In an earlier article I talked about learning to drive your RV before you take a trip. To take that a step further, it’s a good idea to know how to control your RV if you have a flat or blowout while driving. Even a slow leak will eventually make it hard for you to control your RV, but a blowout can throw you out of control unless you know what to do and can respond immediately.
RV Pre-Trip Inspection
According to the RV Safety & Education Foundation the most common causes of RV tire blowouts is either an overloaded RV or underinflated tire. Goodyear engineers say that nails, sharp objects or curbing are a major cause of failures. Check RV tires if your RV has been in storage or parked for a while with tires exposed to sun and weather.
In an article on RV checklists I talked about inspecting your RV before, during and after your daily travel. If you need checklists, you can find links to several there. Inspecting your RV’s tires for correct air pressure, tread, cuts, cracks, punctures, and objects that are imbedded in the tire is probably the most important check on your list. That’s because they support the entire weight of your RV and are critical to keeping it balanced and off the ground. While there are lots of important things to check before you leave, you want to pay special attention to RV tire safety and RV weight distribution.
RV Blowouts: What Should You Do?
Maintaining control of your RV after a blowout is not as hard as it might seem. But the steps are counterintuitive. While this is no guarantee that you’ll stay upright or in you lane (how you drive and load your RV are just two factors to consider,) these tips can certainly help you keep your RV under control until you can safely stop.
FRONT TIRE BLOWOUT: When a front tire blows, your vehicle will suddenly pull towards the blown tire. You need to respond immediately to keep the RV under control. In addition to holding the steering wheel straight (and very tightly) you need to avoid doing what your instincts might tell you. That is to
- Avoid braking or decelerating
- Do increase your speed slightly
- Turn your emergency flashers on
- Gradually slow to 10 or 15 miles per hour without braking
- Pull off to the right side of the road
How scary does that sound? BUT, those are the two things that will help you regain control initially. The blowout has added a sideways force to your RV’s direction. By increasing the forward force slightly you overcome the sideways force and keep your RV moving on the pavement. If you slow down, either by braking or decelerating, you decrease the forward force and increase the effect of the sideways force. Depending upon which tire blows, the force pulls you either off the road or into the oncoming lane. So, pick up a little forward speed until you regain control, then slowly brake and stop when you find a safe place to pull over.
A front tire blowout is felt through the steering wheel and will pull and be difficult, but not impossible to steer. As you gain forward speed you’ll also gain steering control.
REAR TIRE BLOWOUT: Handle this exactly as you would a front tire blowout. Again, step on the accelerator until you regain control. Remember that the worst thing you can do is to hit the brakes, no matter how illogical this seems.
A rear tire blowout is felt more through the seat of your RV, and you will have better steering control.
A wonderful video by Michelin Tires, RV–The Critical Factor stresses the point that the dynamics of managing a blowout are the same for every type of vehicle, including autos, trucks, and vehicles pulling trailers. The techniques are the same for every type of weather condition, road, curve or straight highway.
I can testify to that. Years ago I was traveling about 60 miles per hour in a car when the front left tire blew. I’d never given much thought to handling a blowout. Couldn’t happen to me, right? Well, it did.
I gripped the wheel and hit the brake. As I began to swerve into the oncoming lane I hit the gas, though I’ll never know how I came to that decision. But I regained control instantly, and easily pulled the car over to the shoulder. The point of telling you that was to assure you how well it works and how easy it is to maintain control. I do have to stress that it took a concerted effort to hang onto that steering wheel, though.
Watch Your RV Weight
And just as a reminder, make sure you buy the right RV tires for your RV. RV tires should meet at least the minimum size, weight and pressure requirements for your RV. Watch your weight distribution by weighing each tire and axel once your RV is loaded. Should you have a blowout, or even a slow leak, how you distribute the weight inside your RV and its storage compartments is going to affect how you regain control.