Saturday, September 24, 2022


Can you change a tire if you need to? Are you sure?

RV Doctor

By Gary Bunzer

Have you ever thought much about how to change a tire? Your answer will depend on your responses to a number of very important questions that need to be considered first.

1. Do you have a spare? A lot of RVs don’t have a one. Their only option is to call a service and hope the service company has the correct size.

2. If you have a spare, is it inflated? Given the number of folk who seldom check the tires already on the ground a majority simply forget to check the spare or don’t check because it isn’t easy to do.

3. If it’s inflated, do you have enough pressure to carry the load for the position where you are going to mount it? You probably need to be sure you have the spare inflated to the max on the tire sidewall so you can bleed it down to the correct amount for the position.

4. Do you have the necessary tools? Wrench, sockets, long breaker bar, jack, jack stand, steel plate to support the jack, safety warning triangles, flares, and lighting to see what you are doing in the dark? How about waterproof tarp to sit on while doing the job? Also, the steel plate needs to be big enough to support the jack if you didn’t park on a hard road surface.

5. If you think you have all the correct tools, have you made sure by actually unbolting a wheel?

6. Do you have the strength to loosen and retighten the nuts? Have you ever actually tried to loosen all the lug nuts? Do you know the torque specs? Do you have a torque wrench that is big enough for your RV? I have a full toolbox and air impact wrenches in my shop but I doubt I could loosen the nuts on a Class A. Just watch the first 45 seconds of this sales video and ask yourself if this would be you? Note: I am not endorsing that product. I just like to see the guy jump on his wrench.

One other thing to consider. If the nuts have been on for a few years there is a good possibility it will take much more than the OE specs to loosen. I have broken Craftsman and SK sockets on passenger lug nuts because they were put on too tight.

7. Finally, do you have the strength to lift the tire and wheel to get it on the wheel studs?

I suggest that if you think you are going to change your own tire you need to do a few things.

1. You need to pick a nice day and with the RV level and the jack stand on a hard surface, first just see if you can loosen all the lug nuts and then retighten to the factory specs. Don’t do just one nut or one wheel but do them all. Be sure to have someone around watching just in case.

2. See if you can move the spare out of storage and get it back into storage again.

3. Remove the inner dual and put it back on again.

4. Most important: Be sure you clean the threads and torque the nuts to proper specs.

5. Ask yourself if this is something you want to do while at the side of an Interstate in the rain, at night?

If you don’t feel up to the job you will need to plan on having a service do the job.

If you don’t have a lot of space for a spare tire mounted on a wheel, you might consider having a used tire of the correct size just in case the service company doesn’t have your size. If informed, most can do a tire change for you and you will save some big bucks too.

Finally, be sure to check the air on the spare every month, even on your toad.

gary-736Read more from Gary Bunzer at the See Gary’s videos about RV repair and maintenance.




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3 years ago

We have read RVTravel since before we purchased our TT so were prepared for our first flat. What we did learn from the experience was that speed was also important so we purchased a battery operated impact wrench. I also checked the torque after changing the tire at the next safe stop. I check the torque on all of our wheels before every major trip and if we drive over 1000 miles I check them once again at the next campsite. RV driving is challenging and I don’t want to have to think about “what I should have done.”

ken kausner
3 years ago

Hi Gary Bunzer and Roger Marble
We RVers are so fortunate to be able to address questions to such experienced professionals as yourselves. Recently in driving south on busy rt95 at Flagler Beach, we lost a tire from our 2017 Crusader, tire ST23580R16. The 6 lug nuts worked themselves free. Just that morning I had a thought that I had not tested the torque in a while, but dismissed the urgency in that my dealer had just pack all 4 bearings and checked brakes 800 miles ago. How often do wheels come off trailers? I have not read from either of you of the critical need to check torque and how often?

Also, 4 days later, I had a ply separation resulting in a flat on a TOWMAX 10 ply, 2 year old with 15,000 miles. I reread all of Rodger’s post on China bombs, belt separation, underpressured/overweighted situations, but separate prevent. I do check and maintain 80 lbs psi.

Roger Marble
3 years ago
Reply to  ken kausner

Ken, Sorry to hear about your problems. A review of the Prime Time owner’s manual under Care and Maintenance shows that lug nut torque should be checked “before each trip”. The manual also covers the three-step process of checking torque and the final value of 95 Ft-Lbs.
While I haven’t personally had a wheel come off a car, RV, trailer or even my race car, I do know that lug nut torque was a “Must-check” whenever a tire change was done.
Obviously to re-pack the bearings the wheels on your RV were removed. I have read elseware suggestions to re-torque wheels after they have been removed after 100 – 150 miles.
I guess you should have listened to your “thoughts”.
Since you read my blog you know that I offer suggestions on a number of things folks can do to try and prevent tire failures. One of those steps includes a “Free-Spin” inspection. You can review the process here.

15,000 miles is a good level of use and I know you were hoping for more. You didn’t provide info on your scale weights nor did you mention using a TPMS. While a belt separation is normally not due to very low inflation, the Interply Shear observed on large 5th wheel trailers can cause hidden damage to the tire, so that increases the importance of doing the inspection.
Here is a good video from Keystone showing why trailers need to check lug nut torque

Mike Sokol(@mike)
3 years ago
Reply to  ken kausner

While I’m not a tire expert like Gary or Roger, I do have a few million miles of driving all sorts of mid-size trucks and trailers across the county. In addition, I spent a few teenage summers changing semi-truck and trailer tires for a local truck stop. So one thing I know for sure is that lug nuts don’t suddenly loosen up by themselves. If they’re improperly torqued during a tire change, then they can begin to loosen up over hundreds of miles, until eventually enough of them are loose and the wheel comes off. Been there myself once as well, when I lost a front wheel on an exit ramp. The lesson is to NEVER trust that someone else properly torqued your lug nuts. You really don’t want to trust that kid making minimum wage in the quickie-tire store with your life.

Each of my adult kids and I have torque wrenches in our road kits (along with a big breaker bar). And after any tire rotation or brake job we not only torque the nuts to the proper ft-lbs, we also check them again in 200 miles. I also do a walk-around of my vehicle with a torque wrench before every big trip and do a quick check, which is typically about once a month. That’s when I also inspect the tires for any signs of tread separation, uneven wear, proper pressure, etc…

When I’m on the road doing one of my marathon 800-mile-a-day drives from coast to coast, I’ll also inspect tire pressures and all fluid levels once a day, typically in the morning before I hit the road again. I learned a lot of this by reading the CDL study-guide for truck drivers, which should be free in most states (at least it is in Maryland). It includes a really good CDL inspection procedure that would be good for any RV driver to know.

Those extra 5 minutes of walk-around inspection every morning while I warm up my Sprinter has paid off many times such as when I found a small fuel leak I might not otherwise have noticed. Plus I picked up a nail once and was able to change the tire while I was still in the hotel parking lot rather than on the side of the interstate. This is also a good time to top off the windshield washer fluid and do a quick visual in the engine department for anything that looks or smells strange. I’ll also look at the hitch for proper seating and check to see the chains and brake/light connector is secure.

The key thing to remember is that you (and you alone) are the captain of your ship. So never trust these safety items to anyone else.

Thomas Becher
3 years ago

I’ve changed tires on the road and no problem except you think you are going to get run over. Nobody moves over. That being said, I had to remove the rear tires on my pickup to install air bags. I could not get the nuts loose. Just had new tires out on at Chevy dealer. My torque wrench goes to 250 ft pounds. Book called for 175. Went back to dealer to loosen nuts. You might have a spare but like mine could not change tire. Check to see if you can loosen the wheel nuts before leaving

James Westfall
3 years ago

I am of the impression that I would need at least 3 spares for my motorhome. One for the front tire. A second for the outside dual. A third for the inside dual. Is this correct? Probably not feasible?

Tommy Molnar
3 years ago
Reply to  James Westfall

I could possibly see two different tires. One for the steer axle, and one for the drivers. I don’t imagine the inner and outer drivers are different. In all my years of trucking I never saw two different tires on the drive axle.

Tommy Molnar
3 years ago

I found out “the hard way” that I need to carry two different ‘4-way’ lug wrenches so I can address both my tow vehicle and my travel trailer. I’ve had flats on both over the years.

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