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Is it OK to drive with one flat dually tire? Nope. Here’s why

By Gail Marsh
You’re driving down the road, happy to be headed to your campground destination, when suddenly your tire pressure gauge indicates a problem. Now what? That was the question we recently faced. We’d been driving for hours in seemingly endless traffic and were tired and hungry. Adding to our frustration was the fact that we were in the middle of a 25-mile construction zone. We couldn’t pull over because there wasn’t a shoulder! Not the best of luck, huh?

When one tire from a set of dual tires loses air, the other (non-flat) tire carries the total weight that both tires usually share. In other words, one tire was carrying half the weight of our truck plus the hitch weight of our fifth-wheel. Normally, we would have pulled our entire rig completely off the roadway and called for roadway assistance, but because the highway offered no shoulder, we were forced to drive on. We put on our hazard lights, considerably slowed our speed, and pulled off the highway at the very next exit. 

We hoped to find a gas station or Walmart at the exit. And … yes! We limped into the Walmart parking lot, jumped out to view the tire damage, and called our emergency service provider. Within an hour, the tire was replaced.

So, is it okay to drive with one flat dually tire? Experts say “no.” We really had no choice because of the road construction, but large trucks and tow vehicles have dually tires for a reason – the ability to handle the weight of the truck plus whatever you are hauling. Industry experts say that if a tire is driven when more than 20% of its air is gone, the tire is considered to be a “run-flat” or a “ruined tire.”

Not only that, but you risk serious damage to your rig. A ruined tire can come apart suddenly, and slap mercilessly against your truck or rig. The hard rubber banging against the plastic RV skirting can quickly make mincemeat out of your RV’s exterior. Driving too long on a damaged tire can almost guarantee that the compromised tire will be unsavable. 

Our TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) saved us from RV damage and quite possibly helped us avoid a wreck. We had no idea that the tire was losing air. The warning signal on our monitoring system was the only way we knew about the compromised tire. A tire monitoring system is one special piece of equipment that is a must for all RVers, everywhere.

##RVT981

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Jim
4 months ago

We had a humongous screw in our left interior rear tire, TST TPMS gave us plenty of warning and we were able to make it to the campground in Biloxi. We have good Sam, contacted them, $750 later we had a new tire? The gentleman who change the tire said it would’ve cost 450 if we called him direct? We still don’t know what benefit good Sam gave us other than maybe dispatching the tow truck?

Richard Hughes
5 months ago

We drove the Alcan Highway in a rented 30 foot C class. On the return trip we hit a rock, pushed into the roadway by a creature we saw scurrying on the side of the road (we are convinced of that), and had to pull off. No cell service and a house a mile up a very steep drive. We decided to walk the mile, but lucky for us a car came down. We were given a ride back to the house and found it was the home of the Tribal Chief. We made our call for repairs and enjoyed a wonderful visit. You never know who you will meet on your journeys. Oh, the rental company refunded all our costs for the tire and a broom we had replaced.

Rick W.
5 months ago

First dual-axle camper: Tire blew. My roadside assistance was the type that you pay the repair, they re-imburse you. $250.00 charge. The repair man wouldn’t take a charge card – I didn’t carry that much cash. So I had to follow him to shop to pay with CC. This made it a tow charge that was now ~$500.00. Insurance wouldn’t re-imburse.

Second dual-axle camper: Lost a bearing…which means I lost a wheel. Now it had 3 wheels. Roadside Assistance couldn’t repair it on roadside….it had to be towed. They wouldn’t tow it…wasn’t covered on Roadside Assistance.

The third incident was ridiculous. I won’t even tell you about it.

So the short story is…..I no longer waste my money on Roadside Assistance.

Roger Marble
5 months ago

25 miles with no pull-off is very unusual. Don’t think I have ever seen that BUT in the situation you describe you had no choice. BUT The reality is that in addition to the tire that failed you should have had its mate also replaced because you drove many miles with a 100% overload. Gail failed to point out that critical fact.

James
5 months ago
Reply to  Roger Marble

They were in the MIDDLE of a 25 mile construction zone

Diane Mc
5 months ago

Only once. Getting ready to leave. Husband checked TPMS. Front left very low. Unfortunately my husband was ill (long story, he is fine now, but then we knew he was really sick, didn’t know how bad he was). We had to drive from NC to CA, 3000 miles. He was pretty sure it was a failed TPMS sensor, but we couldn’t take a chance, no matter his condition, but especially because of it. So we called our road service. Someone there within 30 minutes and changed the tire. Could not find anything that would have caused the leak. Tire was mucho expensive. But can’t put a price on our or others lives if something happened.

Bob p
5 months ago

On previous motorhome on I 75 in GA front tire apparently kicked up a piece of steel and positioned it for the rear dual to hit it perfectly. Blow out! Friday evening, called GS roadside, 2 1/2 hrs later spare was installed, mechanic advised not driving very far on spare as it was as old as the motorhome 18 years. Limped into next city, went to Goodyear store next AM and was told they could get the replacement tire by noon on Monday. Wound up buying traction type truck tire to put on to finish the trip into TN.

Snayte
5 months ago

I noticed that there was splitting between the tread on one of my tires while at the dump station. So we put on the spare before heading home. Closest I have come to a flat. It is a good thing I spent the time waiting for the tank to drain doing something constructive.

Last edited 5 months ago by Snayte
Leonard Rempel
5 months ago

Shortly after I bought my Chevy 3500 dually, I was pulled in for the night with my 35′ 5th wheel. I manually checked the duals as I was prone to do. To my surprise and shock, one tire was flat! I am not sure how long I towed my trailer with one flat tire, but shortly thereafter I bought a TPMS. I consider myself lucky that no damage was done.
I realized that the valve cap extender was the culprit for the loss of air. Got rid of them all right after that as well!

Last edited 5 months ago by Leonard Rempel
Sharon B
5 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

I will not move my trailer or my 5th wheel without a TPMS. It saved me one time due to a valve issue in the tire. They are life savers.

Greg S
5 months ago

Read the road service contract carefully. We got an extended warranty with tire coverage when we bought the Class A.
The outside dual blew on Friday before Memorial Day. I had to fight over the contract because they wanted to tow us to a tire shop that wouldn’t re-open until Tuesday. Hook-up fee, mileage charge for the tow and 4 days boondocking in a parking lot. After I laid all that out, they agreed to the $90 road service call if I paid for the tire.

Otto Bussanmas
5 months ago
Reply to  Greg S

Why was it towed if a rear tire flat. Was it towed from the rear?

Dave
1 year ago

Just last month, woke up to an outside dually flat. After finding a service that one, was open on the weekends and two had a mobile unit, he found a 5 inch long 3/8″ bolt thru the center tread of our tire. 45 minutes later, we were done and ready to move on.
Oh yes, that service provider, he told us they couldn’t find a mobile in the area we were in. Lots of help they were.

Paul
1 year ago

Class a right outer tyre blew no warning from tpms progressive roadside worthless had to drive six miles at 5mph to get help hope I did not damage rite inner

Roger Marble
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul

If there was no loss of air then the failure was a Belt or Tread Separation which is quite different than a sidewall blowout. A competent inspection should have discovered the impending separation. I cover this information in my blog http://www.RVTireSafety.net

E D
1 year ago

Never had flat on trailer, but picked up piece of metal in truck tire near Gila Bend, punched hole size of pencil through tire, flew out, dented top of fender well , came down in front of tire, punched hole through fender. Never had tire trouble with trailer because I changed them to truck tires right away. 60000 miles later tires were still good, change to new ones, don’t like changing tires on road

E D
1 year ago
Reply to  E D

correction on mileage, tires rated 60000 mi, drove 45000 mi

Selene
1 year ago

I put on a TPS system on my Mercedes Sprinter with extenders for inside dually. Extender cause stem leak resulting in tire alarm going off while on 20 miles of rough construction with no where to turn off. Removed extender which solved problem and luckily tire shop found no damage done to the tire.

Tony F Stekar
1 year ago

AT 45 mph my inside tire on my dually came apart didn’t have any warning till it torn the box up . dealer said it would be cheaper to buy new which it was !00 dollars . Went to a shop that replaces box for flat beds, got one same color a year newer worked out great. bought me tire monitoring system 3 months later.

Neal Davis
1 year ago

We have driven our RV 31000 miles with about 29000 of those miles on the original (c. 2014) tires. Because our RV sat in the heat (and sun?) of Texas for more than a year before purchasing it, we decided to replace the tires a bit early (June 2020). We use 303 aerospace protectant on our sidewalls, place tire covers on our tires if we park for more than 2 days, and have a TST TPMS. We do all we know to do to avoid air losses in our tires. So far, we have been successful.

J J
1 year ago

The part missing from the article is how they also replaced the other tire on the same side because it was driven on for many miles while it was severely overloaded…

Don
1 year ago
Reply to  J J

Finally, someone noticed that only one tire appears to have been replaced. All the previous commenters missed this important fact as well, or chose to ignore it as the articles author did. That severely overloaded tire should have been replaced at the same time as the one that blew.

John Macatee
1 year ago

August 17, 2020, approximately 45 miles from Baker, Ca. On a 2 lane hwy heading to NV pulling our 24′ travel trailer double axel through a sunny 120 degree afternoon the left rear tire blew out with a loud bang and only beat my mud flap off. My speed was between 55 and 60 mph, and I had no sway at all, the weight distribution system & sway bar, was a + .There was nowhere to pull off the road as far as I could see, no hard surface, I pulled off the hwy leaving only the rear flat tire on the pavement. All the tires were down into the sand a good 4″. I called AAA and was told it would be at least 2 hours. I got out and changed the tire. It is so important to be prepared: flares and or triangle warning reflectors, water, gloves, and tools. The asphalt & lug wrench felt like 200 degrees! Under that sun glare you could not see my emergency lights at all. 4 wheel drive helped getting back on the hwy.

paul
1 year ago

the first year we had our class a we had three blow outs turns out the selling dealer had put eight year old tyres on it shame on me for trusting them la mesa

Dan
1 year ago

Fortunate enough to vote “never”. Hope I can keep it that way.

Ron T.
1 year ago

On our shakedown trip in our first motorhome, we had a tire (inside left dual) that would lose air one day and not the next. It seemed to be fine when we got home. So our first day of our first real trip we stop at a produce stand and I check the tire before we leave & it’s flat. We limped just down & across the highway to a service station with paid air. A dollar later I knew that tire had to come off. It was 95 degrees so I put the shade on that side did the deed. As An ex-mechanic I had the proper tools and we were soon on the road to my home town. It was a broken rubber valve stem so I had a shop take the tire off the rim so I could inspect it. I saw no signs of damage so we put it back on with a new metal valve stem & it was still on the MH when we sold it years later.

Roger Marble
5 months ago
Reply to  Ron T.

I have trouble thinking of any Motorhome small enough to not recommend metal bolt-in valves. Rubber “snap-in” stems are only rated for 65 psi MAX In 40 years of RV and racing I have never had a metal valve stem fail but have helped a number of folks with failed tires or failed stems because of using OE rubber stems.

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