The last place I thought I would find myself on a beautiful Friday morning was broke down on I-35 south near central Austin, Texas. I was in the right lane (fortunately) when I heard the tire blow.
I glanced through my right rear view mirror and saw pieces of rubber flinging from what was left of my right rear trailer tire. There were no exits close by, so I immediately headed for the freeway's narrow shoulder.
A couple of weeks before this incident, while looking for information about wheel bearings, I stumbled across some documentation about trailer tires. While skimming the text, I came across a paragraph that indicated the life of trailer tires is typically between 8,000 and 12,000 miles. I was surprised to read that trailer tires have such a short life.
My tires had just over 12,000 miles on them, but since they had plenty of tread, I decided that I wouldn't replace them until after my next two trips. The two trips combined wouldn't be more than 250 miles. I was certain that the documentation was being conservative and I had many more miles left on my tires. This thinking was obviously incorrect.
You can't go by the amount of tread that is left on a trailer tire. Trailer tires undergo stresses that automobile tires do not. When you make turns with a trailer, the tires drag sideways. This causes breakdown in the sidewalls of a trailer tire that would not occur with a car or truck tire.
Meanwhile, back on I-35, I had to wait for a break in the speeding traffic to open the driver side door of my truck. Once I escaped the cab, I saw the flat tire and proceeded to replace it with the spare.
The tire jack that I had (the one that came with my Toyota Tundra) was too tall to fit under the axel. Wondering what to do next, my wife called my attention to the Texas Roadside Assistance number on the back of my driver license.
I have never had the need to call that number, but decided to give it a try. They arrived in less than 15 minutes. The serviceman struggled to replace the tire, while 18-wheelers whizzed by only a few feet away. With each passing truck, our travel trailer would shake, making it difficult (and scary) for the serviceman to work.
In less than 30 minutes, the spare was on and we were on our way again. Texas Roadside Assistance is a completely free service. The serviceman wouldn't even accept a tip!!
After the spare was secured, we immediately headed for a Discount Tire that we called in advance to confirm they had the trailer tires that we needed. Luckily, the tire shop was less than two miles away.
In less than an hour we were on our way again, with four new tires, and only lost about an hour and a half of total travel time. We were extremely lucky to have recovered from the failed tire so well.
We could have easily been far from civilization where tire dealers and roadside assistance would have been scarce. From now on, I will have much more respect when it comes to tire wear and maintenance, and replace my tires about every 8,000 miles, even if they look new!
I will also make sure that I have the right tools (the jack comes to mind) with me to do the job of replacing a flat trailer tire.
When you own a travel trailer for a few years, you learn that it makes sense to carry extra tools and parts with you to fix simple things while you're on the road. Anytime you can avoid spending time and money in an RV repair shop while you should be having fun, is time well spent.
While reading about RV trailer tires, I came across some interesting information. For instance, ST in the tire name means that the tire should not exceed 65 miles per hour. The next three-digit number is the width of the tire from sidewall edge to sidewall edge (in millimeters). The next two-digit number is the aspect ratio - the tire's ratio of height to width. The R stands for radial. The next two-digit number is the wheel or rim diameter (in inches).
There are two types of trailer tires; bias ply and radials. The most expensive trailer tire (radial) that Discount Tire had was less than 100 dollars. For the price and piece of mind, it makes sense to choose the best tire. Radials are a little more expensive, but are a better value than bias ply.