RV Tips For Beginners - Dry Rot Tires Are...Well...ROTTEN

by frugalrvers

Dry rot tires on an rv tire are no laughing matter. Having survived losing two while on the highway, we do laugh at our ignorance, but want to pass on this rv safety tip to you!

Sometimes you have to laugh at the things that go wrong when new rvers hit the road - but some you recognize, even if laughing now, could have been catastrophic. We learned the hard way about tires that have dry rot.

Oh...it is painful reliving this story...but we will summarize the best we can. From October, 2009 to March, 2010, our trailer went from Glacier National Park, Montana to Illinois. Then it went to North Carolina and eventually made its way to Myrtle Beach. No problems with those little rubber circles whatsoever.

It was when we were leaving Myrtle Beach and heading back to see family in Illinois when things, literally, fell apart...all in a matter of days! Now, we poke fun at ourselves but you need to know that during all of this roadside assistance, not once did our tires ever get blamed for our problems. Even the experts didn't notice the dry rot on the tires.

Tire Dry Rot + 2 Fools = Tow Truck

Those Rubber Circles Under The RV Are Actually Quite Important

We were under the apparent delusion that you can always see tire rot, which we found out wasn't true...the hard way. If you don't know our history, we can briefly summarize that we became rvers without any preparation, knowing nothing about motorhomes or travel trailers. We actually hit the road not even knowing how to work the toilet, empty the water tanks, etc. You can imagine, with a smile/smirk, our "inspecting" our camper, prior to purchase, would be just about the same as our looking over a 747, deciding if it was sound....yes, "pretty" was key. It all looked nice, must work fine! Heh, heh.

Our Award Classic Travel Trailer actually was a wonderful first home, except for one small problem - the tires looked beautiful (this was, indeed, a problem). Certainly we "tested" them by putting on our glasses, squatting down, and deciding they had really nice tread, were very clean (no mud! wow!) and, when we gave 'em a swift kick with our shoe, our foot bounced back off, just like the response one would expect from excellent quality rubber tires. Yep...pretty, bouncy, shiny...perfect! Let's roll!

Our Travel Trailer Tires Had Dry Rot

But They Looked So Pretty and Shiny!!
Tire Dry Rot On Our Travel Trailer
Tire Dry Rot On Our Travel Trailer

Pretty Tire Number 1 Disintegrates In Georgia

Stranded On The Highway To The Simpler Life
This Was The First Blown RV Tire
This Was The First Blown RV Tire

RV Air Compressor, RV Wheel and Tire Protectors And More Tire TLC

400p-rv Automatic Portable Air Compressor Kit.
$475.00  $251.95
Camco RV 30-32" Arctic White Vinyl Wheel & Tire Protector...
$33.87  $16.84
Accutire MS-5515 Truck and RV Digital Tire Gauge with LED...
$59.99  $41.90

Our RV Tires Saga

Even An RV Air Inflator Couldn't Have Helped Us

Our first problem happened on the highway in Georgia. Honestly, we didn't notice a thing (double axles are your friend, believe us!). A trucker was honking and waving at us...at first we thought people were just amazingly friendly in Georgia...but the look on his face said "pull over or you are going to die!" So we did. We discovered an exploded tire...not even duct tape could have helped it. We waited forever for a tow truck. The gentleman put our spare on and said the tire blew because we needed our bearings repacked, and proceeded to jiggle the tire to prove his point. So we drove to the nearest campground and made an appointment with Goodyear for the following morning.


Goodyear repacked all of our bearings, INSPECTED our tires and said they were "fine" and sent us on our way. We did purchase a new tire there, not wanting to drive on the older spare tire. Nice unexpected expense, but we were sure our troubles were over...until we got to Nashville, of course.

Yes...they have friendly truckers in Nashville...on the highway, he was honking and waving, too! This time, we could see sparks flying from the troubled tire, and we knew this wasn't good. Long story short (and an entire day spent at the mechanics...a little place in the middle of absolute nowhere), the bearings were packed poorly and one destroyed our hub. Now we're getting worried. Our emergency fund was wearing down. The nice owner of the shop said if WE drive to Nashville to pick up the hub, it will save us tons on the final bill. So off we went. Hours later, we had hub in hand, it was installed, and we rejoiced. Before leaving, he also "inspected" our tires and said "they look great...you'll be fine." So we hit the road.

That evening, in the dark, somewhere near Marion, Illinois, we heard that "flop, flop, flop" on the highway. By this time, we were seriously unstable emotionally. As luck would have it, the next exit had a campground (cannot tell you how lucky this was). So we drove on the bad tire, hazard lights on, just happy to be able to sleep. I think we would have slept on the highway if we had to. This time, it was the same axle but opposite tire that blew. Yes...we called the tow truck again, they put the spare on, and we drove 45 mph for our final 200 miles on the backroads, until we reached our destination.

The final outcome? Both tow truck experts were wrong. Goodyear was wrong (and did pack the bearings poorly and refunded our money, for destroying the hub) and the nice, backwoods mechanic was wrong...these tires were full of dry rot!!

We had to buy all new tires...and when our travel trailer had new rubber, the mechanic showed us something...there is a "DOT" code on the tires, that tells when the tires were made (usually on the inside sidewall). It was determined Custer used these on a wagon on the day of his last stand...they were THAT old.

Moral of the story? Tires that sit for long periods of time can develop tire dry rot, invisible to even the most observant of observers. That does not excuse the fact that those we encountered should have had the common sense to check the date...but they didn't. So our travel trailer got "new shoes" and we learned a hard, valuable lesson!

Now we know to be better prepared and how to care for our rv tires...and what to look for. We have only been full time rvers for two years...and a lot is learn by doing. We now recognize that a pretty tire might not have been used much, so it looks really nice on the outside, but it will disintegrate after it hits the highway.

Oh, and because we continue learning any way but easy, later we learned the hard way about motorhome brake repair.

Stay safe and Happy Trails!

Jim and Robin

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Updated: on 08/24/2013, frugalrvers
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Do You Have RV Tips For Beginners Or "Exciting" Dry Rot Stories??

frugalrvers on 09/27/2012

5 flats! Wow...so glad you are okay. That is the scariest part...thinking of the dangers of losing tires on the highway. Thanks for your comment and happy trails!

tmillersart on 09/26/2012

Been fulltiming for a 18mo now. Our first voyage got us to AL on dry rotted tires and the next trip was to FL, we had 5 flats in 36 hours!

Tolovaj on 06/29/2012

No, no tips from me, just an applause to your adventurous and humorous approach to life. Good luck:)

terrilorah on 03/11/2012

I have future plans to have some adventures myself so thanks for writing about yours! Helpful lessons are welcome!

Papa Sid on 12/30/2011

I put my wheels up on wooden boards and cover the tires with cloth wheel covers,Be sure you use wood not concrete blocks,,I have had blow out also loss tire and rim,,and didn't know it until a car blew his horn to get me to look back....

Jimmie on 09/03/2011

I love how you're turning all your RV experience and adventures into articles. These are most helpful for new RVers. And those of us who wish to vicariously be RVers through your articles enjoy them too.

sheilamarie on 08/27/2011

I'm glad you stayed safe through all that drama! I came across a serious rv accident last summer that happened when their tire popped. Not pretty. Thanks for the tips you share, and keep safe on the road.

ohcaroline on 08/27/2011

A great story on your first adventures. What a learning curve you had ahead of you, right! Thanks for sharing. I feel like I get to taste a little of the rv'ing life through your writing.

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