That's the look of a broken belt

That’s the look of a broken belt

Paul and I are very, very careful about our RV tires. We religiously check tire pressure, cover them whenever we are parked, keep them clean, use 303 Aerospace Protectant (the best stuff out there IMHO) and keep a close eye on datecode. Almost any RV tire you ever buy will “age out” rather than actually “wear out”. The vast majority of RVs simply don’t get that much road-time (compared to a commercial truck, for example) and at some point the rubber just starts to get too old and you risk problems. Exactly when that happens is a favorite debate on RV forums that usually elicits at least 10 pages of heated answers. Many folks will push their tires to 10 years, but we’ve always held that we would replace ours at 6 years of age no matter what…and for “the beast” that year was 2013.

Jeff starts work on the rig

Jeff starts work on the rig

So, the good news is that I knew this and had spent the last couple of months researching tires, looking at load and dimension specs and figuring out cost. We run 275/80 22.5 H-load tires on our rig and there’s only around 4 manufacturers (Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear) that offer that particular size and load. I had carefully narrowed down our choice to a couple of options, joined the FMCA Tire Program (which gives awesome discounts on Michelin tires) and even chosen the very place we’d get them done in Oregon (no sales tax, ya know). Oh yeah, we were all set and prepared. No problem baby!

But, as you know, sometimes RV life isn’t always as smooth as you expect. In fact, one of the age-old laws of RVing is that things will always happen at the least opportune moment….in other words you will inevitably have a major tire problem when you’re within agonizing reach of Oregon (but not quite there), in a place where no-one has your size and where you definitely can’t get any tire discounts.

"the Beast" at Les Schwab

“the Beast” at Les Schwab

We noticed the bulge on our front tire as we were sitting in the RV park in Boise. Originally we thought it was the curb a person-who-shall-not-be-named had scuffed on the way in, but shortly after we realized BOTH front wheels had the same damage. It’s the classic look of a broken steel belt and the way you can tell is the bulge is apparent in the same place on both sides of the tire (front-facing and inside-facing tire-walls -> run your hand radially along the front, over the tread and continue along the back and you’ll feel it on both sides). BAH! BUM@ CR*P! Given the abuse we put our tires through (especially with boondocking and crazy, bumpy, rocky roads), I guess it’s kind of lucky this didn’t happen before, but the timing just sucked.

The ONE thing that is NOT acceptable on a 33,000 lb beast is a bulge in the tires. No, no, no, no, no….!

Paul chats w/ Jeff after the work is done

Paul chats w/ Jeff after the work is done

Back view of "the beast"

Back view of “the beast”

Knowing there was no way we could drive with this, I started calling around to all the tire spots in the area. The 2 commercial truck tire guys in the area did not have the size we needed, or could only get it 2 weeks from now and/or could not guarantee datecode (very important this -> you should always ask about datecode if you’re buying tires), and most of the regular tire places didn’t have the facilities to handle us. But there was one place, and one guy who could answer all my nit-picky questions (I’ve never been an easy customer) and had the facilities to take us. Les Schwab on Jefferson (208-336-3110), and more specifically Jeff knew exactly what we needed. He was able to get the tires within 2 days and could guarantee a datecode of 1013 (that’s the 10th week of 2013, almost impossible to get fresher). Total SCORE!

That's an AWESOME datecode!

That’s an AWESOME datecode!

Tucked into the pines in Oregon

Happily tucked into the pines in Oregon

I was ridiculously nervous about the 5-mile drive over, but we made the drive painlessly and Jeff was there to personally greet us and get us going. He started work as soon as we stepped off the RV and had the 2 front tires changed (brand new Michelin XZE’s) within an hour while we went for a Starbuck’s and lounged with doggie in their waiting room. An overall fabulous experience! We’ve decided to keep the back (undamaged) tires until we get to Oregon, but feel 500% better with new steers even though the cost {{groan}} caused us to hyperventilate and cackle hysterically like old witches. Ah well, ’tis the price we pay for no mortgage and utter freedom, right? The new ride is smooth as silk and I couldn’t be happier with the service.

We’ve now made it (FINALLY) to Oregon and are hanging for a few days in deep pine forest (oh yeah!) before we make the drive to spend the next few weeks in the Columbia River Gorge. Onwards and upwards Scotty…we averted another near-disaster and are still on the road.

Related Post: Tire Maintenance & Handling Tire Blow-Outs

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57 Responses to Well, That Was Close….A Few Belts Short Of A Tire BlowOut!

  1. Sue says:

    Phew! Another RV’rs nightmare averted. So glad you were able to get those tires taken care of, and a good lesson in keeping a close eye on the beast’s major systems. Did Jeff spin balance them too, Dave asks? Does Goodyear make that tire also? Enjoy Oregon, we’re headed there shortly.
    Sue

    • libertatemamo says:

      No, he didn’t spin balance. We tried to look for a place that could spin balance, but only the commercial guys could do it and they didn’t have our size of tire. Jeff did say he could arrange it for us (at another facility with some extra cost), but in the end we decided to just go with the beads so we could get going more quickly. I would have preferred a spin balance, but the beads seem to be working fine so far.

      And YES Goodyear offers that tire size too. Actually our original tire was Goodyear G670. Duh! The reason I forgot to mention them is that they seem to have a long-standing problem w/ rivering (it’s a common topic on the RV forums & we saw some evidence of that very wear on our tires) so we didn’t even consider them in the replacement options. I’ll update the post to add them to the list though since Dave is right!

      Nina

  2. Sherry Fields says:

    Just wanted to let you know that my students with special needs and I are still following your posts! They love to see where you are and what you’re up to! Our school district here in KY will be out for the summer in two weeks. That means this old teacher and her old teacher hubby will be packing up the camper and heading to Hunting Island SC for our annual 2 weeks of rest, relaxation and beach living! Think we’ll make it 3 weeks next summer!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Lovely that you’re all still “along for the ride”. And HAVE FUN at Hunting Island SP!! LOVE that spot. Such a gorgeous location.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says:

      By the way if we ever come through Kentucky again I would love to meet up with you and the class. It would be so much fun to meet the students that have followed us all this time!
      Nina

  3. Ray Burr says:

    Glad you caught it early, blowouts are never fun. Like you I think around 6 years or so is plenty for a tire. Why risk it. Gives me a little more confidence when pounding along a beat up interstate through a congested city knowing my tires are good. I’ve replaced all our tires in the last two years and dealt with Les Schwab and had great quick service and good advise from them.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Nice to hear from another happy Les Schwab customer! Looks like they have a good reputation all-around.
      Nina

  4. Sue Malone says:

    Yup, Les Schwab is famous to all of us Oregonians, with the first shop over in the desert in Prineville. We usually get great service as most Les Schwab stores. Glad you did and glad you averted disaster! Welcome back to Oregon!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I have to admit our experience at Les Schwab was excellent. Very impressed. I just SO wish I could have gotten the Michelin discount with them (unfortunately they don’t participate in the FMCA program in Boise) OR/ that they offered a Toyo tire in our size (they offer a very similar size 295/75, but it’s ~500lb lower load rating which simply won’t do for “the beast”). It was definitely more $$ than we expected to spend, but the service and support was outstanding.
      And VERY HAPPY to be back in Oregon. Whoooo Hooooo!
      Nina

  5. cozybegone says:

    Michelin tires are the best ever…we just put 4 on our truck! A pretty penny but they sure give a nicer ride, I’m hearing the safest and best on the market…glad you avoided any blowouts!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah…that price sure hit hard, but it sure feels nice to have new rubber on the ‘ol girl.
      Nina

  6. Yes, you definitely don’t want to take chances with the steer tires. Sorry you didn’t make it into tax-free OR, but at least you patronized an OR company.
    Whenever a sales tax is proposed for OR, one of the major arguments is always that out of state tourists would be contributing.
    Don’t know where all you will be in The Gorge, but the one place I would highly recommend is The General Store in Troutdale for their salmon chowder, available weekends only Fri-Sun. It’s the best! I also like their pulled pork sandwich. Yum!
    I’m sure you know about all the waterfalls if you’ve been through before.
    We live in Troutdale, so know the area well.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Excellent tips! We’ll be staying at Memaloose State Park so I’ll have to see how close we are to those spots. What are your favorite waterfall hikes?
      Nina

  7. Ralph says:

    Glad you got the tires changed before any blowouts!! Twice… I’ve experienced a front tire blowout pulling a set of double trailers @ 55 mph!!!. Both times I made it to the shoulder. Truck & trailers were undamaged….can’t say the same for my underwear!!!
    Welcome back to Oregon(and hopefully Washington). Sure is a beautiful part of the U.S!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      How scary!! I’m terrified of the thought of a front-tire blow-out so I shudder when I hear stories like this. Very happy your rig didn’t suffer any major damage.
      Nina

  8. Smitty says:

    Bummer on being that close, and needing to change the fronts. But salute for not taking the chance of trying to make it to Oregon – just not worth the risk. Enjoy getting wet in the waterfall spray!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, totally not worth the risk. As soon as I saw those bulges I knew we needed to change the tires. This way, we not only avoid a blowout, but we get to choose our tires and where/when we get them done. The worst situation is to be stuck at the side of the road with blowout damage at the total mercy of whatever repair you can get.
      Nina

  9. Hi Nina,
    Memaloose is a nice park with full hookups. We stopped there overnight last summer on our return from Spokane and beyond. That should make a nice base location.
    Oh boy, where to begin in The Gorge! Our favorite short waterfall hike is Ponytail Falls. The trail actually goes behind the falls. The trailhead is at Horsetail Falls, which is just east of Multnomah Falls right on the Columbia River Historic Highway. I’m going to assume you’ll be getting around in the CRV for parking purposes. A very nice loop hike is combining a trip to the top of Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls, with Fairy Falls enroute. Don’t leave home without your tripod! The visitors’ center at Multnomah has some excellent guides. The Falcon Guide “Hiking the Columbia River Gorge” is outstanding, although there are good free pamphlets and maps as well. Farther west on the old highway are Latourell and Bridalveil. I would also highly recommend a couple across the river in WA, Panther Creek Falls, a gorgeous waterfall right off the road, and Falls Creeks Falls, a very nice hike through the woods.
    There’s also some wonderful bicycling in The Gorge on paved multi-use paths. One runs between Mosier and Hood River, called the Twin Tunnels trail. Parking is $5.00 at the Hood River trailhead, don’t know about the Mosier end. Another very nice ride runs between Cascade Locks and Bonneville Dam. That reminds me, Eagle Creek Trail to Punchbowl Falls, etc. just west of Bonneville is a “must do”! Waterfalls and sheer cliffs! $5.00 NW Forest Pass required there, or you might want to get an annual pass.
    Since you’ll be close to Hood River, that’s a fun little town to explore. I’ve heard the pizza is excellent at Double Mountain Brewery, though we haven’t been. If you decide to take a detour out Mt. Hood way, Apple Valley BBQ in Parkdale is a fun place to eat with good food. Their pear coleslaw is the best I’ve had anywhere! Apple Valley’s claim to fame though, is their store south of Hood River on Hwy. 281 where they sell their homemade jams and jellies. Homemade fruit pies, too!
    Don’t want to get too long winded, so will sign off for now! Will update if other attractions come to mind. Do check out Edgefield in Troutdale. Feel free to stay in touch and ask away about the region.
    Paul

    • libertatemamo says:

      Wow! Do I even need to write a bog post now? That’s a fabulous set of tips you’ve given. Practically a whole travel guide. Thanks so much!!
      Nina

  10. Doug says:

    You should take a short side trip into Washington and see if you can tour the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland. I’ll be touring it in August.

  11. Ingrid says:

    Great advice Nina. A blown tire is a scary endeavor, one we don’t care to repeat. Enjoy your time in OR…..I look forward to tagging along. Unfortunately we’re off the road and house bound until this puppy sells. So I’m counting on you for travel adventures. Happy trails, Ingrid

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well I’ll be crossing my fingers that your house sells!

      By the way you wouldn’t believe it, but a big rig just had a blowout on the road by our campground. Just now! Sounded like a stick of dynamite went off. Scary stuff!

      Nina

  12. rjrvtravels says:

    Well, it certainly could have been much worse. Our last “experience” was pierced tires – a front and back on the same side. Not pretty!

    Travel Safe.
    Rick

  13. Ronnie Bledsoe says:

    Nina, I just made a deal with Bob Dickerman Tire (les Schwab dealer) in Junction City Oregon for my 305/70R/22.5 tires. they honor the FMCA/Michlin program. They spin balance tires. As you are aware actual tire price is determined by Michlin. This dealer charges for each tire; $24.00 fro dismount and mount, $29.95 for wheel spin balance-with wheel weights, $3.75 for metal valve stem rebuild, $9.25 for wheel switch per wheel (I’m not sure what this is, but I’ll check when I have the work done in July), amd $10.00 for Junk disposal. My tire size is not readily available and there is currently about a 4 month wait. Dickerman has my tire in the warehouse and I need 8 The tires I have on hold have a birthdate of 3812 . While not as new as I would like actually newer than the originals when I first bought the M/H. I dealt with Paul who can be reached at 541-998-3310 if you are interested.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for the info! None of the Les Schwab dealers in Boise honor the Michelin Program unfortunately. In fact there was only ONE tire guy (Jack’s) who participated within a 100-mile radius of our park and he couldn’t procure my tire size for at least 2 weeks. Seems I may have to book ahead to get my tires under the Michelin program no matter where I go. I will keep your guy in mind for the project since we may well head over that way.
      Nina

  14. Koop says:

    Hi Nina, really enjoy following your blog. Sorry to hear of the tire trouble. I’m a little confused over the issue though – you describe it as a belt problem but the photo seems to show a sidewall carcass bulge. The belt is under the tread and runs around the circumference of the tire, not the side wall. Also what is meant by the description “diagonally front to rear”?

    Please don’t take this as criticism, as I said I truly enjoy the blog, I’m just trying to clarify the tire problem. Thanks.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well I can only go by what I’ve seen on the internet and what the tire guy confirmed. He said it was a belt failure, and you can feel the bulge both on the front of the tire (the side facing you) and the back of the tire (the side facing the inside chassis). The direction is from the rim to the tread (I meant to use the diameter of a circle as my example, so saying it went radially would have made more sense! Duh! I’ll update the post to make that clearer). So its the same bulge on both sides of the tire if you see what I mean. Don’t know if he gave me wrong info or I misunderstood, but that’s what I got out of it.

      Visually-speaking I imagine the belt under the tread got crushed or broke/failed basically squishing together and creating (as a secondary effect) that bulge on both front & back sides of the tire in the side-wall. The tire guy said it was probably from hitting sharp rocks/pot-holes (most likely some of the hard-rock road boonie driving we did in Utah was the “last straw”) which put too much pressure on the belt. Likely the belt failure damaged the wall too?

      Do you think I understood wrong?

      Nina

      P.S. Don’t mind the question at all. I can always learn something new!

  15. Koop says:

    BTW – Les Schwab is an awesome outfit. They’ve always put the customer first!

  16. carol says:

    Erikson Tire in Molalla has Goodyear, the only tire made in America. The last tires we put on our old four horse were after the fact. Guy started for Junction City, overloaded, no spare. Guess what, a blowout in Albany. I had to take him a spare. Two drivers stopped to help him get into a rest stop, wonderful people. my guardian angel. My hubby, always prepared. The tires had been on ever since my girls had a blowout on the way home from the beach.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I tried to correct your spell-check issues. Hope I got it right! Glad you were able to get the tires replaced! We’ve been happy w/ our Goodyear for the past years, but I didn’t like the rivering wear we were getting on them, so decided to switch brands this time around.
      Nina

  17. Sherry says:

    I too am a tire fanatic and put $2500 worth of michelins on Winnona in 2010 so we should be good for a while. A LOT of money but what price is too much for safety. Michelin is high in cost but they are fabulous tires. Thanks for the tip on how to get them more cheaply and totally justify a trip to Oregon. And thanks to your commenters for all the details on what to do when we get there.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, that FMCA program is totally worth it. You pay $50 to join, but everyone I’ve talked to tell me you get several hundreds back in the discount. Hoping we can make use of it for the back 4 tires in OR.
      Nina

  18. Liz Johns says:

    Nina & Paul, so glad you caught your tire problem. Sorry we didn’t make it out to meet both of you. I’ve mentioned your blog to my husband quite a few times & we both were wanting to me you guys. Unfortunately, family issues decided to take over. Hood River is a great place to stop & visit. Multnomah Falls is a beautiful hike & Bonneville Dam is a great stop also. Have a safe & wonderful trip & hopefully we can catch up another time. Liz-Boise, ID

    • libertatemamo says:

      No problem! Totally understand. We had some pretty HOT days there in Boise so spent most of our time indoors in the A/C anyway. What’s with those heat waves? Looking forward to the Columbia River Gorge. I’ve had several recommendations for Multnomah Falls.
      Nina

  19. geogypsy2u says:

    Oh yea, Murphy at work. I used Les religiously when living in the PNW.

  20. jnealy says:

    Great post – we are so new to this and a tire blowout is one of the things I fear the most. Deas just bought a tire monitoring system that we use while we are driving but we have got to get better about checking the tires before each and every trip. I had no idea about the date codes – I am checking this on our tires today!

    • libertatemamo says:

      The TPMS systems are great. We still haven’t got one yet, but it’s on our list. Going through a manual check of the tires before you drive is really good practice. It doesn’t give you the detail of a TPMS system, but it can help point out any major issues before try happen.
      Nina

  21. Liz Johns says:

    That is part of Boise’s features. The kooky weather. Can be cold (which you missed) and blistering hot a week later, another week or so…snowing or raining. The weather changes quite a bit. In the 60’s with clouds and cool. By next week, it will probably be getting warm again. Have fun in the Gorge! Liz-Boise, ID

  22. […] Our tire delay in Boise put us few days behind schedule. Originally I’d planned several additional stops on I-84, including some boondocking at John Day Dam (a fabulous boondocking spot, by the way), but we decided to shorten our stops and get to the middle of the Gorge as soon as we could so we could stay on-track for our June bookings on the coast. We did a quick lay-over in Emigrant Springs State Park (review coming) and then hightailed it up the road to Memaloose State Park where we are currently nestled in an awesome waterfront site. The forecast calls for a mixed bag of grey, rain & sunny weather over the next few days (pretty typical for this time of year), but we can watch the boats on the river from our front window when it drizzles and lounge on the lawn with our cocktails when the sun comes out. Not too shabby! […]

  23. Gunta says:

    Sorry to hear about the tire problems. We must have passed each other somewhere along the way… sitting in Utah at the moment, will likely head home starting maybe Monday. I’ll be looking for you at the lighthouse soon. :D

  24. Sheila says:

    Nina, thank you so much for this post! We all worry about our tires and your information will, I am sure, assist all of us travelers. ENJOY Oregon!!!

  25. LuAnn says:

    So glad to hear that you caught the tire issue before anything more serious occurred. Terry is also rather anal about checking tires and pressures before we hit the road.

  26. Bob Nuttmann says:

    Thanks for this post in may. I read it when you posted it. Today something similar showed up on one of our 9 month old steer tires. We are supposed to be heading up towards you guys in Oregon tomorrow, but we will stop at Parkhouse Tire in San Diego to have them check the tire. Without your post I don’t think I would have recognized the problem. Our tire looks exactly like yours did.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Wow! I’ll be very interested to see what the tire guys say about it. I’m certainly happy you spotted it, no matter what the outcome.
      Nina

      • Robert Nuttmann says:

        Nina – I went to two tire dealers that specialize in heavy / large tires like the ones on our motorhome. Our coach is even a little more “beastly” than yours, 42′ and on the front 315 size tires. The second tire dealer is a long established one and he thought as did the first tire dealer it was a splice and not a break. I had the tire removed and it was a belt splice. The tire is only 10 months old so I had it put back on. For any of your readers that are in the San Diego area I can tell you that most tire dealers don’t know much about large tires. Two that do are Parkhouse Tires and Daniel’s Tire service.

        • libertatemamo says:

          Cheers for reporting back…and also for the info on good tire dealers in San Diego. So, given the analysis your tire is fine which I’m sure was a huge relief! I’m curious..did the bulge that you saw go all the way around the rim (both front and backside of the tire) or was it just one side? Just interested in learning more and perhaps figuring a way our readers can differentiate between a splice and an actual break. Ours was pretty pronounced on both sides. Sure happy it wasn’t anything serious
          Nina

          • Robert Nuttmann says:

            Nina – I could use the picture you posted on your site for how my tire looked. There was a similar bulge on the back side. The tire guy called it a splice. He said normally when there is a tire belt break that the surface look has more relief to it. He took the tire off the rim and showed me the inside. He said if the belt had broken you would see wire splitting on the inside. Ours was smooth. BTW it is a Dunlop tire made by Goodyear. The guy at the tire shop said the Dunlop tire is made on the same line as the Goodyears and they just label them differently. It was a little over 200 bucks less than Michelin. If the price would have been a little closer to the Michelin we likely would have bought that.

  27. I would concur with Mr. Nuttmann’s tireman’s assessment. I drove tractor trailer for 40 years, and that bulge looks normal to me as well.

  28. Robert Nuttmann says:

    Nina – You guys are full time for several years now and have way more hours in RVs than I, but I have been RVing part time for 33 years. IMHO if you are only parked for a few days tire covers are a waste of time in moderate climates. Sure if you are going to be someplace for a week put them on. I have yet to have an RV tire to blow on me in 33 years and lots of different RVs. I do replace them when it feels like I should. About six years.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We probably go overkill on covering the tires, but I find it easy enough to do that it’s just become rote. These days we rarely stay less than 5 days in a spot anyway. If you’re moving every couple of days it doesn’t make much sense.
      Nina

  29. […] service -> Cummins for our engine, Elite Repair & Remodel for our general rig repairs and Les Schwab for our tires. Henderson’s for our suspension work! Motorhomes are complicated machines and […]

  30. Steve Lowe says:

    Hello Nina and Paul – I’m getting ready to put new Michelins on our coach next month and have read your blog and IRV2 thread. I was planning to get the same XZE tires you mentioned in your blog. On the forum, you mentioned that you wanted 16-ply tires, are your XZE’s 14 or 16 ply? My current ones are 14-ply (LRG), and I was told the XZA3 tires are 16-ply and a good choice for my coach. So I have it narrowed down to those two and wondered how things are going with your tires a year later? Thanks, and take care!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Our XZE’s are 16 ply and we’ve been very happy with them. No complaints at all. We went with the XZE rather than the XZA primarily because we don’t do a lot of miles, plus we do quite a bit of boondocking and potentially rougher roads. The XZE’s seemed better-suited for that kind of driving. That said, I think either tire is a fine choice. You can’t go wrong.

      Nina

  31. […] our original rubber that meant around late 2013 for new ones. We replaced our front tires last year, just shy of a catastrophic belt failure, but decided to run one more year on our backs pushing the limit to 7 years on those. This year the […]

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