Do you know how to handle a RV blowout at that sudden moment? Learn what to do and how to deal with a blowout no matter which tire it is. If you think it is hitting the brakes, think again.
As a mechanic, I have seen many people handle vehicles wrong when an emergency occurs. Often people take an over reactive reaction and cause their situation to worsen. We are going to look at what to do if your RV has a blowout. You may be surprised that handling smaller vehicles isn’t that much different. In many cases, when you are driving a RV, you will notice that feeling the road isn’t the same as in a car.
When driving smaller vehicles, you have more control and one of the things that gives you control is feeling. With a car, you can feel the road, you can often feel the connection between you and the pavement. Even in pickup trucks, there is still that connection. However when you get to larger trucks and buses, there is a lot of hydraulics between the steering wheel and road. You can get the feeling from site to movement aspect, but it still isn’t the same. Have you ever noticed 18-Wheelers going down the road with nearly a flat tire and they don’t even notice?
With so much power assist in the steering and brakes on larger vehicles, you can seriously over compensate. Many drivers of larger vehicles start to get a feel for their machine but it takes some time. So if you are new to driving a RV, you need to pay closer attention. It is amazing how a tire half flat still stays in balance while going down the road. However a “blowout”, those tend to shake and vibrate pretty good.
Anytime you start to get to know a vehicle, you have to test it by feel. You can get a ticket for swerving but that is your best test. Once you have your RV going down the road, it might be worth steering it gently a little to the right and left. This will allow you to test the reaction time of the steering wheel to the pavement. You will get a feel for it over time as you drive the RV but this can help learn the feel. It will give you a comparison between optimal and if a tire is going low.
Sometimes when a blowout occurs, you may not feel it right away. This can depend on how large your RV is and how much hydraulics are between you and the pavement. You should be able to hear the blowout, however if the music is turned up or you have earbuds in, you might not. If it is a front tire that blows, you should feel it in the steering wheel and notice the vehicle wanting to change direction. This is the moment you need to have it together and know what to do.
Most people’s first reaction is to cram on the brakes and start looking to get on the shoulder immediately. This would be a mistake as this is the major reasons RV’s wreck from blowouts. The two most important things about Knowing how to handle a RV blowout is, remaining calm and clear thinking. You CANNOT OVER REACT!! First notice if the vehicle is trying to fight the steering, if so compensate smoothly. Do not jerk the wheel to completely oppose the force. Do not jam the brakes on as this can cause you to flip the RV. The goal is to get control, then look for a place to pull off.
Ensure that you have a good grip on the steering wheel. This may sound completely crazy but in some cases, you may need to accelerate instead of slowing down. If it is a front tire that blows, braking will cause the RV to fall down hill basically. A flat tire while sitting still, will cause the RV to lean or fall toward the low tire. Imagine all that weight in motion, then immediately the RV drops down in front to one side or the other. By hitting the brake, you can cause the RV to trip over itself. If the front drops down from a flat, you may have to accelerate to help lighten the weight on the front to regain steering control. Watch the video below for more details.
What Causes Blowouts
This is almost a loaded question as there are many things that can cause a blowout. Although for RV’s, Buses and Large Trucks, weight is a major factor. The first thing that is a common factor is buying cheap or underrated tires. Most RV’s use a load range “E” tire, which means it is 10 ply and can handle up to 3195 lbs per tire. You may have a smaller a lighter RV that doesn’t require an “E” tire and just uses a “D” rated tire. Check your manufacturer specifications for your RV and never fall below specs. If a tire is underrated, it will get hot and explode or the tread could release from the tire and sling off.
Dragging brakes can also cause a tire to overheat and explode. If your brakes are not fully releasing, that means a lot of heat is being generated. The friction of the tire on the road creates heat, combined with the heat of the brakes, can cause a situation. The best way on knowing how to handle a RV blowout is by doing everything you can to prevent it. Always look for cracks in the sidewalls. Do not take long trips on tires that are too old.
Generally RV tires can last between five to seven years, this also depends on how many miles you put on them annually. I personally would never run a tire more than three years. As a tire ages, it starts to dry-rot. If you notice any type of cracks or chafing in the sidewalls or in the tread of your tires, replace them. There is no repair or cure for a dry-rotted tire. Another factor that causes RV blowouts is, overloading the RV with gear and supplies. The vehicle is already heavy, so please refer to your manual on how much cargo you can load on to it. There are other things that can cause RV Blowouts such as something in the road that can puncture a tire. A slow leak in a tire can cause it to finish off by getting hot and exploding.
View tire conditions that warrant replacing the tire. Never run tires in these conditions.
How To Prevent A Blowout
I have been a mechanic for decades and my main sermon to everyone is “Maintenance”. Think of your car, truck or RV as a ship. No captain should go out in his ship without knowing every nut and bolt of his vessel. Same applies to on the road vehicles, you have to know machine. We live in a busy fast pace life and we all tend to neglect things by taking them for granted. You don’t want a vacation trip ruined by an accident.
Number one, check those tires. Look for any type of damage to all your tires, and ensure that all tire pressures are correct. An under inflated tire will run hot. Remember, hot tires with excess weight, will explode. Have your brakes thoroughly inspected as brakes can overheat a tire. You also want to make sure you have plenty of tread on your tires. The balder a tire gets, the more of its surface runs on the road, thus making it get hotter. The grooves in a tread are more than just for pushing water to the side, it also keeps the tire cool.
If your RV adventure is that of length and many miles, it may be worth a stop along the way to get your tires rotated and checked. RV’s, Buses and Large Trucks are horrible to keep aligned. So expect tire wear on the front tires. As mentioned, the balder the tire gets, the hotter it will run in the more slick areas.
What About RV Camper Blowouts?
The above covered an RV you drive, but many own pull behind RV Campers. So how different is this type of emergency than the other? Well all in all, there isn’t much difference. As mentioned, you do not over react and you DO NOT cram on the brakes. If a blowout occurs, you will may have to possibly speed up to get control. Pulling anything can be dangerous, campers and trailers have a tendency to want to sway you back and forth. Sometimes this back and forth motion gets out of control and can cause you to jack-knife.
If your camper tire just goes flat, you should have pretty good control. However if it blows out, that can put you in the back and forth sway, therefore speeding up will straighten you up. Once you get control of the side-to-side forces, you then begin to slow down and look for a place to get off the road. Remember, get control of the situation first, then look for a place to pull over.
You can see in this video what happens when a pull behind blows a tire. Watch the camper start causing the side-to-side sway and how the driver speeds up to correct it.
No doubt having a tire explode while driving can be a scary event, but remember, don’t panic. Number one key in any emergency situation is to remain calm and think things through. By now you should have an idea how to handle a RV blowout. There is no way to avoid every obstacle when traveling. But you should now understand some things you can do to help avoid blowouts through maintenance.
- Here is a checklist to help you avoid blowouts:
- Tire Inflation
- The Correct Load Range Tire Rating – e.g. (“D”, “E”, “F”)
- The Correct Tire Size
- Avoid Cheap Priced Tires
- Inspect Tire Wear
- Check Brakes To Ensure No Dragging