An important part of road safety and optimising the performance of your caravan is ensuring that you have the correct tyres and rims fitted.
While the financial investment is a consideration, the safety of you and your family should be what you are focused on when choosing which tyres to use.
We have a lot of different road surfaces in Australia, from sand to mud, to rock-filled dirt roads and slippery slopes, so choosing the correct tyres for your needs is really important.
Modern day tyres are typically very reliable, but you shouldn’t forget how important they are in terms of safety. If tyres are not properly maintained and replaced when they should be, your caravanning adventure could be ruined… and maybe even more.
Choosing the right tyre
The most essential item when choosing the right tyre for your caravan is to ensure that the load rating suits the size and weight of your caravan. Apart from the damage that having the wrong tyres and rims can inflict on your caravan, you are also faced with the possibility that your insurance policy becomes void.
So, how to know what the correct load rating is?
The load rating needs to be more, or at a minimum, equal to the caravan’s Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM). If you are unsure what your caravan’s ATM is, you will find this information on the compliance plate affixed to your caravan. You then need to divide the ATM by the number of wheels your caravan has (which is two for the single-axle Euro Caravan).
As an example, if your Hobby or Glider has an ATM 850kg, your tyre load rating should be a minimum of 425kg.
Picking your rims
You will find that most rims in Australia are made out of either steel or alloy, and it is really a personal preference as to what you choose. The most important thing to remember when choosing your rims is to make sure they are correctly rated and match the tyres.
Should the tyres and rims on my car match my caravan?
If it is possible, it’s good idea to have the same rims on both your car and caravan, which is helpful if you are unfortunate enough to experience more than one flat tyre while on your holiday.
It is important to realise, though, that tyres will wear differently on your tow vehicle and caravan, so what works well on your car may not be the right choice for your caravan. But remember, the optimal tyre for your car and caravan will differ depending on the make and model, so make sure you get the right advice from your tyre store specialist, rather than the lovely couple next to you at the caravan park.
Understanding the lingo
Unless you have knowledge about tyres, it can be confusing to know what you are looking at and what it means.
Every tyre has an alpha-numerical code embossed into the side of it and this will tell you all the vital info you need to know. It may look something like: 155/65R1475T.
155: This is the width of the tyre in millimetres.
65: This is the height of the sidewall from the rim to the tread and is expressed as a percentage of width to height.
R: This is the construction code. ‘R’ means the tyre is made with ‘radial ply’ construction.
14: This stands for the diameter of the rim in inches.
75: This is the load rating (load index – LI) is a number that represents the maximum load each tyre can carry at its maximum speed. ALI of 75 means a max load of 387kg per tyre.
T: Is the speed rating (speed index – TI), which is shown by a letter. This represents the tyre’s maximum speed capability when operating at its maximum load carrying capacity. The Speed index ‘T’ indicates a maximum speed of 190km/h.
Other details you may see on a tyre include their maximum load rating (in kilograms) and max inflation pressure (in psi), as well as LT (light truck), P (passenger), C (commercial), or MT (mud terrain).
Tyres will also have a date code, which indicates the month and year of manufacture. A code of 0318 means the tyre was made in the third month (March) of 2018.
Here is an overview of Load Indexes and Speed Symbols: https://www.bobjane.com.au/info/load-index-speed-symbol/
It is important that your caravan has the weight distributed evenly in the caravan, and that your tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure (for the standard tyres Euro Caravans provide you with, this is 40-42 PSI or 276-290 Kpa.
Please note that it is important to allow for the driving conditions, ensuring that you ‘reduce speed’ when driving on rough roads, in high wind areas or cross winds; also in wet conditions.
If you are unsure what the maximum tyre pressure is, this is usually written on the tyre’s sidewall.
Tyres require a minimum of 3mm tread depth to be roadworthy, but if you are going on a long road trip, you shouldn’t leave with the minimum amount of tread left, as soon enough they won’t be roadworthy and will need replacing.
It is considered to be best practice to rotate your tyres every 10,000km, but you will need to check for damage or cracks in the tyre’s surface much more often than that. When checking your tyres, make sure you carefully look for cuts in the tyre, or any foreign objects such as sticks, nails or glass that may have pierced the rubber. If you notice anything that doesn’t look the ‘norm’, make sure you get it looked at straight way to avoid any potential safety issues.
Tyres should be balanced every year, every time they’re fitted or repaired and before any big trip. This will reduce damage, uneven wear on your tyres and premature wear or damage to your caravan’s suspension.
Should I worry about my tyres when I am not using my caravan?
It is a common misconception that just because your caravan is not being used, there won’t be any wear and tear to your tyres. Regardless of how often you use your caravan, and depending on the manufacturer of the tyre, a tyre usually has a shelf life of around six years.
Now, there are two potential problems you will come across when you store your caravan for longer periods of time (more than a month). The first problem is flat-spotting, which is when tyres are sitting with a low pressure and they form a flat spot where the tyre is in contact with the ground. When you use the caravan again, even with the tyre pumped up to the correct pressure, it will still have this flat spot. If you put the axles up on blocks so the weight is off the tyres, this will avoid flat-spotting. If you are unable to do this, then pump up the tyres to the maximum pressure noted on the sidewall and check them periodically, as tyres do lose air and go flat. Good-quality valve caps with a rubber seal help reduce this gradual air-pressure loss but aren’t a guarantee.
The second problem is weather damage to the tyre, such as sitting out in the harsh Australian climate, which quickens the deterioration of the tyre’s rubber. Try to store the caravan in a covered space to stop ozone and sun damage, and if this isn’t possible, place a cover over the tyres. Use a material that can’t be sun-affected, like a sheet of MDF board.
Rotating your tyres on a regular basis is also a helpful way to maintain them while they aren’t being used.
Our final comment
The excitement of your next road trip can be intoxicating, but always remember that on the top of your pre-travel to-do list should be ensuring the safety of you, your family and the other drivers on the road. To help, check out our Pre-Travel Safety Checklist: http://www.euro-caravans.com.au/customer-care/pre-travel-safety-checklist/.