What’s the Right Air Pressure for My RV’s Tires?

Published Categorized as RVs

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If you follow my column on a regular basis, you may remember that in a recent article I shared with you folks the importance of selecting the proper tires for your RV. In that article, I shared my thoughts on purchasing new tires for your RV, and while I did touch upon the importance of maintaining the proper air pressure in the tires on your motorhome, I never fully explained how and why you should understand that information. With that said, in this article we’ll look at the aspects of properly maintaining your RV’s tires, and what tools you’ll need to ensure your safety when traveling.

Tire gauges

There are three types of tire gauges with those being a stick gauge, a dial gauge, and the digital gauge. The stick gauge has been around for years and is the precursor to the other two types. However, while being the least expensive, it also is the most inaccurate. Some studies have shown that this type of gauge can be off by eight to ten pounds when measuring your tires PSI. Prices for this type of gauge range from $4 to $6 proving the old adage “you get what you pay for” to be more accurate than this type of tire gauge.

The dial gauge is exactly as it sounds. This type of gauge has a dial like many speedometers except that it is much smaller than a speedometer. While being far more accurate than the stick gauge, I have found them to be hard to read because of the size of the dial. Prices on this type of gauge have a wide range and I have seen then priced as low as $10 to a high of $55.

For me, I prefer using a digital gauge such as the Tekton model shown here. I particularly like this model for several reasons with the first being that it has a lighted nozzle making it extremely easy to locate the valve stem at night or in low light conditions. It also has a lighted display making it easier to read than the stick or analog/dial type of tire pressure gauges.

TEKTON Digital Tire Gauge | 5941
  • Lighted nozzle and display screen for ultimate visibility in low light or at night
  • Digital display instantly and clearly shows exact reading, eliminating the guesswork of analog...
  • Nozzle seals to valve stem for quick and accurate measurements

Last update on 2024-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

And finally, it’s ergonomically designed to fit nicely in your hand when using it. Also, it’s quite accurate and its price range is $10 to $12 making a good value for the cost.

You can also get a tire pressure monitoring system to keep a pulse on your tire pressure at all times.

Understanding your RV’s proper tire pressure

This is one of the hardest things for many RVers to understand about their RVs tires. Just because your tire has a maximum tire pressure of 55 pounds stamped on its sidewall or inflation tables in the owner’s manual, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the proper pressure to have in the tire and this is especially true when dealing with towable campers.

Proper tire inflation for a towable is based upon what the weight distribution of the camper is and its relation to its axle weight limit. In other words, somewhere on or in your rig you should find a placard or sticker that lays out the parameters of your RVs proper tire pressure based upon the gross vehicle weight and its axle weight load. However, added weight such as full tanks of water, gray, and black water add a tremendous amount of weight as does personal belongings such as small kitchen appliances and dishware.

In fact, I often advise fellow RVers to load up their rigs and then take them to be weighed. This will give you a good idea as to whether your tire pressure should be adjusted based upon the added weight. Frankly, to figure this out on your own, it’s a complicated equation and I’m not even going to attempt that here in this column. I’m just not that mathematically smart.

Instead, you should contact the tire manufacturer, or a tire specialist. They can quickly calculate those configurations and further advise you on whether or not your RV tires will work at the original recommended inflation pressure, or if there should be an adjustment to the PSI based upon the added weight.

Also, when evaluating your rig’s tires, keep in mind where they’re manufactured. If they’re manufactured in China, get rid of them and purchase American made tires as soon as you can. As I have said in previous articles, RV manufacturers are in the business of making money, and they cut corners by using the least expensive components when they build your RV.

While the tires they install on your RV may meet the minimum requirements set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for your model of RV, it’s likely that once you have added the weight of your belongings and a full freshwater tank, that your tires will be near or even over what the manufacturer based their tire choice on when they installed your tires. In other words, manufacturers install tires based upon the gross vehicle weight of your RV when it is fresh off the assembly line and not when it is fully loaded.

For that reason, If you’re buying a new RV, I recommend that you negotiate with the dealership for an upgrade to your RV’s tires prior to signing on the dotted line. Of course, when buying a used RV, your choices of tire selections are limited to the tires already installed on the rig. That said, you should immediately inspect those tires and change them if they’re weather checked or foreign made.

Final thoughts

Understanding your RV’s tire pressure is vitally important when traveling. Various factors such as air temperature, altitude, and the speed of your RV can all affect the performance of your tires. With that said, always check the air pressure of your tires when they’re the same temperature as the surrounding air. In other words, never pull into some rest stop after traveling for several hours and immediately check your tire pressure. It’s likely to be inaccurate. If you’re in a pinch, you can also bring an air compressor for your RV in case you need to inflate them on the side of the road.

Also make sure to read my guide on how long RV tires should last and when to replace them for more advice on your tires.

Thanks for following along with my column folks. Stay safe and healthy and I hope to see you out on the road someday.

By Brian

Born and raised in Michigan, contributing writer Brian C. Noell is a retired hospitality industry professional that now works remotely as a visual artist, writer and photographer as he travels around the United States in an RV with his dog Lizzy, an eighty pound Appenzeller hound dog.