What Should RV Tire Pressure Be & How to Do it Right

Checking tire pressure is a standard pre-trip task for any RVer. But what should your RV tire pressure be, and how can you ensure it’s within specs? Here’s your comprehensive guide to RV tire pressure, including how to find the right guidelines for your rig.

What Should RV Tire Pressure Be?

Motorhomes and trucks pulling travel trailers handle differently than typical automobiles. Equipment differs, too, such as unique tires for each type of vehicle and requirements for weight and balance. RV tire pressure is a crucial consideration for both safety and vehicle performance—and there’s a lot to know.

Manufacturer Recommendations for Tire Pressure

Each recreational vehicle comes with manufacturer recommendations for standard tire pressure. New RVs for sale have a user manual with these instructions. Even used RVs have a plate somewhere on the body that denotes the appropriate inflation level.

You should also follow the manufacturer recommendations on the tire size, load rating, and other specifications. Choosing a cheap tire or a set in the wrong size can cause damage to your motorhome. Using the wrong type of tire can even cause an accident if you experience a blowout on the highway.

Learn what tire size markings mean and how to interpret the numbers on each tire. Other crucial sizing factors include:

  • Section width
  • Aspect ratio
  • Load index
  • Speed rating

If necessary, consult a professional for appropriate replacement tires if the manufacturer recommended options aren’t available.

Factors That Affect Tire Pressure

With standard automobiles, tire pressure is relatively simple. You check the tire for the PSI rating and fill them accordingly. But with RVs, there are other factors to consider.

Load Weight and Pressure

You need to determine the right PSI for each tire according to the load on the tire. RV load weights vary depending on the make and model plus what’s inside your rig. Your RV likely carries a placard which states the proper pressures.

However, the figure covers an empty RV—not one with a load of camping supplies and people. If you are unable to estimate the total weight of your supplies and passengers, you may consider visiting a weighing station to get an accurate measure.

Number of Axles

With multiple axles, the pressure ratings can vary. However, you need to keep tires which share an axle at the same pressure. Maintaining steady pressure at each point of the axle is crucial for balance and even wear. Distributing the weight unevenly can damage your tires and cause dangerous driving conditions.

A Class A motorhome is similar to a semi-truck in size and axle length. This means it will balance and handle differently than a smaller Class C motorhome. Its tires require different pressures and balancing, too.

The type of recreational vehicle is another consideration. For many RV buyers, travel trailer prices are more appealing than motorhome costs. But with travel trailers, checking your tow vehicle’s tire pressure is just as crucial. Other maintenance costs can be intimidating too, including brake and tire wear.

Tire Style and Rating

Depending on where and when you travel in your RV, you may opt for all-season or performance tires. Just as each type of RV is different, so are the types of tires. All-season tires may have channels for directing water away from the wheels, for example.

In some cases, snow tires are helpful for icier roads and a few inches of powder. Keep in mind the manufacturer specifications for tire pressure, but also consult a professional if you require tires which are nonstandard in the RVing world.

How to Set RV Tire Pressure

Setting tire pressure is as simple as accessing an air pump and using a device to check the reading. In short, you need to check the pressure before and after adding air to ensure the right level.

First, remove the caps from the valve stems. Fit the tire pressure gauge to the stem and read the pressure level. Add air a few seconds at a time to avoid overfilling. Check pressure again after adding air.

Visually inspecting the tires can help you gauge the pressure and decide when to stop adding air. You should always check with a tire pressure gauge to confirm, however.

Tools for Checking RV Tire Pressure

Though most gas stations offer air for free or with the purchase of gasoline, RVing demands better planning and access to tools. Here are tools many RVers find helpful for checking tire pressure no matter where they are traveling.

Tire Pressure Gauge

Tire pressure gauges are handy devices that are also inexpensive. You can buy a traditional tire pressure gauge which operates through the pressure itself. Alternatively, you can buy a digital tire pressure gauge for quick and accurate readings. Keeping both types on hand ensures you always have a functioning gauge when you need it.

Valve stem caps with built-in pressure reading sensors are also available. These devices transmit a signal to a reader or app which reports the pressure of each tire. You can also receive alerts when pressure is low or damage has occurred.

Portable Air Pump

An air compressor or another type of portable air pump is a handy way to add air to your RV tires. With a personal air pump, you can inflate your tires outside of campgrounds and gas stations. Many pumps are small enough to fit in your RV or travel trailer’s storage hatch, too.

Tire Pressure Best Practices for RVs

Tire pressure seems straightforward, but there are a few things to know about best practices when filling and checking your tires.

Don’t Over or Under Fill

Avoid overinflating your tires, even if you think they look flat at the manufacturer’s recommended level. Putting too much air in a tire can result in a blowout because the pressure weakens the tire material. Similarly, under inflating tires—or letting the air out to reduce pressure below suggested levels—is also dangerous.

While some RVers claim lower tire pressure helps achieve a smoother ride, it’s not safe to operate underfilled tires. Underinflation can affect fuel economy as well. You may also wear your tires down faster if you don’t follow specifications for operation.

Avoid Adjustments in Extreme Conditions

Because air can expand and contract, it’s challenging to inflate tires accurately in extreme conditions. Avoid adjusting tire pressure when it’s extremely hot or cold outside. Similarly, don’t let air out if the pressure seems high in warm conditions—this can damage the tire, too.

Inspect Tires Before Every Trip

Pre-trip checks are an essential part of an RVing lifestyle whether you travel full-time or occasionally. Owning an RV requires you to become familiar with every aspect of maintenance, including the tires and wheels. And with a new RV—even considering new RV prices—you can’t guarantee the tires will be in good shape.

If you’re renting an RV or travel trailer, it’s likely the rental company has already performed a pre-trip check. It doesn’t hurt to do your own, however.

Apart from pressure levels, you should also visually inspect each tire for damage. Look for cracks, punctures, or uneven wear. It’s preferable to catch a problem before you head out on a trip rather than dealing with a flat or damaged tire in the middle of a cross-country drive.

Carry a Properly Inflated Spare

Even with the best RV insurance, you can’t guarantee help will come when you need it. Keeping a properly inflated spare on board can help avoid headaches and trip delays.

Conclusion

Like passenger vehicles, RVs require nearly exact tire pressure to perform their best. Prevention and preparation is vital for RVing, and tire care is no exception. Keeping the right tools on hand—and having the proper knowledge—to maintain your RV tire pressure is necessary for an enjoyable RVing trip.