Tech Talk

Weather Crack­ing

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Contents -

AT ONE POINT OR AN­OTHER, it’s al­most in­evitable that cracks will strike the side­wall of your RV tires, of­ten like a nest of lit­tle snakes swim­ming to­ward the tire’s shoul­der. Some­times they turn up as flakes near the rim less than an eighth of an inch in size. Some­times they curl the en­tire way around the tire, seem­ingly overnight. You call it crack­ing. Tire peo­ple call it stress.

If you think about it, trailer tires en­dure enor­mous stresses — harsh UV rays, sig­nif­i­cant loads, hot roads, and sit­ting parked for sev­eral months at a time. Yes, not be­ing driven is ac­tu­ally a stress for trailer tires, but more on that in a mo­ment. The big­gest cul­prit when it comes to side­wall weath­er­ing is the weather: ex­po­sure to the sun, air and even the high lev­els of ozone that re­sult from smog and gen­er­a­tors.

These days, rub­ber com­pounds con­tain anti-ag­ing in­gre­di­ents to help your tires stand up against the el­e­ments, but sur­face cracks are re­ally a sign that, over time, your tire has been do­ing its job in the face of the sun.

Typ­i­cally these cracks ap­pear on the side­wall in the sec­tion near the shoul­der where tires flex the most. Once you spot crack­ing, you might be won­der­ing, ‘Is this nor­mal? Is it safe to drive on them, or do they need to be re­placed?’

As for whether or not it’s nor­mal, that de­pends on many fac­tors, in­clud­ing the model, how the tires were stored, and where they’ve been (tires in hot cli­mates tend to be more af­fected by weather crack­ing). While weather crack­ing is com­mon, es­pe­cially as trailer tires age, there are ways to stall these signs of tire ag­ing—and safe ways to han­dle them once they do ap­pear.

De­pend­ing on use, most man­u­fac­tur­ers give trailer tires a life­span of about five years, so if your tires are near­ing this age when you start to see crack­ing, it’s prob­a­bly best to sim­ply thank your tires for hav­ing done their duty and re­place them.

If you see se­vere crack­ing that’s ex­pos­ing the belt­ing, they need to be in­spected im­me­di­ately and should not be driven on. If your tires are still quite young and crack­ing is light, have a pro­fes­sional in­spect the tires to see if it’s safe for you to carry on with them. It’s also worth look­ing into your man­u­fac­turer’s war­ranty for weather crack­ing, usu­ally about four years from the date of pur­chase, and some will go by man­u­fac­ture date if the re­ceipt is long gone.

It’s never worth risk­ing get­ting tire trou­ble on the road, so re­plac­ing your tires is a small price to pay for the joy of RVing and a bit of peace of mind.

Once you do re­place your tires, how can you help pre­vent weather crack­ing?

Check the air pres­sure in your tires. Main­tain­ing cor­rect air pres­sure will al­low your tires to dis­si­pate heat while in use and re­duce the stress on them. Get­ting your tires out on the road will also go a long way to­ward get­ting those anti-ag­ing in­gre­di­ents in the rub­ber work­ing. When your RV or trailer is parked, try to lighten the load and store them out of the el­e­ments. Last, even though ev­ery­one loves a slick, shiny tire, try to avoid us­ing cer­tain tire clean­ers or pe­tro­leum-based prod­ucts that in fact strip away your tire’s anti-ox­i­dants and ozone pro­tec­tion.

A few weeks ahead of ev­ery trip, be sure to in­spect your tires for signs of weather crack­ing so you’ve got plenty of time to make sure your tires are up for the job.

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