How Temperature Changes Can Affect Your RV’s Tire Pressure

MobileMustHave knows better than most that RV travel is a thrilling adventure which offers you the freedom to explore new horizons and create lasting memories. While planning your route and packing your essentials, there's one critical aspect that's often overlooked, tire pressure.  

Neglecting proper RV tire maintenance can lead to safety hazards, costly repairs, and even put a damper on your much-anticipated trip. Let's look into why maintaining the right tire pressure is essential for a smooth and safe journey.

As an automotive enthusiast, I know that one of the most important parts of a car, if not the most important, is the tires. Whether it’s trying to get traction at the drag strip or traverse a wet boggy swamp, your tires, and the pressure in them play a very important role. This is also true in the RV world and across all forms of automotive transportation.

How does temperature impact tire pressure?

While it is strange to think about this fact at times, the air we breathe (and fill our tires with) is a mixture of many different gases. There is a scientific law known as Charles’ Law which holds real life implications for RV tire pressure (I guess that I should be thanking my high school chemistry teacher… He was right when he told us that his teachings DO have real world applications!)

Charles’ Law states that if the pressure of a gas is held constant (like within the confines of a vehicle or camper tire), increasing the temperature of the gas will increase the volume (the amount of space that the gas takes up) of the gas proportionately. With that law in mind, there are two things that happen with your tires as the temperature fluctuates: 


Heat Expansion:

As the temperature rises, the air inside the tires expands. This expansion increases the pressure inside the tires. Tires are meant to withstand a fair amount of temperature increases, however if a tire gets too hot, this air expansion can cause a blowout which can have catastrophic implications.


When a tire is over-inflated the contact patch of the tire is much smaller because the pressure inside the tire tends to “balloon” the middle of tires tread. Rolling resistance generates heat in any case, but in this case the heat is concentrated to a smaller section of the tire causing the rubber to break down more quickly.


Cold Contraction:

Like how if the temperature increases inside of a tire the volume of the air (and the tire pressure) will increase; if the temperature in an RV tire drops, the volume of the air inside of the tire will decrease, which will in turn lower the tire pressure. Low tire pressure can lead to poor fuel efficiency, as well as under inflation and flat tires. With under-inflation, the tire’s tread tends to buckle in the middle placing most of the load on the outer edges of the tire.


Similar to the case with over-inflation, an under-inflated tire’s tread starts to heat unevenly on these contact patches which causes them to wear at an accelerated rate. Further with under-inflation the side walls sag and crease. The creasing action caused at the bottom of the tire creates heat. This is dangerous, as the sidewall is the weakest part of the tire, and most prone to failure.

Why is it important to monitor tire pressure and tire temperature?


Safety First: 

Safety should always be a top priority when it comes to RV travel. Maintaining the correct tire pressure ensures stability and control while on the road. Improperly inflated tires can lead to poor vehicle handling, longer stopping distances, and a higher risk of blowouts or flats. All of these incidents can result in accidents, injuries, and extensive vehicle damage. Keeping your RV tires properly inflated reduces these risks, helping you arrive at your destination safely. 


Fuel Efficiency: 

Properly inflated tires will result in better fuel efficiency. Underinflated tires create more rolling resistance, which requires your RV's engine to work harder, ultimately guzzling more fuel. This not only puts a strain on your wallet but also has an adverse environmental impact. Maintaining optimal tire pressure with a system like the TST 507 can help you save money on fuel and reduce your carbon footprint. 


Tire Longevity: 

RVs are designed to carry heavy loads, from passengers to luggage and equipment. Each RV model has a specific recommended tire pressure based on its weight and load-carrying capacity. Failing to adjust tire pressure according to your RV's load can compromise both safety and performance. This can lead to premature tire wear, uneven wear, and force you to purchase new tires much sooner than you would otherwise have to. 


Handling and Comfort:  

Maintaining proper tire pressure enhances your RV's overall handling and ride comfort. It reduces vibrations, minimizes swaying, and provides a smoother driving experience. A RV with properly inflated tires is not only safer but also more enjoyable to drive, making your journey more fun and safer. 

Additional points to consider

Seasonal & Temperature Considerations:

Adjust tire pressure seasonally, especially in colder months, to counteract temperature-related pressure changes effectively. Note to check your tire pressure when the tires are cool, and you haven’t driven for a while. Tires that have recently been driven will tend to give you a higher reading. 

Importance of Tire Inspections:

Regular visual inspections of tires are crucial for identifying signs of wear, damage, or aging. Inspect tires before each trip to ensure safety and reliability.

Emergency Preparedness:

Carry essential tire maintenance tools and supplies, including a tire pressure gauge, portable air compressor, tire repair kit, and spare tire, to handle unexpected tire issues on the road effectively.

Education on Tire Load Ratings:

Understand tire load ratings to select the right tires for your RV, ensuring they can safely support the vehicle's weight and cargo.

Integration with RV Monitoring Systems:

Integrate tire pressure monitoring systems with broader RV monitoring systems for comprehensive oversight of vehicle parameters, enhancing safety and convenience.

You must always be mindful of the temperature and how it is going to affect the pressure of your RV’s tires. Your tires, if there are no leaks present, have the same amount of air inside them all the time. But if you are in the heat of Death Valley one day, and then the frigid peaks of the Rocky Mountains the next, your pressure readings will vary greatly. 


RV tire pressure is not just a mundane maintenance task; it's a crucial aspect of ensuring your safety, comfort, and cost-effectiveness while on the road.  


Part of having an enjoyable journey out on the road is not having to worry about things. Vacation, or any travel for that matter, is much more enjoyable when everything that can go wrong has been taken care of. The stress around tire blowouts, tire replacements, or having a flat can put a massive damper on your enjoyment of your journey. By using a quality tire pressure monitoring system, you're taking a significant step toward a more enjoyable and secure journey. Remember, when it comes to RV travel, the right tire pressure and temperature is the foundation of a successful adventure. 

Safe travels!