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A house is only as sturdy as its foundation, and your RV is only as reliable as the condition of its tires. While we’ve discussed RV tire basics before, it’s time to address how to take care of your RV tires in storage.
Prepping your RV’s tires for storage is essential no matter the time of year. With that in mind, here’s how to care for your RV tires before putting your rig in storage.
Clean Your Tires
RV tires are constantly exposed to abrasive chemicals and harmful substances such as motor oil, industrial cleaning solutions, and anything else spilled on roadways.
That’s why cleaning your tires and removing those substances is the best place to begin when putting your RV in storage. Fortunately, you can work this into your seasonal RV winterization process. Use a basic RV wash kit bundle if you don’t already have appropriate RV cleaning supplies.
It’s best to work from the top down when cleaning the outside of your RV, so cleaning your tires will be the last thing you do.
Hose your tires down thoroughly to remove an initial layer of dirt and debris. To clean the rims, use a soft brush to remove any remaining residue.
You’ll need a special tire cleaner for the tires themselves like the 303 Tire and Rubber Cleaner. This cleaner is easy to use. Spray it on, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, and then wipe it off with a microfiber cloth.
Check Tire Pressure
Before storing your RV, check your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) or grab your tire pressure gauge and check the pressure in all tires when they are cold. Check inside and outside tires if your rig has dual tires on the rear axle. For dualies, installing an extended tire valve stem will make it much easier to check the pressure on the inside tire.
The pressure reading should match the recommended pressure specified on your RV’s vehicle information label and it should be equal for all tires on a given axle. The maximum tire pressure on your tire’s sidewall may be higher than the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. This is because most tires are made to fit a wide variety of personal and recreational vehicles.
On the other hand, the manufacturer’s recommendation is based on the weight and design of your RV model. That’s why it’s a better metric than the maximum pressure on the sidewall. If tire pressure is low or high, inflate or deflate tires accordingly. Leaving a tire under-inflated can lead to flat spots, but you should never exceed the maximum PSI specified on the sidewall.
It’s also smart to check your tire’s air pressure periodically while it’s in storage. Tire pressure drops 1-2 PSI for every 10-degree decrease in air temperature, and the inverse is true when temperatures increase. By checking tire pressure regularly, you’ll hopefully also notice a possible leak before a tire goes completely flat.
Jack It Up
The best way to reduce strain on your tires in storage is to jack it up to take most of the weight off your tires. You should consider jacking up your RV when it’ll be in storage for more than three months. RV tires are not meant to be sitting in one place for months at a time. The longer your RV is immobile, the more important it is to take most of the weight off the tires.
There are two ways to accomplish this: using your RV’s built-in hydraulic leveling jacks or placing your RV on jack stands (also known as ‘stack jacks’). Let’s briefly cover the pros and cons of both approaches.
Using Hydraulic Jacks
Your RV’s hydraulic leveling jacks are sturdy enough to take some of the weight off your tires for short-term storage (2-3 months). That said, they are not a recommended solution for long-term storage and you should never use hydraulic jacks to lift your RV’s tires completely off the ground.
Your jacks should also be in good condition before using them for short-term storage. For example, a visual accumulation of hydraulic fluid on or at the base of a jack is a sign they need to be serviced.
If you do use hydraulic jacks, park on a level surface and place stabilizing pads under the jacks. Then extend the jacks to lift your RV until most of the weight is off the tires. Try to keep your RV level during this process as well. Keep your RV tires touching the ground so you don’t place too much stress on the jacks. The extra points of contact will also help to keep your RV stable while it’s in storage.
Using Jack Stands
Be aware that lifting your RV onto jack stands requires your stands to be appropriately rated for the weight of your RV. It will also require a heavy-duty floor jack to lift your RV if it’s not equipped with hydraulic jacks.
Most people don’t have these RV accessories in their tool kit, which is why they may opt for using chocks and tire cradles (more on that later). But if you are putting your RV in long-term storage (aka more than three months), jack stands are the way to go.
For this method, you’ll need a minimum of four heavy-duty jack stands rated for the loaded weight of your RV. This is the combined dry weight of your RV plus the weight of all personal belongings, appliances, and camping gear loaded in.
Estimating loaded vehicle weight can be tough, so the easiest thing to do is drive to the nearest truck scales. This will give you an accurate weight to use when choosing heavy-duty jack stands.
Because you’ll use a minimum of four stands, divide your loaded vehicle weight by four to understand how much weight each jack must hold. For example, the jack stands required for a 10,000-pound RV will need to hold a minimum of 2,500 pounds each. And if you want to play it safe, add an extra 500 pounds to your calculation when you’re shopping for jack stands.
Placing Jack Stands
Now it’s time to talk about proper jack stand placement. Proper jack stand placement is approximately six inches inside the innermost tire on the axle tube. To put jack stands in place, there are two basic methods: using your RV’s built-in leveling system or using a heavy-duty floor jack.
If your RV is equipped, use your leveling system to raise all tires until they are barely off the ground. Then, place a jack stand inside of each tire and slowly lower your RV until the axles are resting on the stands. It helps to have a spotter during this process to tell you when your RV is resting firmly on your stands.
If you don’t have hydraulic leveling jacks on your RV, you’ll need a heavy-duty floor jack to lift your RV and put stands in place one at a time. This floor jack will also need to be rated for the loaded weight of your RV.
Please consult your RV owner’s manual for more details on your manufacturer’s recommended jacking procedures.
What About Using Stabilizing Jacks?
RV and trailer stabilizing jacks are meant only to keep your rig from tipping back and forth when you’re walking around inside, or from swaying too much in high winds. They are not meant to bear the full weight of your trailer.
To put stabilizing jacks in place, you start be leveling your trailer and then extending the jacks just until they make contact with the ground of a jack pad. For this reason, they do not take any weight off your tires and are not a viable solution for tire care when your motorhome or travel trailer is in storage.
Use Wheel Blocks or Tire Cradles
Some people argue that the effort to jack up your RV isn’t worth it for short-term RV storage. If you elect to forego the previous step, you should still put wheel blocks or tire cradles between your tires and the ground.
Tire cradles ensure that your tires rest evenly and help with proper weight distribution. They also reduce the likelihood of your tire developing flat spots during extended storage.
To use tire cradles, place them in front of your tires and pull your RV forward until the tires are centered in the cradle. For long-term storage, it is recommended to remove the cradles and roll your RV forward or backward every 1-2 months so that the weight is resting on a different part of the tire. This will help to prevent flat spots from developing.
Use Tire Covers
Tire covers protect your tires from the impacts of all types of weather. Rain, excessive sunlight, wind, and snow all negatively impact tire life. By covering your RV’s tires in storage, you’ll increase their longevity and prevent things like tire dry rot.
Tire covers are inexpensive and easy to install. Simply slip them over the top of the tire and then secure the bottom. Some are tightened with sewn-in bungee cords and others feature a strap-and-buckle security system.
For appearance’s sake, tire covers can even be color-matched to your RV to give it a streamlined look when it’s in storage. While tire covers are essential when storing your RV outside, dust and other airborne debris can impact your tires in enclosed storage space as well. So go ahead and put those covers on no matter where you’re storing your RV.
Additional Tips to Care for RV Tires in Storage
Here are a few more useful ideas to maximize the lifespan of your RV tires:
- Unload your RV to reduce the weight on your tires, jacks, or jack stands
- Store it in a cool, dry, and covered place with minimal UV exposure
- Move your RV every three months to prevent flat spots and tire cracks. This is especially important if you don’t put your RV on jacks.
- Check and adjust tire pressures before taking your RV out of storage
- Visually inspect tire sidewalls (inside and out), seams, and tread before your next trip
- Consult your RV mechanic on your tire rotation schedule before your next adventure