There’s a lot to remember when preparing for a big caravan adventure. More than just choosing a caravan, you need to understand weights, hitching and how to best load your caravan. Then of course comes all the route planning and destination research (aka the fun part!). There’s a chance that in all your preparation, as thorough as it is, that you may overlook a very important component of a safe and comfortable journey - your caravan tyres.
Whether you’re planning on sticking to the highways or heading off-road, your tyres are what gives you traction on the road and allow you to drive smoothly and safely. It pays to have a good understanding of caravan tyres so you can ensure you have the very best tyres fitted. Here are the key things to look out for:
1. Tyre Type
You might be familiar with car tyres, but Light Truck (LT) tyres are what you need for your caravan. Their stronger sidewalls mean they can take a higher load capacity and are more resistant to punctures and harsh road surfaces. You can always change a tyre, but let’s face it it’s a bit of a pain, especially when you’re off the beaten track a little with an uneven surface to work on. Best to ensure you have tyres that are up to the job from the outset.
Manufacturers issue a tread pile count for their tyres, which essentially means how well they will withstand the type of road they are travelling on. For off-road use, look for a 10+ ply rating, which means they are well suited to 4WD conditions. If you’re sticking to highways and smoother road conditions, then a lower tread pile count could suit you. Your tyre manufacturer and/or caravan dealer can give you a clear recommendation as to the right tyre for your needs. Sometimes it’s better to have a good discussion at the outset as you’ll want your tyres last you a while.
Traction is absolutely essential for the safety of your vehicle, caravan and of course your loved ones travelling in them. Traction is the tyre’s ability to stick to wet or icy surfaces. Tyres are given a rating to represent how well they will cope in these conditions without sliding. The higher the rating, the better grip the tyre will have. The top rating is AAA, the lowest C. When it comes to purchasing caravan tyres, a rule of thumb is the higher the rating, the more expensive the tyres. If you’re ever planning on going off-road, or even if you’re not, tyres with a AAA rating can be a good investment to give you peace of mind when handling your caravan in wet or slippery conditions.
4. Temperature Rating
Your caravan tyres have a temperature rating, which tells you its resistance to heat, and its ability to dissipate heat. Caravan tyre temperature ratings start at A and go down to C, with A being the best rating. If you are planning caravan trips in all seasons then it pays to invest in tyres with a high temperature rating. In particular, driving on highways in Australia’s hot summer conditions your tyres will need to be able to resist a great deal of heat.
5. Optimum Tyre Pressure
The caravan tyre manufacturer should provide an optimum inflation pressure. To double check, look for the details on your caravan compliance plate, which should be fitted to the front boot, on the A-frame or on the inside of the entry door. The compliance plate has a recommended cold tyre pressure for that van. With a good quality tyre pressure gauge, check the pressure of each of your caravan tyres when they are cold (haven’t been driven on for several hours).
To test the tyre pressure is correct, tow your caravan for an hour, and re-check your caravan tyres. If you have a 5-6psi rise in pressure, your cold tyre pressure is correct. If the rise in pressure is less than this, the cold pressure is too high. If there is an increase of more than 6psi, the cold pressures are too low.
Confused?A great tool to help you check your caravan tyre pressure is Tyresafe’s caravan tyre pressure calculator.
6. Tyre load capacity
Caravan tyres have a load-rating index. This specifies the tyre’s load capacity, so you can ensure they can withstand the weight of your caravan when it is fully loaded. Make sure you have an idea of the weight of the caravan (including accessories), and all the belongings you’re planning on taking with you prior to purchasing your tyres. If your tyres can only handle 1 tonne and you plan on towing 2 tonnes, it’s going to be inconvenient to have to source replacement tyres before you can take it on the road.
7. Tyre Condition
Before you drive, check the TTT (Traction, Tread and Temperature) rating on the tyre, look for wear and tear and check the date the tyre was made (this should be stamped into the sidewall of the tyre). A general rule of thumb is that tyres should be replaced every 6 years, so if they are older than that you may need to replace them.
Don’t assume your caravan tyres are fine when preparing for your next caravan trip. Get in the habit of checking tyre pressure and wear and tear as part of your preparations for every trip. The result of not checking your tyres can range from an inconvenience like having to source new tyres or change a tyre on the road, through to something much more serious if you blow a tyre at speed.
With any great, memorable holiday, comes thorough planning. If you remember the above points your tyres should be well able to handle the conditions, weight and temperature of any trip you have planned.