Thursday, April 15, 2010

"They look brand new!"

We bought our Newell March 1, 2008. At the time we thought the tires were less than 4 years old with the exception of the right front that had been replaced by the prior owner due to hitting road debris a year before. Tires on any kind of RV (trailer, 5th wheel, motorhome) have a life expectancy. Since, typcially, RV's are not used on a regular basis, and in many cases sit for weeks, or months at a time you cannot judge their condition by the depth of the tread, or their appearance. In fact, it is extremely important when buying "new" tires for your RV that you have the date codes on the tires checked. Whether, or not tires are being used, or sitting on the rack at the tire store, they are deteriorating. Depending on the brand of tire, you can expect 5-7 years of use out of a tire, no matter how good the tread looks.
In our case the Goodyear tires that had been installed by the prior owner just a couple of years previously were really much older at the time of installation than the prior owner thought. I did not know I had a ticking time bomb on my hands.

In mid May of 2008 we drove the Newell down to Tempe, AZ for my daughter's graduation from Arizona State. It was a good excuse to take our first extended trip in our new purchase. All went well until we were about 85 miles from the California border, between Tonopah and Ehrenberg, on our return trip. I was in the #2 lane on I-10 cruising along about 60mph when I suddenly heard a loud "BANG!!!".....initially I thought I had hit something in the road, but quickly realized my left front tire had exploded. The coach jerked violently to the left taking me about half way into the #1 lane. I remembered my drivers ed training from years ago "Don't make dramatic corrections, or oversteer!".....I firmly gripped the steering wheel, took my foot off the accelerator, and gradually regained control, began steering to the right while coasting onto the shoulder about 100 feet down the road. Traffic was light that day and there was no one withiin a mile of me front, or back.
I sat there in the driver's seat listening to the gentle rumble of the idling Detroit Diesel, then heard one of my daughters sitting behind me say "Dad, you did a great job of saving us!". I turned off the diesel, and my wife and I (shakily) walked outside to survey the damage. Typically, when a tire blows out on a motorhome the damaged tire is the the least of it. A lot of times the exploding rubber acts like shrapenal damaging sheet metal, taking out plumbing, wiring, etc. As we walked around to the left front of the coach we soon realized the only damage was the tire.....not even the rim, which was now on the ground, appeared damaged.

Blowout on I-10

The picture above is what we first saw. I then looked back down the road and saw an enormous debris field of rubber going back a hundred feet, or so. Fortunately, we carry Good Sam Emergency Road Service. I called them, gave them the mile marker we were near and they arranged for a tire service to drive 80 miles out from Mesa, AZ with the proper tire. I turned on the generator so we could run the roof A/C's, cranked up the satellite dish, and turned on an NBA playoff game...can't remember who was playing now. Elaine and the girls prepared some cold cuts for a snack. In about 2 hours the guy arrived, changed the tire with the rim still on the motorhome, and had us on our way in 30 more minutes. My only cost was the tire....$350. Good Sam paid everything else!

The next, after arriving home without further incident, I had my mechanic check the date codes on the tires.....they were 7-11 years old! Wow, that meant when they were installed they were already 5-8 years old. I immediately had the rear 4 tires replaced and have had no further trouble since.

The moral of the story? 1) Do not take anyone's word for what kind of shape the tires are in on a new, or used RV purchase. Determine when they were installed (ask for paperwork), and then have the date codes checked to be sure "old/new" tires were not installed. 2) Have a good ERS provider!


  1. Yikes. I am just catching up on my blogs. I didn't know this happened. Glad you were able to keep it under control.

    My tires have to be at least 5 years old on my 2006 that sat in a garage for years. (Owners became ill soon after purchase and never drove it.) Everyone keeps saying, "Those look brand new, you don't need to replace them." But I am worried...

  2. I would be concerned, too. 5 years sitting is not good for tires, even if inside a garage. You could drive all the way to Alaska and back and never have a problem, but if you have a blowout the tire would be the least of your expense....blowouts can cause a lot of damage to the motorhome.