Having the right caravan tyre pressure is an essential yet often overlooked feature of towing safety.
It’s often the last thing you think about when you’re busy packing your caravan, hitching it to your tow-vehicle and typing your destination into google maps. And yet, it is one of the most crucial elements to contribute to a safe, smooth and enjoyable journey.
Why it’s important
Having the right caravan tyre pressure optimises the performance of how your caravan tows and also increases your vehicle's fuel efficiency.
By having the right inflation you will enjoy a smoother, more efficient and safer drive. It will also increase the life of your tyres, saving you the cost of having to replace them time and time again.
Under-inflated wheels don’t maintain their shape, causing:
- more pressure to be exerted on the sides
- uneven wearing and tread, again on the sides
- rolling resistance making your vehicle’s engine work harder
- greater potential to rapidly deflate when driving
- reduced steering precision.
Overinflated wheels, have less surface area touching the road, causing:
- a harsher, less forgiving ride when passing over bumps
- more potential of damage or puncture from rocks
- greater potential to burst if under maximum pressure.
As you can see, under or overinflated tyres can have a considerable impact on your drive quality, safety and the longevity of your tyres. To avoid this here’s what you can do.
Check the basics first
Before you start testing the pressure of your caravan tyres, look at a few basic things first:
1. Are your tyres in good condition?
If your caravan tyres have been in use for a while, make sure you check their condition.
- How worn down do they look?
- Do they have any tread left?
- Are they all the same type of tyre?
Their age should be date stamped on the tyre’s sidewall. Caravan tyres generally have longer life than vehicle tyres; however, anything that’s older than 6 years experts recommend replacing.
2. Do you have a safe load capacity?
Load capacity is also an important measure to understand when testing your tyres. Tyre load capacity is specified by their load-rating index and set by the tyre manufacturer.
You want to make sure that the load capacity of your caravan tyres can handle the weight of your caravan when it's 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.
Every tyre manufacturer will have with a load capacity index rating you can check to make sure you stay within the tyre’s legal load limits.
3. Is my caravan loaded evenly?
Ensure you load your caravan evenly and that its weight does not exceed the total load capacity specified by its manufacturer. Why? Because, a poorly loaded caravan can have more of an impact on your tyres than you think.
Overloading your caravan will affect the balance of your caravan and put undue pressure on your tyres and wheels. For example:
- A caravan loaded to much at the front or back can tip
- A caravan loaded too much to one side can also cause imbalance and cause excessive wearing on the tyres on the weighted side
To find the correct load imposed on your caravan, check these excellent load and inflation rate tables. It is also recommended you ensure your tow vehicle weighs at least 30% (minimum) to that of a laden caravan, with a ball tongue that is a minimum 10% the weight of a fully laden caravan.
Testing your caravan tyre pressure
Once you have looked at tyre condition and ensured your caravan load is even, you can now start testing your caravan's tyre pressures.
Use an air gauge
Visual inspection and feeling each tyre is a good start, however, it’s not an accurate measure on what’s actually going on with each tyre. The best way to check the inflation levels of your tyres is a quality air gauge.
Find the optimum tyre pressure
Once you have this you want to know what the optimum tyre pressure is. The tyre manufacturer will specify the tyre’s optimum inflation pressure; this you should not exceeded. 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.
A great tool to help you check your caravan’s tyre pressure is Tyresafe’s caravan tyre pressure calculator. Always check and adjust tyre pressures when your tyres are cold, rather than warm. If you don't, your tyre pressure may be lower than you think once your tyres cool down.
Keep testing tyre pressure once you’re on the road
Once you’re on the road, check after about 100km and see how much rise in psi there has been in your LT tyres. What you want to see is a rise in approx. 5-6 psi. Anything above this psi means you need to inflate your tyres some more. Anything under this psi, means you need to let some air out.
Either way, it’s important to keep checking and adjusting until the air pressure is just right. Make sure when you do this you don’t inflate more than a few psi each time, and never exceed the maximum psi stated on the sidewall of your tyre.
And one last thing...
Before you set off, check your have a spare tyre that’s the same type, size, tread and pressure as the caravan tyres already fitted. This will ensure that wherever you are, you can feel confident you have a backup tyre that won't let you down.
Also get into the habit of checking your tyres before you set off at every point in your journey. And if you're ever uncertain with your caravan set up, you can always pop in and visit your local caravan dealer to ask any questions about tyre pressure and towing. It’s a great routine to get into to ensure optimum tyre pressure for every km you travel. And this translates to a nice, smooth, comfortable drive and some very happy caravanners!
Want to learn the simple art of safe caravan towing? Download our free ebook 10 steps to becoming a caravan towing pro.