Tyre & Wheel Bearing Maintenance

Tyre Maintenance

Your tyres are the only contact you have between you and the road and regular maintenance is not only recommended but essential.

  • Check your tyre pressure regularly (suggest every fortnight) and do a visual check for any sign of unusual wear and sidewall bulges, chipping or road damage.
  • A tyre balance and wheel alignment is recommended every 10,000 klms, particularly if your vehicle has been subjected to rough roads.
  • Valves should be checked for leaking and missing valve caps should be replaced.
  • Avoid scrubbing the tyres against gutter edgings
  • Regularly check the amount of tread remaining on your tyres. Immediately replace tyres that are worn to below the minimum legal tread depth indicator.
  • Tyres displaying signs of aging should be removed.
  • When checking your tyre wear take the time to also check the wheel nuts as they can work loose.

Tyres that have been kept in storage and are over 5 years old from the date of manufacture should not be placed on a vehicle. Spare tyres on camper trailers or caravans that have not been in regular use may age prematurely and should be checked before every trip.

Note – Tyres of different construction should not be fitted to opposite sides of the vehicle on the same axle. eg. cross-ply tyres should not be fitted to opposite side of the axle as say a radial tyre.

Abuse of tyres such as under inflation, over inflation, over loading and even speeding and heavy braking will all eventually cause problems and unnecessary expense.

Inflation And The 4 PSI Rule

Tyre pressures vary for every vehicle and caravan depending on weight loads, size etc. An easy do-it-yourself method for checking you have the correct tyre pressure for your vehicle and caravan is known as the “4 psi rule”.

Firstly you need to inflate all tyres to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer, for a “cold tyre” reading and then tow your caravan for say a distance of 100 klm on bitumen.

Upon stopping, immediately recheck your tyre pressure while the tyre is still warm.

If your tyre pressure reading is greater than 4 psi from the “cold tyre” reading you took at the beginning of your trip, then the tyres are getting too hot and your starting tyre pressure was too low. Under inflated tyres wear unevenly and lead to increased fuel consumption. They can also impair the handling of the vehicle in the areas of braking and handling.

If the tyre pressure reading is less than 4 psi from the “cold tyre” reading you took at the beginning of your trip, then your starting tyre pressure was too high. You will need to run the test again (once the tyre has completely cooled) with less pressure until you find the right balance.

It is acceptable for larger 4WD’s to have a 6 psi difference between the pressure at the commencement of the trip, and after 100 klm of travel.

Remember to use the same accurate gauge for all pressure readings and always carry a gauge with you when possible.

Always see your tyre dealer if you have any further concerns or questions regarding tyre maintenance or pressures.

Tyre Rotation

Rotation of tyres on a regular basis promotes even tyre wear which extends the life of the tyre. There are uneven tread wear problems however that cannot be corrected by simply rotating the tyres and these can be an incorrect tyre balance or alignment or worn suspension components. Your local tyre dealer can advise on how to best correct these problems.

Tyre Types For RV’s

To a lot of people tyres look pretty much the same. Manufacturers of tyres may cut down on the structural components such as the amount of belting, so some homework needs to be done when choosing a good tyre for your RV.

Whilst tyre traction on a caravan or camper trailer is not as important as the traction on the tow vehicle tyres, they must still be of good quality to handle the weight or load of the RV. The maximum load at maximum inflation pressure is listed on the side wall of the tyre. The load index is the measure of the maximum load a tyre can carry at its speed rating.

The majority of tyres will be adequate for touring on most bitumen roads, however tyres that have a ‘belly’ or rounder sidewall can be more susceptible to tears in the tyre wall. This can occur on the narrower roads where you move over to the left, say for an oncoming road train or when being overtaken, and the wheels run off the edge of the bitumen. There can be a drop down from the surface of the bitumen to the dirt and the edge of the bitumen can be irregular and act like a serrated knife slicing the side wall of the tyre.

Most off road caravan and camper trailer owners select light truck tyres or all terrain (A/T) tyres. These type of tyres generally have a stiffer side wall and more rolling resistance. They often select a tyre, and wheel stud pattern, to match the tow vehicle so the wheels are interchangeable therefore providing more replacement tyres if needed.

Wheel Bearings

How do I know when to replace my wheel bearings?

Failure to maintain the wheel bearings on your caravan or trailer can cause a build up of heat from friction and this can then result in the wheel assembly failing. The wheel bearings may seize and cause the wheel to stop turning. This could cause a blowout, which at high speeds could easily turn into a disaster.

It is a good idea to get yourself into the habit of monitoring your caravan or camper trailer’s bearings by placing your hand over the wheel hubs to feel for any heat build up. This can be regularly done while stopping along your trip for morning tea, a toilet break, when you change drivers, or just at the end of each day.

Wheel bearings can also pit and deteriorate from standing for long periods of time, and should therefore be serviced regularly. (Suggest annually).
Make sure you purchase the correct wheel bearings for your type of caravan or trailer and always carry a spare set with you. Some wheel bearing assemblies can be difficult to source in remote areas, so having your exact type with you can save undue stress and valuable time.

Find a spot with lots of working room, free of dust and well lit. Make sure the wheels on the opposite side to what you are working on are chocked to prevent any trailer motion. It is highly recommended you purchase a couple of jack stands to assist in the support of the caravan. Under no circumstance should you place any part of your body under a caravan or trailer when it is jacked up unless you have the support of jack stands under it.

Use a good quality wheel bearing grease and be sure to carry a few sets of disposable gloves and rags for the job.

Step by step guides on how to repack wheel bearings can be found by doing a simple Google search as there are many sites specialising in this subject.

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