Good tyres are central to your safety, comfort and capabilities when towing a caravan. They give you traction on the road, help absorb heat from friction and allow you to drive smoothly and safely on your chosen grade of road. With the wrong tyres you’re putting your safety and performance at risk whether it’s on a long distance highway trip in a luxury caravan to unsealed tracks in an off road caravan.
The following tips will help you determine where to start when it comes to caravan tyres and whether you should consider investing in a new set tomorrow.
The two main tyre types are Passenger (P) and Light Truck (LT). For caravans, you want LT tyres that can withstand the load of your caravan. LT tyres have stronger sidewalls, can take a higher load capacity and are more resistant to punctures and harsh road surfaces.
Tyres will come with a tread-wear rating based on their wear and how long they will last on the road. Tread-wear ratings may differ depending on the manufacturer. Every brand will have a range you can choose from and compare tread ratings with. To determine what kind of tread you need, think about type of caravan you have bought and the kind of travel you want to be doing. Is it regular off road caravan travel you’re looking to do or mostly on sealed roads and highways?
For off-road travel, what you want to compare in an LT tyre is how many sidewall and tread plies are in the tyre. The higher the tread pile count the more suited it will be for off road travel. It can range from 4 to 10, with a 10 ply rating being most suited to rugged 4x4 off road conditions. For on-road travel you obviously want to look at a lower tread pile count to suit smoother conditions on the road.
When you’re braking, particularly on a wet, slippery roads, having good traction in your tyres is vital. Traction ratings in tyres are measured in terms of how well your tyres grip to the road when you brake on a wet surface. What traction doesn’t measure is the stability control of your wheels when cornering or swaying sideways movements, which is covered by electronic stability control mechanisms.
If you will be doing a lot of travel through changeable environments and weather conditions, it’s wise to look for tyres with a high traction rating. The highest measure of traction is a AAA rating and goes down to C. The higher the traction rating the better grip you will have on the road and handling in wet, slippery or icy road conditions.
If you’re planning to do a lot of driving over a harsh Australian summer knowing your caravan tyres’ temperature rating is important to find out.
Caravan tyre temperature ratings start at A and go down to C. A is the best rating and means your tyre has the highest resistance to heat and best ability to get rid of heat and keep itself at a reasonable temperature for driving. This is particularly important in when driving along glaring highways on hot tarmac in middle of summer or through the desert, bush and tropics where temperatures can reach 40-45+ degrees every day.
4. Load capacity & tyre pressure
Load capacity is an important measure to understand when testing your tyres. Tyre load capacity will be specified by their load-rating index. You want to make sure that the load capacity of the caravan tyres can handle the weight of your caravan when it is fully laden. If you’re towing over 2 tonnes and your tyres can only handle 1 tonne then you will have to find replacement tyres before you can take it on the road.
When you buy a caravan also check before you take it out on the road that each tyre is at the right tyre pressure. The tyre manufacturer will specify the tyre’s optimum inflation pressure; this you should not exceed. Inflation pressure will also be specified in your caravan owner’s manual. Tyre pressures will be different depending on whether you do on-road or off road travel, with less pressure required for off road conditions.
Check the condition of your caravan’s tyres before you buy and also at regular intervals throughout the life of your caravan. What may first seem like a bargain may not end that way if you need to replace all your caravan’s tyres.
If you’ve just purchased a new caravan from a licensed dealer, you can expect that the tyres new, in mint condition and suited to the kind of caravan and travel you will be doing. However, if you’re buying a second hand caravan, the condition of your tyres will be variable depending on the frequency, distance, maintenance and type of travel the owners have been doing.
When buying second hand, find out:
- The age: the date the tyres were made will be stamped into the sidewall of the tyre. It is normally shown by the week and year it was produced i.e. 2215 means the 22 week of 2015. If they are older than 6 years then most tyre manufacturers will recommend you replace them.
- The TTT ratings: what are their tread, traction and temperature ratings, and do they match with the type of travel you want to do?
- The tyre pressure: can they all achieve the recommended tyre pressure and maintain it?
- The overall condition: have they stood the test of time? What signs of wear and tear do they show? How much of the tread pattern has worn off?
Also check that mudflaps have been fitted and any spare wheels that come with the purchase are the same size and tread as the wheels in use on the caravan.
And last but not least...
Your caravan wheels are only one piece in the puzzle when it comes to the towing capacity of your tow vehicle. You want to make sure that your vehicle has the capacity to tow the caravan you want to buy.
You tow vehicle should weigh 30% minimum to that of a fully-laden caravan, with a ball tongue weight that is 10% the weight of a fully laden caravan. Some vehicles may also need to be reinforced with fit load levelling devices, electrical connections to caravan brake lights, brake controllers and more to safely tow a caravan.
You also need to think about the type of tread you’ll be driving on, with three different tread types to choose from. Highway Terrain (HT) tyres, have shallower tread patterns and are more suitable for travel on sealed roads. Mud Terrain (MT) tyres are more suited for off road 4x4 travel into more extreme dirt road conditions, where greater tread is needed. They have deeper tread patterns and are suited for unsealed muddy, rocky, sandy and hilly conditions. All Terrain (AT) tyres are your happy medium between HT and MT and are a good choice for caravanners wanting to travel long distances on changeable surfaces, both on and off road. For information on recommended tyre pressures and more see RACQ's information on tyres.
And when you tick all these boxes and choose the right tyre fit for both your tow vehicle and caravan, you'll be ready to tow smoothly and safely on the road.
Want to find out more about optimum set up for a new or used caravan? Download our guide to buying the ultimate caravan in 2016.