Motorhome tyres tend not to wear as much as a car tyre but they still age. As they age tyres become weak and unreliable. You do not want a tyre to go when you are driving a motorhome.
Tyres have a certain safe working life. Generally around 5-6 years. Any more than that you should replace. A motorhome tyre is under a lot of pressure, carries a lot of weight and usually you have a precious cargo on board – your family. That why it is worth checking and making sure that your tyres are as safe as they can be.
I had no idea how much information there was about tyres, pressured, valves. These are my findings, thoughts and conclusions to find the best tyres, with the best valves inflated to the correct pressure. I hope this helps you discover the information you need.
One of our tyres failed – the metal valve sheared off and the tyre went down in a few seconds. We pulled in almost instantly but the tyre was already destroyed and could not be used. That’s why I take the age of our tyres seriously and found out that there is a lot more to tyres than just the tread.
To find the age of your tyres;
Look for the DOT number.
The DOT number has a lot of information but we are interested in the last four digits that are in a little oval shape, see the picture below.
For tyres manufactured after 2000 the DOT number should be on all your tyres and the last four digits, usually on their own have a four-digit code and that is the date of manufacture. The first two digits are the week and the last two digits are the year. So a number of 3216 would indicate the tyre was made on week 32 in 2016.
For tyres manufactured before 2000 there is only a three digit number for the date that indicates the week and year of the decade. So if the number is 234 that would indicate it was made in week 23 1994. There is no decade indicator so the tyre could have been made in 1984 but hopefully all the tyres from that decade are off the road.
There must be a date of manufacture put on to a tyre, however the date doesn’t have to be on both sides of the tyre.
On our tyres some of the DOT numbers with the date are on the inside wall and are very difficult
to see – you have to go under. If you are lucky they will be on the outside wall and you won’t have to crawl about on your knees.
Once you know the age of all your tyres you are in a position to choose some new ones but which ones are best?
Choosing New Tyres for a Motorhome
If you require new tyres, what type of tyres are best for a motorhome?
There are a myriad of tyres to choose from, I had no idea there was so much information to get through.
A motorhome tyre has to be capable of carrying heavy loads. If you think about the weight of your vehicle, ours is 3500 kg and that weight is distributed across four tyres (if the weight is distributed evenly – which it won’t be, usually more weight at the rear) then each tyre will be carrying around 875kg each. That is not far from a ton per tyre!
There are tyres that are made specifically for motorhomes, these are called camping tyres. A lot of people use ordinary van tyres which are perfectly acceptable. The tyre in the photos above is an ordinary van tyre that is capable of carrying a load of 975kg.
The main difference between the camper tyre and the ordinary commercial tyres is the tyre wall tend to be tougher on the camper tyre which helps with the stability of the motorhome, particularly when cornering they will help to reduce the sway. There are a few other differences like improved grip in the wet but basically that’s it.
Most of the camper tyres carry the mud and snow symbol which is good if you want to travel in Europe as you should have a winter tyre in the winter, summer tyre in the summer.
Most people will get the commercial van tyres as they are a bit cheaper, around 15% in general. In 2018 this works out to be around an extra £60- £80 per set. It really comes down to personal choice and budget.
There is a lot of debate on the internet about which tyres are suitable. From all the research on the web I came to the conclusion that the Camper rated tyres are a bit tougher and are designed to drive at full load. A van is not usually fully laden all its life, a motorhome is always pretty close to its max weight – at least ours is.
But before you make a decision you still want to get a tyre that is good for the seasons you like to drive. There is another decision to be made.
Summer or Winter Tyres?
There are several different types that I have come across;
Mud and Snow tyres and All Season Tyres
Summer tyres are for the summer, surprisingly. They are made for a dry hot road, usually made from quite a hard rubber (compared to a winter tyre). So they would be good on the road but not so good in wet mud for instance but would last a bit longer than a winter tyre.
Winter tyres are – you guessed it – for the winter. They are quite a soft rubber that will give a good grip in poor conditions. Being made from a softer rubber they wear down quicker than the summer tyres. They usually have a more open tread so they can grip in snow or mud.
Mud and snow Tyres – All Season Tyres tend to be a mix between a summer tyre and a winter tyre. They are a bit harder than the summer tyre and a bit softer than the winter tyre. They are a good mix for a motorhome where it could be prohibitively expensive to change tyres depending on the season. In the UK changing tyres is not a legal requirement but it is in Germany, Switzerland and several other European countries.
Mud and snow tyres are apparently great in the wet and can prevent you from getting stuck on the grass. This sounds useful for a motorhome.
What Pressure Should Motorhome Tyres Be?
There will be information about the correct tyre pressures for your motorhome in the handbook and you can follow that, usually with no problem. If you want to find the correct tyre pressure for the particular tyre you have and the load it’s carrying then here is a way to do that;
A tyre has to be inflated to the correct pressure for the load it’s under – the greater the load the greater the pressure. The only way to find out the load is to get your motorhome to a weighbridge fully loaded and get it weighed. You need the weight of the front and rear axles to find the weight distribution. Then you can contact the tyre manufacturer and give them the loads and they will calculate the correct pressure for the tyre under the load you have given. Do this and you should be on the right track for the optimal use of your new tyres.
Which Valve is Best – Rubber or Metal Tyre Valve?
This is also hotly debated on the internet. Some people believe that the metal valves are better because they are stronger and can take the high pressures in the tyre of a motorhome. Others believe that the rubber valves are perfectly fine and will do a great job even at the higher pressures.
My experience has been this –
We have metal valves on all the tyres at the moment. One of the metal valves failed and the tyre was completely ruined. It failed because it snapped – it broke right in the middle. When I asked the garage who replaced our tyre if he had seen anything like that he said he saw it all the time. I thought these valves were bomb proof but apparently not. He recommended the rubber one that will easily handle the pressure. I went with his recommendation. Don’t know if I completely trust the metal valves now.
From looking into this further there are a variety of valves available. Some of the rubber ones can handle way more than the pressures required. The problem is how would you know the tyre fitter has put on the right valve for the pressure. A valve for a car tyre would need to hold a lot less pressure and if one is put on to your motorhome tyre it will be dangerous. So it’s essential to find a tyre fitter who knows what he is doing. Ask plenty of questions and make sure he knows the load of the tyre and the pressure it needs to be inflated to. This should help. If he doesn’t seem to know what you are talking about move on. I would pay an extra premium to be sure my tyres have been done well than save a couple of pounds and have a valve fail on a motorway or some road in the middle of nowhere.
Ordering Tyres from the Internet
This can keep your costs down. Once you have a good tyre fitter whom you trust you can arrange to get your tyres put on for a nominal fee, usually about £20 per tyre to fit and balance. You can make some decent savings and have a much wider choice of tyre. It’s a bit more hassle but worth checking out.
A lot of tyre places don’t carry camper tyres do they have to be ordered in. If you order yourself it can save a lot of faffing about and you know you have decent tyres with very recent manufacturing date because you have checked yourself and made sure.
Here are some makes of decent camper tyres if you are interested.
Pirelli Chrono Camper
Michelin Agilis Camping Tyre
Continental Vanco Camping
This should be enough to get you started
The one thing that is clear from all the research I have done to find the ideal tyre for my motorhome is there is always a compromise to be made. It’s not an easy decision but hopefully you have learned a little of what has to be considered to reach that decision.