People who drive motor homes and pull travel trailers may be among the safest drivers on the road. They tend to maintain their vehicles very well, except possibly in one critical and often overlooked area.
Most motor home or travel trailer operators realize how important tires are and inspect them on a regular basis. One critical factor is not very widely known.
Tires have an age and may be very dangerous beyond six years
Checking a tire for worn tread is a great idea, but the age of the tire is as critical and may not get checked. As tires age, rubber tends to dry rot. Adhesives that bond the tire together and hold the tread to the carcass also breaks down. An old tire, even with perfect tread, may be a potential disaster, waiting to occur.
Most folks do not get to use their motor homes and travel trailers as much as they would like. Therefore, tire age may be more important than the tread life. Tires breakdown over time and many experts agree, they breakdown faster when they are NOT used.
Sometimes dry rot is obvious and gives a warning. Ozone in the atmosphere tends to cause rubber to deteriorate and crack. Tire dressings can also affect the tires ability to resist ozone and result in premature dry rot. Dry rot cracking is serious and is ONE of the signs of a dangerous tire.
Tires can also fail, even before their age expires. Cracking in the sidewall is a very dangerous defect. With the tire above, only the inside was cracked. This can be difficult to spot, especially on dual wheel application, with the crack to the inside. Careful inspection and knowing what to look for is the best assurance.
Determining the age of a tire
All tires have a series of numbers and letters on the sidewall, beginning with DOT. This Department Of Transportation or DOT code determines the age of the tire. The last four digits show the week and year the tire was manufactured. For instance, 1111 means the tire was built in the 11th week of 2011.
The DOT code is on both sides of the tire, but the age code may only be on one side. The age code may be mounted to the inside, so it can be difficult to check. Tires manufactured before 2000 will have a three digit code, though obviously any such tire is by far too old to be operated.
When replacing tires, it is best to check the DOT date code on the replacements. Any tire already more than a year old may not be a wise investment. Tires age whether used or not and may deteriorate worse when not used.
Be sure also to check the valve stems
While checking the tire age and condition, also be sure to inspect the valve stem. Valve stems also age and can be as catastrophic as a tire, when they fail. Cheap imported valve stems have also entered US markets and cause many problems. Push to valve stem to each side and see if any cracks open. Any sign of cracks in a valve stem calls for replacement. Also be certain to replace any valve stem caps that may be missing. The valve stem cap is the primary seal for the valve stem.
Vacation or retirement is a time of relaxation and fun. Help to keep it that way, for yourself and fellow motorist. Inspect all tires and replace any that are out of date, regardless of tread remaining. With tires, safety is the only way to go!