How to Choose the Right Tires for Your RV
How to Choose the Right Tires for Your RV
Tire overview and tips for van and small motorhome owners.
By Kelly Laustsen & David Somach
Tires play a surprisingly large role in how your vehicle handles. Running the right set of tires is important to your vehicle’s safety and performance. While it can be easy to pick your wheels and tires based on aesthetics or cost, there are a number of important considerations to keep in mind when deciding on the setup that is right for you.
Many campervans come standard with all season tires, which is a good pick for most people. However, there are other options out there. We’ve taken a deep dive into tire and wheel research for our Revel and have compiled some of our findings and lessons learned.
NOTE: This information is based on our experience and research (not Winnebago’s direct recommendations), and it is geared toward small RVs and vans.
Comparison of Tire Types
There are five types of tires to consider:
- All season tires are typically standard on most vans, as they are decent at everything and good enough for most applications.
- All terrain tires have a more aggressive tread pattern than all season tires, so they perform better off pavement and can more easily grip uneven terrain. They are generally more puncture resistant.
- Winter tires have a softer rubber compound, which performs better in cold weather but wears faster in warm weather than other tires. Winter tires can either be studded or stud-less. Winter tire technology has improved enough that studless tires are on-par or better than studded tires in most situations except for on solid ice. In some states, studded tires aren’t permitted, or their use is limited to certain times of year, given the damage they cause to pavement.
- Mud terrain tires have significantly wider spacing between the tread blocks, which helps prevent mud from getting packed into the tire. This enables mud terrain tires to maintain grip where other tires might lose traction.
- Summer tires are common on passenger vehicles, but we haven’t seen van owners choose to use them. Summer tires perform best on pavement in warm weather.
There are some key differences between the five types of tires noted above, including gas mileage, road noise, handling, and longevity. The table below provides typical uses of each type of tire, and general pros and cons. There are some exceptions, and variability within each tire type based on manufacturer and model.
|Primarily paved roads
|Mixed on- and off-road use
|Heavy use in winter conditions
|Excellent grip on snow and ice
|Frequent muddy road use
|Primarily paved roads in warm climates
Top Considerations for Picking Tires for Your Van or Small RV
The biggest consideration when picking tires is how you use your vehicle and what is most important to you. Some other considerations to keep in mind include:
1. Whether you are willing to change your tires by season.
If you choose to have a dedicated set of winter tires, you’ll need to change your tires twice a year and keep an eye on the weather and temperature to decide when to make the swap. You can either have two sets of wheels (one for each set of tires) or swap your tires on a single set of wheels. Some shops will store your extra set of wheels and tires and do the change for you, or you can swap your wheels and tires yourself.
2. Wheel and tire size.
In addition to deciding what type of tires to use, you may have options for the wheel and tire size. Before changing your wheel or tire size, it is important to check the specifications for your vehicle and consider unintentional impacts.
For example, changing your wheel and tire size can make your speedometer inaccurate and affect your suspension, brakes, and automated features. In general, larger tires can offer better off-road performance, but the heavier weight can reduce your fuel economy.
We opted for smaller wheels and larger tires in order to maximize tire sidewall height, as the taller sidewalls result in a more compliant ride on rough roads and off-pavement.
3. Tire pressure.
Choosing the right tire pressure to run in different conditions is important to your ride comfort and handing. On pavement, the biggest consideration for selecting the right tire pressure is the weight of your vehicle. There are resources online to help determine the correct tire pressure to run, such as load inflation tables based on your vehicle’s weight on the front and rear axles.
A handy test to confirm if your tires are properly inflated is the chalk test, which involves marking your tires with a line of chalk and seeing if the chalk wears evenly after a short drive.
Off-pavement, tires typically offer better traction at lower pressures, when the tread is more pliable and able to conform to uneven surfaces. If we are driving off-pavement for a significant distance or on very rocky roads, we’ll run our tires at about 50-70% of our on-road pressure.
4. Snow rating.
Some all-terrain tires are snow rated, denoted with the three-peak mountain snowflake. This rating indicates the tires are made with a special rubber compound which stays pliable in colder conditions and are approved for severe winter driving.
Depending on which state you are in and whether you have 4x4, all-wheel drive, or front-wheel drive, snow rated all-terrain tires may qualify where chains or traction tires are required. However, dedicated winter tires will perform better in severe winter conditions than snow rated all terrain tires.
For our Revel, we have two sets of wheels and tires that we switch out based on the season. From about November through May, we use Bridgestone Blizzaks, which are studless snow tires. For the rest of the year, we use all-terrain tires.
For the past five years, we’ve used BFGoodrich KO2s, which have worked well with the mix of on- and off-road driving we do. When it recently came time to get new tires, we decided to try the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W, as we had heard good things about them and wanted to try them out. We look forward to seeing how they perform on our adventures this summer off the pavement.
We opted for a dedicated set of tires for the winter, as we use our van often enough in snowy conditions that it justifies the extra effort of switching the wheels and tires twice a year. We invested in a few pieces of equipment to make swapping our wheels and tires manageable to do ourselves.
It takes us about two hours to swap all four wheels and tires in our driveway. We enjoy the peace of mind of knowing our tires won’t limit our ability to get to the mountain even in heavy snow.
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