With our motorhome being a 2012 model on a 2011 chassis, our RV tires were right around the five (5) year old mark in July 2016. And while they still had plenty of tread left on them, they were starting to ‘age out’. A few months earlier, we were getting ready to pull out of our campground in Nashville. We discovered a leaking valve stem on the front passenger tire and called Roadside Assistance for a quick fix. It wasn’t anything serious and ended up being easily fixed but while there, the tech commented on some tire sidewall cracking and scrub marks that we were already aware of. We had planned to replace our tires in the coming months and asked for his advice. He pointed out that while our current Michelin tires came standard on virtually every gas powered class A motorhome, he felt there were other tires that were better suited for the job and shared his recommendation. He confirmed our tire replacement was not urgent, but his diagnosis definitely ramped up the schedule in our minds.
We planned to be settled in Colorado for at least a month in July 2016, so we decided to do some additional research and make the change once we arrived back in our old home state. Knowing that tires are such an important part of RV safety, we anticipated we would need to invest a few thousand dollars replacing them. We figured the time spent on the extra research so we could be confident we were making a good decision would be well worth it.
Why RV Tire Age is So Important
RV tires have a different life than our regular passenger cars. They are driven less frequently and at higher weight loads. Cars and trucks are usually driven many more miles per year, so they usually wear out their tread long before they get old enough for the rubber to degrade.
Because RV tires rarely see the kind of mileage of cars and trucks, they usually ‘age out’ before they run out of tread. That’s where our RV tires were at. We had bought our RV in May 2014 with 23,000 miles on the odometer. Since then, we had put about the same amount of miles on them, so the tires had about 46,000 miles on them at the 5-year mark. Now some people will push the age of their tires out to 7 or even up 10 years, but as the third owners of our RV, we did not know the entire history of our motorhome’s tires, and we were not comfortable with pushing the age limits any further, especially as we were already seeing some sidewall cracking. As full-time RVers, our entire life and home are riding on our tires. It just isn’t something we were willing to push out further and take the risk, just to save a few bucks.
How to Determine the Age of Your Tires
You can find out the age of your tires by inspecting the sidewall and looking a four-digit code. The code will be in a bubble that looks like the example in the photo below. These four numbers represent the week and year that the tires were manufactured. For example, you can see from the code 4615 on our new tires (below), that they were manufactured during the 46th week of 2015.
Our Tire Research… and What We Chose
Specs on our Original vs New RV Tires
Original Tires: Michelin XR-V 80 R225, Weight: 78 pounds each
New Tires: Bridgestone R268 Ecopia 245 75 R225, Weight: 93 pounds each
How Have They Performed?
We made our new RV tire purchase in July 2016, so about a year and a half ago (as at the time of publishing this blog post and related video). So far, we’ve put about 11,000 miles on them without a single issue. Of course, I continue to take excellent care of our tires. We keep them covered when we’re parked to keep them protected from the elements (like UV and rain). I am also diligent about checking the tire pressure before driving, keeping them at around 90-100PSI. Overall, we have been extremely happy with these tires and I personally believe they provide better handling and are much more durable tire than the original Michelins that came stock on our coach.
What did our 6 new RV Tires cost?
All up, we paid around $3,200 installed and out the door. That included disposal of our old tires and Colorado state sales tax. And while that may seem high (and it is) remember that replacing tires on travel trailers and other towable RVs will be substantially less expensive. Tires for lighter weight motorized RVs will be less expensive too. But if you’re replacing a set of tires on say, a diesel pusher motorhome, especially one with 3 axles (tag) it could cost as much as $8,000 for a full set of tires. You will likely need to do a bit more research and planning when buying tires for your RV than you would for your regular car or truck. Most tire shops don’t have the proper equipment or skill to change large tires like these. You’ll need to go to tire shops that are familiar with working on large heavyweight vehicles and they may need to special order your tires in, which could take a few days or more than a week.
How to Save when Replacing RV Tires
There are many tire discount progams available through various memberships like FMCA, RV Owner’s Clubs (eg. Tiffin has a program) and even Thousand Trails camping memberships. We didn’t realize all of these until after our purchase, so a valuable lesson was learned – do your homework in advance! The money you save on new tires can often easily save you more than the cost of a membership (sometimes several hundred dollars on a set), so do take a look at the benefits of any memberships you may already have and/or consider joining one before making your final purchase. In our research, our FMCA membership would have definitely saved us money had we chosen Michelin Tires, but we liked the Bridgestones so much more that we were willing to pay the extra to get exactly what we wanted.
Sidenote: We have since heard that it may be possible to get a discount on Bridgestone tires as well through Michelin dealers that are part of the Michelin Advantage Program, but we have not verified this yet. FMCA has a “Continental Choice” tire program so be sure to shop around.
Our RV Maintenance Costs
Ultimately, we paid the price for peace of mind with regard to our tires and we don’t regret it. Now we know the entire history of the tires on our motorhome and feel very confident these tires would easily last 7 years or even more, based on how diligently I take care of them. Tires are not inexpensive to replace, which is why it really pays (literally) to put the time and effort into caring for them properly to keep them lasting longer AND above all, to keep you safe out there on the road.
Want to know what it costs to live and travel full-time in our RV? Check out our financial snapshots where you can compare our 2015 expenses and our 2016 expenses here as this includes our tire purchase.
A Few Final Tire Tips
- Tire inflation pressure is very important and even moreso when you have sets of dual tires because they must be the same pressure as the other in the pair otherwise significant wear can occur and increase the risk of tire failure.
- When purchasing new tires, make sure you check pressures after installation and before driving off. It’s too easy to assume the tire shop knows what the ideal pressure should be for your vehicle weight. It is recommended you know the optimal tire pressure for your RV tires before even making your purchase, and consider that as part of your shopping decision-making process.
- The other reason to check your tires before leaving is to make sure the valve stems are re-installed in a way that you can easily check them with your tire pressure gauge. As you’ll see in the video, ours were not in the proper position to do so and I had to have them fix it before driving off.
Tire Gear We Recommend
Valve Core Torque (Tightening) Tool – this is an inexpensive, must-have in your toolkit. This is the tool that fixed our leaking valve stem problem in just a few seconds and will help us avoid future Roadside Assistance callouts should this happen again.
Inflate Through Valve Caps – these make checking/adjusting your tire pressure much faster and easier, well worth the nominal cost.
Tire Pressure Gauge – if you don’t have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) you’ll need to frequently check your tire pressure with this and adjust as needed. This is the one we use.
Viair RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit – this is an excellent compressor for quickly and easily inflating your RV tires.
RV Tire Pressure Monitoring System – tire pressure monitoring system (we currently don’t have this but having done our research, this is on our Wish List).
Tire Covers – These are the tire covers we use to protect our RV tires from the elements as we liked how they coordinate with our RV color. We bought the 36-39″ size but be sure to measure your tires to select the right size for your RV.
We’d love to hear what tires you have on your RV and why, and hear your thoughts on them. Do you also have Bridgestones and if so, how are you finding them? We would also love to hear the details of any tire discount programs you’ve discovered as well, for the benefit of others reading this post!