Tires & Wheels…

I don’t publish stories about each and every tire replacement I’ve had, rather I publish those that stand out due to the conditions causing me to buy new tires or special circumstances. Or because I thought it made an interesting story for my readers.

Here’s a link to an info page about tires that I refer to: Tire Info

Need to determine your tires ages?: Tire Manufacturing Date Code


Big Bad Leak…Dec. 2015

A couple mornings ago, I was all ready to head the 60 odd miles south to El Centro and I did my typical air pressure checks. Damn, my inner dually on the driver’s side was down to 45 PSI. It’s suppose to be at 95 PSI. It does have air, and my little air compressor would probably take an hour or more to get it up to 95, plus the leak issue. So, I decided to limp down the road to a nearby casino and truckstop to get more air. The back area of the Red Earth Casino ‘looks’ like a truck stop. But, there isn’t a single air chuck to be found back there. There is one out front, next to the ‘civilian’s’ fueling area and I was able to use that but all I could get out of it was 62.5 PSI. Which wasn’t enough. But it was a start.

Thinking it was the under powered air compressor, I limped another 8 miles to a real(?) truck stop. And found that 80% of the air stations (at every other fueling station) were not working. This is what happens when deregulation is the primary focus of the political parties. This large truck stop had several air stations totally out of order but there are no regulations for them to fix them like there use to be. The reasons for the regulations way back when were of course for safety, making it easy for truckers to top off their tires, which would help prevent early, catastrophic failure; and for fuel economy benefiting the entire population. But with no one watching, and no regulations, of course stations aren’t going to bother keeping their equipment working. But I digress.

Eventually, after having to wander all over this large truck stop fueling area searching for an air station that worked, found one, but again, it wouldn’t pump up my leaky tire more than 65 PSI. Well, I’m no tire guy, so I don’t know what that means, but considering the condition of those air stations anyway, I figured the compressor was busted. And I head down the road at a reduced speed, under 35 MPH. It’s a four lane highway so not to big of a deal.

Eventually, after a hour or so, I arrived at the RV park and settle in. The next day, check the pressure and again it’s down to 45 PSI. The day after that, called Coachnet (my roadside assistance insurance) and they dispatch a tire shop truck. He tries to fill the tire and, damn, won’t take more than 60 PSI. Get a recommendation from him about a nearby tire store and off I go, never exceeding 25 MPH.


The tire shop has the tire off in 15 minutes and a bubble test shows that the brass extension’s rubber washer is leaking big time. Checked out everything there after the tire was off and it all looks good. Even the brake pad is fine.


Here’s the tech tightening down the brass extension after replacing the leaking washer…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And here we are, all fixed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Better view…the brass extension is like 6″ long.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And 30 minutes later, I’m good to go. The shop…Parkhouse Tire, didn’t even charge me! If you are ever in El Centro, CA, and need tires or tire work, check them out!


Front tire replacements…Sept. 2015

Back when I bought the last set of front tires, in May of 2007, I trusted the tire guy to know how much air pressure I needed. Well, I’ve since discovered how difficult that it actually is to trust that to the tire tech. There are so many things going on with a large RV that owners really are the one’s that need to determine, on their own, that info. They’re the one’s that see the wear patterns, feel the wobble if any, know the four corner weights.

Initially, I kept the PSI where he’d told me to. But it didn’t take long for edge wear to show up. Yikes! I immediately recognized an underinflation symptom with the wear and bumped it up from 80 PSI to 95 PSI. And the wear normalized. Over the months and years that I traveled afterwards, I’d keep them topped off to the 95 PSI and got lots of years out of them. Eventually, they were cupped a bit, and a front end wobble at 45 MPH was getting annoying. There’s between 150 and 300 pound weight differential drivers side to passenger’s side so excess wear wasn’t unexpected, the tip off was the wobble at 45 MPH.

Anyway, the wobble had gotten bad, and the visible outside edge wear was bad enough that I thought I’d better get new tires. Headed on into Les Schwab in Gresham, Oregon and they slapped a couple new tires on for me. Once the old tires were off, I could see that on the inside edges of both tires, the steel belts were exposed. Jeese! Luck played a hand there.

I thought I had a picture of how bad the tires were but I guess not…

But, the tires gave me 43981.7 miles. Not bad, not bad at all.


Split right rear outer tire – Oct. 2014

Took a trip east to visit my daughter and after that, headed south to St. Louis. Found a nice RV park on the outskirts of town and settled in.

Next morning, took a walk around the RV, and damn, there’s a slice or crack on the sidewall of the tire. You can’t fix those, need a new tire. I figured it had happened when I’d left a diesel station a couple days before and rolled that tire around a ground barrier a bit. Crap. So back online to find a mobile tire place. I felt it might be possible to drive to the shop to save $70, but, paying for onsite repair would be the safer thing to do. The shop with my brand tire & size, and the best price I found, was around 25 miles away. And this area had a low speed limit on the freeways. OK, hired them to come out instead of me limping to them. He comes out the next day, and my wallet is $437 lighter when he leaves. Since he was there, had him top all the other tires up to where I like them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But just before leaving the RV park and heading south several days later, I check tire pressures. And my passenger front is 30 pounds under inflated. What the hell. Just had them topped off…

As I’m heading for the freeway, I’m scanning all over to try and find a truck stop or tire shop where I can top off the tires. It ends up being a hundred and sixty freaking miles before I find a tire shop just off the freeway. Damn.

I stop in and tell the guy what’s going on, he pulls the tire, and can’t find a leak. Removed the tire from the rim. OK, no leak, $30. Get back on the road, and the tires are shaking the RV so badly I can’t get over 35 MPH. Back to the tire shop and have him rotate the tires and add beads to dynamically balance them. That’s another $125. Plus a couple hours. Gah.


Strange Air Leak – June 2013

A couple times along the road this year, I’d discovered that my inner dually on the passenger side would be low on air. Earlier this month in Flagstaff, I’d found that tire to be down to almost zero PSI and stopped at a tire shop very near the RV park. They removed the tire, submerged it and couldn’t find a leak.

I kept a close eye on it and a couple weeks later, one coolish morning the day before I planned on leaving Aztec, New Mexico, I checked all the tires and that one was down to 20 PSI when it’s suppose to be up near 95 PSI. Damn. Drove over to a tire shop in Farmington and they pulled it for me. They have a big, whole tire at once, submersion tank. That didn’t show anything so they topped off the air in it and off I head.

A couple weeks later, I’m back in Flagstaff, and the same thing happens. It’s a pretty cool evening and morning, and it was down to around 10 PSI. Since the tire shop is right across the street, I just limp over there and tell them the symptoms, including having been in this very shop a few weeks before so the tire tech really spends some time on it. Finally, he calls me out to the shop and shows me the bubbles coming up from the wheel not the tire.  Gah.

He calls around and cannot find a new or used wheel for me. I have him pull the tire. This is a fully painted wheel and the portion that’s inside of the tire looked brand new. Nice clean white paint. He had marked the leak and there on the inner portion of the steel wheel we find two or three tiny pinholes. The paint is bubbled around them and picking the paint off reveals rust holes. Well, crap.

There are just 3 of these little holes, and only one leaking air right now, and I’m looking at it trying to figure out the symptoms and suddenly have a brainstorm! AhhhhHAH! I know why it would only show up some mornings when I prepared to leave, I’d go get it filled, then the next time that day I’d check air pressure it would be fine. Then I could drive for days and the pressure would be fine. Heat! As I drove around, from low valleys in the desert to mountain towns, it would behave differently depending on air temps. The cool overnight air would cause the steel wheel to shrink ever so slightly. That would open the pinhole. Next morning, I’d get on the road, the friction caused warming air in the tire would heat up the wheel, which would expand and seal the pinhole. TaaaDaaaa!

So, since they patch tires, I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t patch a steel wheel. I grabbed my Eternabond sealing tape (stuff sticks to nearly anything like crazy, and never lets go, even on hot summer sun exposed RV roofs). Cut 3 patches, had the tech clean the steel wheel of what little rust there was, put a rust inhibitor in all the holes, then placed the little patches over all three tiny spots. Reinstalled the tire, filled it up, and off I went. The tire tech thought it was a great idea and asked me where he could get that tape.

On edit – Nov. 2015: It’s been two and a half years since I patched that wheel and it’s still holding air like brand new. But…if it does develop more pinhole leaks, I still have a spare wheel in a basement compartment I could always use.


Replacing the rear tires…Sept. 2009

I tried to make it back from Alaska on the Bridgestone tires I had on the rear since it appeared they had enough tread, and a tire shop told me they were fine. They had somewhere over 45,000 miles on them but I thought I could squeeze another 3,000 out of them safely. Somewhere in the middle of Canada, we were on a rough road before it had been resurfaced when we hit one of those extension/compression bumps at 45 MPH or so. That apparently split one of the rear tires between the treads, unknown to me. Three hundred miles later, we are driving next to a highway construction crew and they’re making lots of bang, bang noises. My brother, who’s along for this trip, makes a joke that I should pull over and fix my blown tire. Less then 10 miles later, I’m driving along at 55 and hear this lump-lump-lump noise. I pull over and find that one of my outer duals has gone flat. My brother jinxed me! Damn. So I pull into a farmyard and get permission to park there while I arrange for a tire guy to come out and change the tire for me. Takes around 2 hours for him to show up. That gives me time for lunch, checking fluids, and getting the spare out of the tire compartment. The spare really looks good, like it only has a couple thousand miles on it. But the date code is year 2000. Not sure that it’s going to get me far because of it’s age but it was the only spare I had. There was around 48,000 on the Bridgestones by this time and the tread was looking a little low so we got worried that they wouldn’t get us home. And who wants to buy in Canada, land of 150% markups? We were around a days drive to Prince George, BC, so I decide that I’ll just use the spare and keep checking it until we get there, then look for a used tire or two to get us to Walla Walla.

All ready for the tire guy...

All ready for the tire guy…

The guy had all the right equipment (that doesn’t always happen) and was able to change it and torque it to 475 ft-lbs like it’s suppose to be and off he went. He told me that my roadside service insurance company would be billed $220. The insurance cost me just over $100.

Here's some local senery. That's a trailer pad for the farmers son. He was getting married in a few weeks and they were building themselves a home.

Here’s some local scenery. That’s a trailer pad for the farmers son. He was getting married in a few weeks and the couple were building themselves a home.

After we got to Prince George, I did find a Goodyear shop that sold me a couple used spares. I was worried about it so I bought two just in case. While we were traveling from Prince George to Walla Walla, nearly everywhere we stopped I’d go put my hand on the tires to see how warm they were. The spare (some off brand) was consistently warmer then the Bridgestones. By allot as far as I could tell. So I lower the air pressure in the spare to try to take some weight off of it. That seemed to help as it’s temperature came to be around the same as the Bridgestone right next to it. So now that I’m in Walla Walla, I drive over to Milton-Freewater, Oregon and get a quote for 4 Toyo tires (no sales tax). Had them installed yesterday. Cost was $1175. That included some nice brass extensions so I can put air in the tires without have to screw around with the ‘too short & hidden’ tire valves that were on there.

Here's the new tires all pretty like...

Here’s the new tires all pretty like…

This is how bad most of the removed tires looked. Changed them just in time.

This is how bad most of the removed tires looked. Changed them just in time.

Really glad I got these changed, it’s not that easy to see how bad of shape they were in when you’re on the road. After the shop took them off…whoa, look how bad it’s worn down. And there were cracks in the rubber between the treads all around the tires. When the spare I was using was replaced by the new tire, the tech found a sidewall blow out so it wouldn’t have lasted much longer and was no longer any use as a spare so I had them put the best of the Bridgestones on the spare wheel. I’ll look for a better spare as I travel around. Junk yards often have terrific deals on used tires since 19.5″ tires aren’t very common so they accumulate at junk yards (few buyers). A couple of months later I was able to sell the spare tires I’d bought in Canada on EBay for the same price I’d paid for them. So it only cost me $80 to ‘rent’ them and have them with me from Prince George to Walla Walla.

Two things about the new Toyo tires. This Les Schwab tire store obviously does lots of big tires for trucks and the like. But when I wandered out to look how they were doing on my RV, the tech was trying to remove the lug nuts with a large breaker bar, without supporting the tool. I saw him bust his knuckles against the cement driveway as the 1 & 1/4″ lug socket slipped off the lug nut. These nuts are torqued to 475lbs, which I had told them when I came in so it takes a very long breaker bar. I told the tech to wait and grabbed my big 2,500 lb ratcheting jack stand.  These things have a notch right in the middle of the lift designed specifically to rest your breaker bar in so it won’t slip off the lug nut, and the ratcheting mount allows you to position it at just the right height. “Oh”, he says, “what a great idea! That’s what that notch is for.” Really? And you’re a professional? He didn’t have a long enough breaker bar so I had to remind him that the lug nuts were torqued to 475lbs, which answered that question so off he went to get their REALLY BIG air impact tool. I don’t think I should have to tell these people how to do their job. Are they really that inexperienced? With signs all over the property that they work on big equipment? Well, I was able to keep my opinions to myself during that whole ‘teachable moment’ and it all worked out. I’m glad I wandered out there to check on them every once in a while.

Then shortly after install, I noticed something about my new tires. Before I even drove off from the shop. They stink! They smelled strongly of sewage when I bought them and months later they still faintly smell bad. Whenever they get warm from too much sun or hard driving, they stink. Bummer. It’s been 8 months since I changed the tires and the bad smell has finally gone. Weird.


Road problems — April ’06

I passed this volcanic rock field. Kind of interesting but no cinder cone or caldera:

After this, I passed through Barstow and onto Highway 58. The 4 lane section. Around the middle of that section, I hit a pothole that rattled my teeth. Right after that, I’m hearing a loud thumpa, thumpa, thumpa. Sounds like a flat so I start to pull over. I stop at a pull out and check all the tires. No flat and no tread separation that I could find. And no dead animals stuck between my duals. But whenever I move, a loud noise from the front end. I think I’ve got it localized to the left front, I call service and they dispatch a truck to tow me back to Barstow for service. While I’m waiting, I lift the rig on the front leveler and discover that the noise is coming from the right front wheel. And it’s loud too. While messing around with the tire, I find that 4 of the six lug nuts are loose! So I call and cancel the tow but ask for a tire truck (big rigs use them when they have a flat on the freeway-they have the tools and a compressor and can fix any tire problem without towing – or so I thought). The same outfit says they’re still coming out and can do the work. Meanwhile, I’ve tried to tighten the nuts with the tools I have but this is a 19.5″ tire so you need to apply around 200 Ft/Lbs to these nuts. I don’t have the strength. The tow truck gets there and I find that the guy has no idea about this big of a tire. And his truck is far to small to tow a 22,000 lb RV. Doesn’t even have a torque wrench with him. Not even aware of the tire pressures needed. Anyway, working together we get the nuts wrenched down tight and I head out. No more noise. Whee, another potential problem solved with a simple fix. I gotta tell you, the noise was so loud and so persistent that I thought that there was major front end damage to deal with. Here’s a shot of the wheel, the three bare nuts have their caps removed, they were loose:

You can see by this shot that I was able to find a nice pull off of the freeway in order to work on the wheel. And there is a handy turnaround for the tow guy to head back to town right here too:

Note #1: Found out from the manufacturer and other sources that the torque needed for the lug nuts holding the wheel on is 450-500 ft-lbs. I don’t have the tool for that much torque but I’m looking for one.

Note #2: 5-’06 Update…I purchased a tool from Harbor Freight that is a ‘Torque Multiplier’ that should give me the ability to, using my torque wrench, get the nuts torqued to 475 ft/lbs. I’ve got the tool here with me at Lake Tahoe, and I’m ready to test as soon as the weather turns good again, and I find a pipe for leverage.

Note #3: 6-’06 Update…Tried to use the $30 torque multiplier I bought at Harbor Freight. It was a 30:1 multiplier if I remember correctly and I tried to use it to loosen a lug nut that was tightened with an impact wrench using a source of air that was set to 130 lbs. (Would that be 130 ft-lbs on the lug nut?). I inserted the multipliers handle into a 3′ pipe wedged onto the ground. Then I set my torque wrench to 12 ft-lbs and tried to loosen the nut. The handle of the torque multiplier busted before the torque wrench clicked. Took it back. I’ll have to find some other way I guess. I’d like to avoid paying $200 for a proper torque wrench if I can. A few miles down the road, this is the Mojave Desert:

I’m on the road to my brothers and I’ll try to get the nuts tightened on the way…if I find a tire shop…

Follow up note:

I was able to stop on my way out of Rosamond months later and had a tire shop torque the nuts down for me. They were kind enough to do it free. I gave up trying to find a torque wrench but I did buy a breaker bar a year later in Mexico that fits my extension (the only piece of tire removal equipment that came with the RV). And I do have the nice strong hydraulic jacks built in. Those two items, along with the piece of pipe I have, allow me to remove or tighten the lug nuts. Don’t think I’ll have trouble if I need to change a tire myself. But since I carry RV roadside assistance insurance, it’s doubtful I’ll ever need to either.