LAST UPDATED ON 2006-August-17!



And just how would one find out who Brand "X" really is? Find one of the major Internet RV forums (e.g., Woodall's,'s or Good Sam's "Open Roads," or "iRV2") and perform a search for

tire blowout

Be sure that the search options are set for all words in any order.


Need we mention that ALL tire pressures are measured after the tires have cooled by setting in the shade for several hours or even overnight, and before they are again driven?


An important point that many people (including, apparently, a lot of sales people in tire dealerships) don't know or fail to appreciate is that the pressure ratings on light/medium truck tires (and RV tires are actually light/medium truck tires) are, strangely enough, handled differently than those for car tires, the ones we're most familiar with. Car tire manufacturers routinely publish weight/pressure tables for car tires and admonish us not to EXCEED the recommended pressures.

Light/medium truck tires are handled differently. The numbers on the tire walls list the MAXIMUM weight that can be carried by that tire, and then list the MINIMUM pressure allowable for that weight, not the MAXIMUM pressure! In fact, no where have we been able to find maximum pressure ratings listed as such on light/medium truck tires.

This infers that it's okay to exceed the recommended pressure, perhaps even by some wide margin. If so, what's the absolute, upper limit? (Or do we simply inflate the tire until it blows our head off as it explodes?)


Consider this for a moment: If as many as thirty-six Brand "X" tires fail catastrophically in a year one might be inclined to become mildly hysterical to discover them on your RV. But, if one million Brand "X" tires are made per year, only one in 27,777 (between 3 and 4 per 100 thousand) is likely to fail! Those actually may be a pretty good odds.

If you don't believe our numbers, substitute your own, but try to use realistic ones. Remember that there are a lot of RVs on the road, every class A and almost every medium to large class C uses 6 tires, and Brand"X" may be the most popular brand on the market at the moment.

If you don't like the odds, you need to decide exactly where you would draw the line between acceptable risk and bad tires. No one makes a perfect tire; there's a failure rate associated with every manufacturer and model. Until the NHTSA forces all tire manufacturers to disclose the failure rates of each model and size of tire, we'll never know whether Brand"X" is good, bad or merely ugly.

Lastly, keep in mind that some percentage of those failures are the result of bad tire maintenance by the owners (who may not be as enlightened as thee and we), incidental road hazards and even malicious activities such as drive-by shootings in East LA.


As of August 17, 2006 we now have 30,084 miles on those tires and (Knock on wood!) have had no serious problems with them. We sincerely hope and pray this doesn't jinx us!

DISCLAIMER (Everybody's gotta have one!)

Note that we are maintaining these high pressures in our RV tires in direct contradiction to what may be recommended by the manufacturers and in several articles in RV magazines.

We are not recommending or encouraging that you do likewise. If you do so, you do so knowing that the practice may contradict the manufacturer's recommendations and may thereby void any warrantee or responsibility by them. And, you do so at your own risk.


Over the last several years there have been innumerable accounts of the recreational vehicle tires of one particular manufacturer failing, and this subject has been addressed so many times on the Internet forums that it's almost an urban legend. The threat of a lawsuit prevents any specific names from being mentioned here, so we'll keep this discussion generic and let the readers search for that information in the various Internet RV forums. We shall merely refer to them as 'Brand "X".'

The reports generally read that the hapless owners of the tires have been religiously weighing their RVs and adjusting tire pressures exactly according to the manufacturer's published tables, and they even have the daily, written records to prove it. We know a lot of these RVers and we know that they can be exactly that obsessive, compulsive and anal retentive. (Read that to mean that we really, profoundly, completely believe them!) The problem is that when crunch time arrives (Oops! Bad pun!), the manufacturer immediately launches into the liturgy "Your tires were under-inflated. That's not our fault. Your vehicle was overloaded. That's not our fault. The weight in your vehicle was badly distributed. That's not our fault. We regret that we're not going to replace the tire you destroyed or pay you one thin dime in compensation." That's the lawyers and accountants talking.


Why do the tires fail? What can be done to postpone or avoid it? There are lots of reasons why tires fail. We've all had flats for any number of reasons, some of them really bizarre. However, the commonest complaint we hear about Brand "X" tires is that a circular crack along the middle of the sidewall and parallel to the rim "unzipped" the tread and the tire lost pressure, often catastrophically. We've also heard of the tires seemingly spontaneously exploding on people's rigs while they were parked in RV parks, driveways or garages. Lastly, we've even seen reports of brand new tires failing in less than one or two thousand miles! In order to understand the problem we have to know a little about how tires work.

As a vehicle travels down the road the weight of each corner bears down on its respective tire. In response, that part of the tire between the metal wheel and the pavement begins to buckle a little from the weight. The tire's sidewalls flex outward. But, as the tire rolls down the road that particular section of sidewall rotates away from the load-bearing area and the tire's internal pressure (and to some extent centrifugal force from its spinning) tends to straighten the sidewall out.

If the pressure in the tire isn't high enough to fully inflate the "balloon" (and a tire is really only a fancy balloon), or if that corner of the vehicle is badly overweight, the weight of the vehicle will cause the thin sidewall to bend excessively as it rolls over it. Thus, the sidewall of an under-inflated or overloaded tire bends and straightens, bends and straightens, bends and straightens excessively dozens of times a minute, every minute that you're travelling at highway speed. If you bend and straighten a wire often and fast enough, the wire will break. So will the sidewall of your tire. The result is a circular crack around the tire's sidewall that "unzips" the tread portion from the body of the tire, leaving you flat on the roadside or worse. The obvious solutions are to not overload your tires and to make sure that the tires are inflated beyond some critical pressure in order to minimize the flexing of the sidewalls.

The important questions at this point would seem to be

"What's the maximum weight rating for each tire?"
For light/medium truck tires the maximum allowable weight appears on the tire's sidewall.
"What's the critical, minimal pressure at which the sidewalls are not excessively stressed?"
And the answer would seem to be "Look it up in the manufacturer's load/pressure tables." The minimal pressures for each weight are available over the Internet on the various manufacturer's websites and at the various tire dealers in your area.

However, there is a growing suspicion among RV owners that the inflation tables published by the manufacturer of Brand "X" recommend minimum pressures that are too low. One could guess that their rejoinder to that allegation would be that those are just the minimum pressures and we should be inflating the tires to some pressure above the published values.

Our replies are


Is this just a case of Brand "X" bashing or is there a real problem? After all, there are literally hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Brand "X" tires out there and we hear only about a couple of dozen or so failing a year. Are Brand "X"s really any worse than any other tire? Not only can we not answer these questions, but we haven't seen anyone performing a comprehensive, unbiased comparison between the different brands who can make such a declaration. All we've seen so far are anecdotal complaining and a few casual polls. Ultimately, neither proves anything.

The problem may not be so much a matter of the tire's quality as the company's integrity. First, if the published minimum pressures are obviously too low, what could possibly be the reason for not amending them upward instead of risking their customer's lives? Risking your customers' lives is the worst public relations gaffe of all!

Secondly, when the subject is searched on the Internet forums, it becomes obvious that the manufacturer has gained a bad reputation for not standing behind its product. They are reputed to unilaterally state that the RV was overloaded, the weight badly distributed or the tires underinflated, and it's not their fault. Just about anyone who thinks a moment about the topic must admit that in some number of Brand "X" failures, the RV owners operated according to the manufacturer's specifications and the tires failed anyway. ALL RV owners can't be complete buffoons! The manufacturer may need to shoot the lawyers and accountants and listen to their marketing and pubic relations people a little more closely. Maybe it's time to reconsider the liturgy and the way they treat their customers, whether the tires are good, bad or indifferent.


A short while ago, we managed to buy a really nice motorhome that we dearly love. Unfortunately, it came with Brand "X" tires. When we tried to switch to another brand of tire we found that these tires are a very narrow tire, literally like no other on the market, and the dual rims that came on the motorhome won't accept any other tires because the space between them is too narrow. With any other tires, every time we would hit a bump or turn a corner the two tires in each pair would "kiss" and it's only a matter of time before we'd be setting on the roadside, madly dialling road service and praying that some tire store might have a spare or two in stock.

That leaves us with only two options:

  1. When these tires finally make it to rubber heaven, buy another set of Brand "X" in spite of all the Brand "X" bashing.
  2. Try to replace the rims as well as the rubber with slightly wider models of a different brand, hoping that the motorhome's manufacturer had the good sense to make the wheel wells large enough to accommodate them.

Option one still places us at the mercy of Brand "X" and potentially bad tires.
Option two promises to cost us really big bucks!

Until we find a solution to our conundrum (or win the lottery!), in order to reduce the sidewall flexing to a minimum we're keeping the pressures in all six tires up to 100 to 110 PSI regardless of how much each axle weighs. (And, yes, being borderline obsessive, compulsive and anal retentive, we're recording tire pressures and axle weights at every opportunity!) In view of their past performance we strongly suspect that the manufacturer won't honour any sort of warrantee anyway. (Especially after reading this. Heck, we might be sued tomorrow!) And, because we believe all those who say that they've had trouble with Brand "X", we're fairly certain that we're going to have problems with those tires if we follow the manufacturer's tables anyway. If our hunch is correct this may be the key to avoiding a lot of the problem.

So far we've more than 16,000 miles on the rig and can see no sign of unusual wear or problems. I'll report back to you after we pass the 20,000 and 30,000 mile mark. Or else you'll find our obituary in one or more of the RV magazines.


The last issue we need to discuss revolves around what you should do if you experience a tire failure. Obviously, pull off the road, get the tire changed, etc. But, what next? (And, here we're addressing the subject in a truly generic fashion, as in "with any brand of tire.")

Almost everybody who experiences a tire failure merely gets the tire changed, pays the bill and gets on with their life. THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY ALL YOU SHOULD DO!

Among other things, all those failed tires are spirited away and never seen again except, perhaps, by a tire recycler. If there really is a problem it's swept under the proverbial carpet and nothing is done about it. In fact, without some deliberate effort on your part you can't even demonstrate what kind of failure you had, even if you do complain.

If you're pretty certain that the failure probably wasn't the manufacturer's fault (e.g., it was going bald in the first place, you hit a nail, or you're the target of a drive-by shooting as mentioned in the sidebar) that may be acceptable. However, if you have some reason to believe that the tire was defective, substandard or that the manufacturer failed to honour its warrantee appropriately, you should lodge a complaint with the relevant federal agency. In the USA that would be the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA). In Canada, contact Transport Canada. In other countries you will have to do some independent research. Start with the local phone book. If you can't identify a specific government agency that might be responsible, call any agency that might be remotely close and ask for the correct agency's name and phone number.

Next, take some photos, lots of photos. These should include clear snapshots of the following. Several photos from different angles of each category are recommended.

If you have any reason to suspect that the photos may not clearly show the tire's sidewall information you should make a hand written copy of it. Do you know how to do a "rubbing?" That surely wouldn't hurt either.

The next step is to file a complaint with the appropriate authority, here we'll assume the NHTSA. You can either file the complaint over the Internet at or you can fill in their form and print off copies of each page to mail or FAX to them. While the printed form will be slower, it will allow you to attach copies of your photos and other supporting documents to back up your allegations. Be sure to label all photos and other documentation with your name, address and phone number, the date of the tire failure and a brief explanation of what the documentation or photo is intended to show.


You need to keep the originals in case you are contacted for more information or in the unlikely event that you're asked to present at a hearing. Other supporting documents that you might attach might include some or all of the items on the following list.

All such complaints are collected and correlated by the NHTSA. If there are few complaints about your particular brand of tire, little will probably happen thereafter. However, if complaints begin to accumulate or are particularly severe or significant, the file will be red-tagged and monitored closely. If enough complaints accumulate or the incidents are serious enough, further, more decisive action will be taken to determine if the tires pose a real safety hazard. All this is explained on the NHTSA webpage.

An important point here is that if you don't lodge such a complaint, a long time may pass before enough serious complaints accumulate to precipitate an official response or reaction. In the meantime dozens of people may suffer serious financial loss and be injured or killed on our streets and highways as a result of bad tires. Thus, the sooner you file a complaint, the sooner the heat will be applied to manufacturers of unsafe, defective or substandard tires; or the sooner their application and inflation recommendations may be corrected.



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Copyright © 2005, Stanley A. Schultz and Marguerite J. Schultz.
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This page was initially created on 2005-July-20.
The last revision occurred on 2006-August-17.