Like car tyres, caravan tyres are equally as important and it is vital that they are properly maintained so that they do what they need to do i.e. carry the load of your caravan and grip the road.
Here are 10 things you need to know to help you stay safe whilst towing your caravan:
1) Caravan tyres may not specifically be made for caravans – they’ll either be made for cars or small vans.
2) Every tyre will have a load rating, or load index. If a caravan has a maximum weight (MTPLM) of 1600kg, each wheel must carry half this load – 800kg. Caravan manufacturers will apply a safety margin on around 20% so the tyres then have a rating of 960kg.This will then equate to a load index (see table below). As you can see, a load rating of 960kg will equate to a load index of 106.
3) Information on the load and speed rating is marked on the side of the tyre. Equal size tyres should be used across an axle, as well as the spare.
4) Make sure that tyres aren’t overloaded, and that the load is spread evenly around the caravan, and as low down as possible. Even when the MTPLM is not exceeded, a poorly distributed load can lead to overloaded tyres.
5) It is essential that the tread is checked to make sure there is plenty of wear left. Markings on the tyres will show that they are correct for caravans, as well as indicating how old the tyre is. However, like all tyres, caravan tyres may deteriorate over time due to factors other than use. Sunlight, pollution, and even lack of use can cause damage. It is recommended that caravan tyres are renewed every 5 years, regardless of how many miles have been driven.
6) The year of manufacture for the tyre will usually be marked on the tyre. The last 3 or 4 digits will signify this. For example, a code ending is 399 will indicate the tyre was made in March 1999. A code ending in 3502 signifies the tyre was manufactured in the 35th week of 2002.
7) The legal minimum tread on caravan tyres is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tread breadth around the entire circumference of the tyre.
8) With new caravans, the correct inflation pressure will be given in the handbook. However, if your caravan is second hand, it may be indicated on the wheel arch. Pressure should always be checked when tyres are cold.
9) Under or over inflation of tyres is extremely important. Under inflation can reduce grip and consequently increase breaking distance. Conversely, over inflation reduces the amount of tyre in contact with the road causing uneven wear and reduced control over braking and cornering.
10) If you are planning to store your caravan for a prolonged period of time, it is worthwhile removing the wheels and tyres to prevent deterioration. However, you will need to check that this doesn’t invalidate your caravan insurance. If they must be left on, rotate them regularly so that the full weight of the caravan doesn’t rest on the same area of the tyre all the time.
And don’t forget, whilst you can perform all these checks yourself, it's always advisable to get your caravan serviced regularly by a qualified engineer.