire is fine to run. Between 1/32″ & 2/32″ the tire is suspect and should be examined by the Michelin dealer. If cracks are any deeper than 2/32″ the tire should be replaced immediately. http://www.michelinrvtires.com/michelinrv/toolbox/reference-material.jsp

    Did you watch the 20/20 video I posted in the article?

  46. Joecool007

    This article is totally false. Michelin says that tires should be replaced at 10 years as a simple “precaution”, and Goodyear effectively states that tire age does not matter at all.

    You can find this information at Michelinman.com or goodyeartire.com

    I do not think that this author knows what he is talking about.

  47. S.C. Okie

    On our ’02 TIMBERLAND 29 ft’r., I had to replace the L/F tire, (two axles), in Key West, Fla., a couple of weeks ago. The tire had been plugged near the area where the sidewall and tread meet-(mistake #1). The tire also had a crack in the sidewall about 1/3 the diameter from the plug. Here’s the kicker: A crack in the rubber down in between the rows of tread. So, after finding a tire dealer that had another tire, our funds are approx. $125.00 lighter. At least the camper was stationary when it went flat, (in the campground). Mistake #2: Trusting local tire shop to properly plug the tire. The didn’t even bother to inform me that the tire had any cracks or other problems. Went from S.C. to Key West with the tire that way! Thank the GOD in heaven we found it before we left Key West!!
    I do ask the same question: Is there anything beneficial, such as Armour-All, that will help protect the tires?
    The tire shop in Key West stated that the state of California is trying to get a law passed that A L L RV’s had to have their tires replaced every four years. Apparently, they are trying to get this to folks in D.C. Now, how much havoc will that cause all of us RV owners??? How many $$$?? Reckon that the law does have some good points, but——————————.
    Does jacking up the camper, with the wheels able to ‘free-wheel’ and covered, do anything towards relieving the load/stress while not being used?? (Not necessarily in storage—-in between trips).
    Just my thoughts! 🙂

  48. After 2 1/2 years from DOT date my good year marathons were starting to crack what I thought was pretty bad. I had my tire store send one into goodyear to inspect. They said noting was wrong with the tire. So I believed them. 6 months later the tire had a bubble and I sent it into goodyear again and they would not warranty it. No reason. 3 months later two more of the same vintage tires blew out. All were run at rated pressure and trailer was not over weight. Frankly I think this is a production quality issure and no one wants to admit it. Goodyear surely lost my business.

  49. John Holveck

    I had tires that were about 7 years old, still looked new, not cracked or anything and was planning to change them after I got back from a short trip but didn’t make it. The right reat tire threw a tread befor I got out of town so now I didn’t have a spare, the damage was slight so we decided we weren’t going far so we could make irt without a spare, right? WRONG!! On the way home the right front tier blew out (sounded like a stick of dynamite) and toe a big hole in the floor of our fifth wheel. It did about four or five thousand dollars damage. Lucky for me Goodyear poaid to hav the damage repaired and bought me two new tires, needless to say, I bought two more. I traded the trailer about a year and half later. By the way, I don’t pull out of my driveway without checking the air pressure 110psi each.

  50. Jim Mullany

    Good article. However, I have a question.

    You state that the tires should be inflated to the pressure stated on the sidewall. I have used the pressure recommended by the coach manufacturer,

    Which is correct?


  51. Bill Humphrey

    I can speak from experience this is great advice. We have a 32 foot travel trailer and before we started our trip this summer I looked at the tires tread and the tread depth was almost like new tires. Half way through our trip we had a blowout on one of the tires and it was shredded by the time I could get stopped. Thank god for double axles so there was no loss of control. I found a tire dealer after putting the spare on and in checking the remaining tires on the ground found that the remaining tires all had serious weather checking very deep. So tread depth doesn’t mean much. Unless you travel a lot the tires just don’t wear the tread out and they fail from sitting long before the life of the tread. So everyone should make sure they check for serious weather checking and replace as needed. It could save you a lot of grief and also from a possible dangerous situation.

  52. Not all the age codes immediately follow the DOT information. On the Mission tires that came w/ my 2007 Montana the date code was several inches to the right of the DOT information–according to a Les Schwab rep.

    You recommend against using dressings that make tires shine. Is Amorall beneficial? If not, are there any beneficial dressings to minimize UV and Ozone damage?

  53. I think your article on aged RV tires, in general, is quite good.
    However, after retiring from a premium radial tire company after 40 years, I would like to express a couple of my thoughts.
    1. Tire age is one of the hottest topics on RV forums today.
    2. IMHO this issue is blown out of proportion to the extent I would not be
    surprised if it isn’t telling some RVers ‘as long as you install new tires every 5
    5 or 6 years, you don’t really have to worry much about maintenance’.
    3. I have always been a proponent of replacing when exterior conditions warrant,
    rather than on a timetable. Proper maintenance is still the best way to prolong
    tire life.
    4. I have reviewed many tire manufacturer’s websites and have yet to find one
    that recommends replacing automatically at 5 or 6 years. Michelin, for
    example, states they should be checked annually by a tire professional
    after 5 years, then replaced at 10 years, no matter the exterior appearance.
    5. I would state the preferred method of long-term storage would be inside out of
    the sun, wind and rain. In all cases I would further say cover the tires with a
    sun and wind-blocking material, and jack the RV up so tires clear the ground.
    Just some of my thoughts and ideas.

  54. Jack Harrell

    We get Versus network on Time Warner Cable. When I went to the link for Versus and checked their schedules for Wednesdays, Thursdays and Mondays, I was unable to find RVTV listed anytime in August or September. Are these segments just for specific regions or starting after September?

    I would love to watch some of the stories and RV segments. I also searched their schedule for RVTV.


  55. Serge Cossette

    I purchased a new travel-trailer three years ago. So I thought I was rolling with a set of three year old tires. Experience taught me otherwise. After three tire belt separations on my way to Florida, I saw that tires were manifactured in 2004. I wish I had been told that by tht dealership at the moment of purchase. So the old advice applies : Buyer beware!