For many campers, tires are only an issue when they need to be changed again. Tires unfairly lead a niche existence in caravans and mobile homes (or RVs as we like to call them). Somehow everyone knows that they are important – but for many campers this is no reason to dive deeper into the matter.
But that’s exactly what you should do! After all, tires ensure that caravans and RVs stay safely on the road and survive even the toughest road trip. So let’s take a closer look on how to choose the right tires for your RV or caravan.
What are the characteristics of tires for caravans and RVs?
Caravans are trailers that are attached to a towing vehicle and pulled. Actually, the caravan just has to roll behind. However, the tires are exposed to completely different influences and loads than those on a normal cars.
The most important thing is the weight, because it differs significantly from the car: since caravans often weigh significantly more than normal cars, the tires must also be able to withstand a correspondingly higher weight.
The tire load index plays an important role here. The tire profile should also not be ignored in caravans. If the tread depth is insufficient, aquaplaning can occur while raining and the entire combination can break away.
In addition, there are various environmental influences that are more significant for RVs than for normal cars. Depending on the country of travel, road conditions can be better or worse and when you move a lot on gravel roads or roads with many potholes, the service life of the tire will be diminished due to greater abrasion. Tires are also affected by strong solar radiation in hot countries/regions.
Are there special tires for my RV?
With RVs, things are a little different than with caravans, since you drive the RV yourself. When it comes to tires, the size of the vehicle is the most important factor.
Small RVs the size of small vans and VW buses can often be driven with conventional car tires, provided the load index fits. In some cases, mobile homes weighing less than 3.5 tons are also equipped with van tires – but this can lead to problems.
Van tires are designed for permanent use in everyday life. In addition, your RV usually has long idle times. The downtimes in particular are very difficult for commercially available transporter tires and, under certain circumstances, reduce the service life and safety when driving.
Some manufacturers are now offering special RV tires, the so-called camping tires. These tires offer greater driving comfort and defy adverse environmental influences. The rubber compound of these camping tires is optimized in such a way that they do not suffer any deterioration in quality even if they are not used for a long time and under extreme influences such as strong UV radiation.
If your RV is over 3.5 tons, different rules apply. Depending on the vehicle, truck tires may need to be fitted. Look in the registration document of your RV to see what tires you can use.
What do the markings on the caravan tires mean?
When you buy a tire for your caravan, you will always find a tire specification on the sidewall of the caravan tire. This tire designation consists of individual numbers and letters. They provide information about the dimensions, load and the permitted maximum speed of the tire.
These markings are are very important when buying a caravan tire. According to the EU standard ECE-R 30 (available also in the US), such a tire specification looks like this, for example: 185/70 R 14 102/100 Q
This is what the individual marking mean:
- 185 – Tire width: widest part of the tire expressed in millimeters
- 70 – The profile corss-section of the tire: ratio of the height of the flank to the with of the thread expressed in percents
- R – Tyre type: the R stands for radial tires
- 14 – Rim diameter: tire inner diameter, in this case 15 inches
- 102/100 – Tire Load Index: maximum permissible load of the tire, and in this example 102 stands for a maximum load of 850Kg per tire
- Q – Speed Index: the maximum permissible speed that a tire. In our example Q stands for a maximum speed of 170 km/h
When buying tires for your caravan, you should pay special attention at two points: the load index and speed index
The Load Index
Caravans generally have no double tires, i.e. no twin tires. Therefore the value before the dash, in the example above “102”, means that a single tire can carry 850 kilograms of weight at a pressure of 2.5 bar. Both tires on the axle can therefore together carry 1,700 kilograms.
When we talk about the load index of a tire, the general rule is: you may exceed the load index when choosing the tire that is specified in the vehicle registration document. However, this can severely limit driving comfort. The trailer is no longer so secure on the road and handling in curves is also impaired. It is therefore advisable to always plan a little safety reserves upwards when it comes to weight.
The Speed Index
Speed also plays an important role, but it is generally less critical for caravans, as you won’t drive that fast anyway.
If you own a caravan with Tempo 100 approval, you have to make sure that you buy at least one caravan tire with L speed index, i.e. a tire that is designed for speeds of up to 120 km/h.
Take a note that for caravans with Tempo 100 approval, you have to change your tires after six years. This also applies if the minimum profile depth of 1.6 millimeters has not yet been reached. You can read the age of the tires from the DOT number, which is located on the flank.
What is the right pressure for the RV/caravan tire?
Tire pressure plays an important role in caravan tires. The pressure (not the carcass) absorbs the entire load of the trailer. Tire manufacturers usually suggest values of over 2.5 bar for a cold tire, but the maximum pressure can be over 3 bar. You can find the relevant information in the owner’s manual for your caravan.
In general, you should check the tire pressure in caravans regularly and adhere to the recommended values by the manufacturer of the caravan. Before long trips in particular, you should measure the air pressure before heading out and adjust it if necessary.
Why the trouble you might ask? Quite simply: Incorrect tire pressure can lead to premature wear of the tire.
If the pressure is too high, the center of the tire wears out disproportionately and If the pressure is too low, on the other hand, the flanks wear out more.
If the tire has too little pressure, it also loses stability. The carcass buckles and the tire flexes. This not only worsens the driving behavior of the RV or caravan. In the worst case, the inner workings of the tire will be irreparably damaged. Under certain circumstances, this can even lead to the tire bursting – even with new tires.
When should you change the tires on your caravan or RV?
The lifespan of caravan and RV tires is limited and even if you don’t drive through world history with a team, the tire will age. UV rays, heat, oxygen and weather will affect the material and lead to signs of fatigue over time.
The first sign of this is cracks on the sidewall of the tire. Therefore, you should make sure to change the tires regularly, even if they are not used much, even if they still look good on the outside. For vehicles with Tempo 100 approval, the tires must, as mentioned, be replaced after six years at the latest.
This does not apply to RVs – here the legislator prescribes a minimum profile depth of 1.6 millimeters. If the profile of the tire reaches this depth, a new tire is needed. In practice, however, you should think about a change if the profile of the caravan tire falls below the limit of 4 millimeters.
When this point in time is reached depends heavily on individual driving behavior. You should change the tires after eight to ten years at the latest, possibly earlier if you travel a lot with the caravan. Also note that the tires of the towing vehicle will also wear out – especially if you are driving a heavy trailer without all-wheel drive.
Is it worth buying all-weather tires and all-season tires?
Every winter, many campers ask themselves whether they really have to switch to winter tires for their caravan or RV. The tire manufacturers have long since recognized this and are now offering all-season tires and all-weather tires for caravans and RVs.
The all-weather tires are marked with “M + S” (mud and snow) and the alpine symbol (snowflake on a mountain) for Winder Tires and should enable comfortable driving even in adverse conditions. Note that a sole marking with M + S is no longer recognized as suitable for winter because it does not meet the requirements for winter tires.
In tests, all-season tires from well-known manufacturers such as Goodyear, Ducato or Pirelli, however, consistently perform worse than classic winter tires.
Real winter tires have an advantage in terms of traction, cornering and braking performance. If you go on a camping holiday in winter, you shouldn’t go without switching between summer and winter tires.
Related: Budget, Midrange or Premium Tires
Winterize your caravan: don’t forget your tires
Even if you don’t use your caravan or RV during the cold season, it must be adequately prepared. There are a few points to consider when it comes to tires. Before going into hibernation, you should first increase the pressure by 0.2 to 0.3 bar. This ensures that the tire stays nice and round and does not get flat spots when it gets too cold.
It is also advisable to relieve the tires with crank supports or stands. Placing it on wedges with round surfaces or air cushions helps to distribute the weight of the caravan or RV evenly over the tires. Before your first ride, you should lower the air pressure in the tire a little.