If you already own a Rv, you know how expensive tires can be…especially the 22.5″ tires used on Class A rigs. They are, or should be, your first concern before you leave on a trip, and worthy of a check during and at the end of a trip. A blown tire can cause thousands of dollars of loss, including your life. So, like most, I’ve grudgingly learned to pay attention to them, and treat them to much more care, unlike the way I treated my car and pickup tires in the past.
When I bought this ’02 Winnebago Journey, all the tires that were easily visible had plenty of tread. That can be a good sign, but that’s not enough. I had the tech give me the date codes off the tires. All of them were around seven years old. Except for one. It was 10 years old. It was actually the best looking of the lot though. No sidewall cracks for some reason. All the others have tiny spider cracking. They’re all Michelin 235/80R22.5 XRV tires and Michelin XRV tires have had a problem with sidewall cracking for years. It’s now looking as though they are purposely NOT adjusting their formula or processes in order to fix that early failure issue in favor of offering a ‘deep discount’ to people who end up with deep cracks and complain. So the tire is defective, but if a owner complains, Michelin will give you a discount on new tires. Whoopee ding. This is pure speculation on my part, but I’m deeply suspicious of Michelin after all the stories I’ve read on RV’er forums about their XRV tires quality, prices, and practices. The other thing is that most RV experts, even those that don’t sell tires, suggest a RV tire will ‘age out’, meaning that if it isn’t driven a lot, like in the case of my tires, with date codes of early 2009. They have so much tread left, that it appears that they are used tires from various RV’s on RV dealers lots where they sat for years aging out. And the Winnie only has 70K miles on it so that could factor in as well. RV tires need to have miles put on them regularly to keep the oils migrating around the tire and from developing dry rot, or a flat spot from sitting in one place for too long.
Because of all that, I wanted to get rid of that 10 year old steer tire asap. A blown steer tire is dangerous at most speeds over around 35 MPH and can do much damage. If the front two were Bridgestone, I would have just gone ahead and driven it for several thousand miles more. As it was, I only put 2,000 nervous miles on it between Mesa and Portland, Oregon.
After arriving here, I spent some time online searching and researching. Although there is a minority suggesting a 10 year old tire is fine, most were saying a Michelin XRV that old is a calamity waiting to happen. Michelin says it’s good for 10 years if regularly inspected internally. I have no idea if that’s been done in the past. OK. So, researched a little more, and found Michelin XRV in that size at $450 average, plus shipping. Then you have to figure in mounting and balancing. I discovered that the size used, 235/80R22.5 is called an odd size and people have actually been told at tire places there is no substitute size and only Michelin carries it. This made people very angry as you might expect and so you have them looking for discounts…like the offer by Michelin because of the cracks, or joining a RV’ers club where you can get 25% off new Michelin tires.
I went a different route. I researched the heck out of that tire size and yes, indeed, there is only one manufacturer of that size, and it’s Michelin (that’s likely to change soon). But I know better then to give up too easily and soon found an online Tire Size Calculator. One of the handiest calculators I’ve ever found for tires. It allows quickly comparing different tire sizes in an easy to use format, and shows the differences as percentages along with a cartoon showing the representative sizes overlaid. Also found on line a handy Tire Speed Rating and Tire Load Index Chart. These three charts are definitely necessary to accurately spec out your tires.
Using the tire size calculator, I plugged in different sizes I found on truck tire web sites until I had a few tire sizes I thought would work. At least on the front of the RV. But one size stood out, a truck size 255/70R22.5. It’s almost an exact replacement for the Michelin. The comparison is shown in the chart below. Now, I’m not a tire expert, and I’m not all that unique in knowing how to search things on the internet, and being able to find almost an exact substitute tire within minutes isn’t that remarkable. So why are so many tire shops, staffed with professional tire people saying the Michelin tire size has no substitutes?
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You can see from the above chart that all the specs are fairly close. The width is 8.5% larger, but that’s only 0.79″ so this substitute size would work for the rear dualies where width is an issue as well. All the other specs are within 2% except the side wall height is -5.1% shorter…a good thing in my mind. Pretty darn close overall.
Anyway, after finding that that tire size is fairly common, at least for trucks, I searched around the internet trying to find a tire brand that I’m familiar with that makes that size. Enter the size in Google, search the several truck tire sellers shown, but also, up pops Amazon! Cool! I have a prime account so shipping might be free! Other online tire retailers I’d looked at it was $80-$100 per tire.
Amazon has two or three brands in that size, including Toyo, but I chose RoadLux. I liked the looks of the tread, the load rating and speed specs, the history of the company and it’s modern European and Japanese machinery, their technical adviser Dunlop, and most of all, the under $200 price each. And it is a Prime listed product so shipping would be 5 days, and free. Two tires for less then the price of a single Michelin. Hah! They are Chinese, but even Michelin has a plant there. I would have gone with Double Coin with which I have expirience but these RoadLux were available right now, and I’d have to wait for the Coins. Plus they were less expensive. I know some of you are opposed to buying anything Chinese, for various reasons, and I tend to agree except I remember when people were diametrically opposed to buying Japanese products. Also, I have a duty to myself. If I hadn’t wasted money when I withdrew from my retirement account to buy this RV, because I didn’t realize I only had 60 days to replace it, not until April 15th like I thought, I wouldn’t have to pay as much tax on it. Yeah, they tax you for withdrawing your own money from your retirement account. So buying the pair of RoadLux for $1,000 less then if I’d bought Michelin (even some of theirs are made in China) is a way to save money to pay my taxes.
Ordered two of those and they arrived by UPS in 5 days. Kept them locked up to the picnic table here at the RV park a few days, then loaded them up in the bedroom and searched for a tire shop that would mount them for me. Found one at Love’s. Love’s Tire Care Center here in Troutdale, Oregon (outside Portland). They didn’t mind installing something I bought online, and that they didn’t sell, plus they quoted $40 per tire. I’d heard $50, so I was happy with the quote. They carry brass extensions for the Schrader valves at $7 each so got my old ones replaced while the tires were off (they are maintenance items). With balancing, removal and mounting, parts and supplies, it all came to $108. So for a total of $508, I now have two brand new steer tires on my rig. I kept the removed tire that was only 6 years old, I’ll sell that on Craigslist or keep it as a spare. If I sell it, that will save even more!
Here’s some pictures I took during the replacement process. They let me wander around the shop while they worked. I helped by lifting the RV with my jack system, and by spotting the two nuts that hold the chrome hub caps on. The techs inform me that the rear tires are all ’09 and look good, the brakes appear to have been serviced in ’09 and the pads have plenty of wear left on them, the lug nuts require 450 ft-lbs and they have a torque wrench (some shops don’t), they have and use a spin balance machine at no extra charge, and that everything looks good under there. Needs some rust abatement though.
My two new RoadLux tires.
Removing two chrome lug nut caps with the appropriate tool, reveals two large nuts with the only job of holding on the chrome hub caps. All the other apparent lug nut caps shown below are just for show and are attached to the hub cap. The other chrome piece is a wheel cover. All but two of the holes in that are oversize and fit over the lug nuts. The two nuts holding the chrome pieces are 1 & 5/8″ flat to flat as I recall. And are torqued to 70 ft-lbs.
After the hub cap and wheel cover are removed, the lug nuts are removed by torquing to 450 ft-lbs so a large shop air impact tool is required for removal. I believe the lug nuts are 1 & 1/2″. In any event, the shop needed to use two different socket sizes, one size for the hub cap nuts and one size for the lug nuts on the wheel. Here’s the shop. They have two bays, and the building is in the parking lot on the truck side of the Love’s station. The consumer side has separate diesel pumps for RVs. Along with propane fill, dump station, and water source. The air pump over there only goes to 70 PSI though. Not sure Love’s changed that to handle modern RV tires that require over 100 PSI when they bought the station from Flying J. So if you need air, best to just come here to this shop if they are not too busy. The extra long studs are really for looks…allows the addition of those chrome hub caps. Part of the air brake system. This and the following pictures are so I have an easy reference to this stuff underneath for future work if necessary. The pictures make it look worse then it actually is under there. The air bag. Note how far it’s extended and stressed when I raised the rig up to remove the tires. Probably not a good idea now that I think about it. Should have made the shop use their own jack. I’ll check on that. Hammering the lug nuts back on. This was followed by using a really large torque wrench set for 450 ft-lbs. The sidewall showed the tires max air pressure at 120 PSI, I had them set at 110 PSI. After that was done, they had me drop the RV a couple inches so they could use the torque wrench and torque the lug nuts. After that was done, on both sides, installed the hub caps and wheel covers, dropped the rig all the way, and I’m ready to go. The HWH jack system works great for small adjustments in lifting and dropping.Looking at these drums, I’m pretty sure these use brake shoes, not pads. Damn, I like the power and simplicity of disk brakes. Didn’t know this rig has drums. Too much to go wrong with this design. Oh, wait they’re air brakes, and I know nothing about them. More research needed. On the plus side, the rig has a Jake Exhaust Brake so I won’t be needing to change the brake shoes all that often anyway.
Takes some muscle working on these tires. The tire alone is 91 lbs. Then add the 35 lbs for the steel rim and you’re looking at 126 lbs. This multipurpose tire tool is pretty slick. Helps the tire guy do with one tool what are typically two jobs, slipping the tire bead off the rim, and the tire off the wheel. This is Brad the tire tech and big rig mechanic. He uses the above tool, the other tech uses two steel bars with special ends.
So after they had everything done, I loaded the six year old tire in the rig and headed off to home. Sure glad I didn’t have to do that work. My back couldn’t handle much of it these days.
I’m pretty sure that the loud noises I heard 3 times while driving away from the shop under the front of the rig were just the air bags expanding back into proper bellows type position. I’d extended them out of shape when lifting the rig.