TLC For “The Beast” Part II – New Tires
One of the things about owning a big rig is that repairs tend to be expensive and one of the bigger $$ items is tires. Our girl weighs a pleasant ~32,000 lbs and to support that ample mass we have BIG tires….BIG HONKING tires. Technically they are 275/80 R22.5 16 ply tires which can handle loads up to 7,160 lbs. These babies run around $600-$700 a piece, depending on manufacturer, and when you think about the fact that we have 6(!!) of these on our rig, you’re talking a nice chunk of change.
RV Tires AGE Out Rather Than Wear Out
Even more irritating than the cost factor is the quirk that RV tires tend to age out rather than wear out. Compared to truckers who rack up hundreds of thousands of miles each year, RVers are total amateurs. Most folks don’t drive more than 15,000 miles a year and then there’s people like us who do even less (~3,000 miles). So, our tires get almost no real wear at all. Despite this, they still age. The rubber ages & weakens over time and you start risking blowouts as they get older even if they look just fine.
This issue is a HUGE point of discussion on the RV forums. In fact if you start a thread asking “when should I replace my tires, you’ll usually start a near-all-out-war of 25-pages of heated comments. Some people say you should replace at 5-7 years regardless of looks, while Michelin recommends yearly tire check with a max life of 10 years from date of manufacture (usually printed on the side of your tire). Either way age is a real factor.
We Originally Decided On ~6 Year Limit
We err on the conservative side and back when we got the RV we decided to replace all our tires on or about ~6 years of age. Given we had a late 2007 date code on 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 time was up and we could dilly dally no more. It was time to belly up….
The Three Golden Rules Of Tire Replacement…
Now, there are many ways to replace tires on a “beast”, but if there’s three things I think are the most important they are these:
- Choose a tire guy who knows how to work with big truck tires.
- Make sure the load specs of your new tire are rated properly for your rig.
- Ensure the date code on your new tires is NEW (within max. 6 months of manufacture).
I’ve seen or heard of people getting in trouble on each of these items.
For a Class A you WANT a guy who can handle big rigs & big tires. Most truck guys are capable and have lots of volume, so they’re good places to go. Also, make sure you match the specs of your new tires with the weight of your motorhome. Your tires are the #1 safety item in your rig, so you want to make sure there’s plenty of leeway in carrying capacity. Whatever you do don’t downgrade. As an example I found Toyo (Les Schwab brand) tires that were marketed as an “exact replacement” for our old tires, yet when I looked at the specs the load rating was 550 lbs lower than our originals. A big no-no.
And the datecode is KEY. One of the advantages of going with a big truck guy is that they do LOTS of tires (think lots of turnover), so they’re unlikely to have old rubber lying around waiting for some unknowing schmuck to come in and buy them. Since RV tires AGE out rather than wear out, you want a datecode that’s as fresh as possible. Learn to read the datecode on the side of the tire and CHECK with your installer beforehand (then CHECK again before you get the tires installed). The last thing you want is old tires for a new price!
And Our Choice Was?
Last year we worked with Les Schwab and they were great (I recommend them). This year we wanted to take advantage of the Michelin discount program through FMCA. If you decide on Michelin tires, this program will save you a nice chunk of change and it’s recommended often on the RV forums. The program is fairly easy to get into, as long as you follow the right order. First you pay for your FMCA membership ($50), then find a participating tire guy and order your tires. The only other item you need to do is call and register your credit card with FMCA within 30 days of getting your new tires. When you get to the tire place they will install the tires, charge you for installation and that’s it. The actual tire bill comes from FMCA.
And the other secret way to save $$?? If you buy your tires in Oregon, there is NO sales tax. Whoo hoo!
We went with Superior Tire in Eugene, OR who had a ton of good recommendations on the forums. We also bought Dyna Beads (some people prefer spin balancing which Superior Tire does offer, but we like the beads) and decided to replace our old braided tire stems (a poor design) with brand new Borg stems (the gold standard in tire stems). Both of these things we bought with us. The guys at Superior were super friendly, took good care of us in just over an hour and only charged $149 for installation of our 4 back tires. Date code on the new tires was a nice 17th week of 2014 and, for those that care, they were made in Canada (also printed on the sidewall). Great stuff!
Our final costs:
|4 New Michelin XZE Tires (275/80, 16 ply)||$2,157.44**|
|Borg Tire Stems (DL4AKW incl. shipping)||$130.25|
|Dyna Beads (4 12 oz bags, incl. shipping)||$115.06|
|Installation (@ Superior Tire)||$149.00|
** This Michelin tire typically runs around $650-$690 a piece, so we saved nicely with the FMCA program at only $539 each 🙂