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Tyre care

The part that tyres play in providing car and caravan safety is more important than any other single component. A vehicle can only accelerate, brake or steer if the correct contact exists between the tyre and the road. Also if the tyres are not inflated correctly, or are the wrong type, the stability and ride of the vehicle can be affected. Considering that at 80 km/h the average tyre rotates 40,000 times per hour, it can be appreciated that proper care is very important in ensuring a trouble-free journey.

Tyres can deteriorate just as much when a vehicle stands for long periods as when it is being used. When a caravan is stored it is a good idea to remove some of the weight off the tyres and cover them to prevent deterioration by the sun.

When determining the suitability of the van’s tyres, it is important that the laden weight of the van or trailer is known. A trip to a weighbridge will soon establish this. Do not use the unladen or registered weight. Add 10-20% as a safety margin to allow for additional loads caused by uneven road conditions, uneven loading or other unknown factors. To find the individual tyre loads, divide the weight by the number of tyres on the caravan.

Next examine the sidewall of the tyre where it may state the maximum load the tyre is designed to carry. Alternatively write down the tyre size and check with a tyre specialist. The load rating of the tyre must exceed the van’s weight as previously determined. If this is not the case, a bigger tyre will have to be selected.

What is usually not realised is that a tyre has to be inflated to its maximum pressure before the load rating of the tyre can be achieved. The maximum pressure for radial passenger or ‘P’ tyres are 250kPa (36 psi) for a 4-ply or standard ‘load’ and 280 kPa (40 psi) for a 6-ply rated or ‘extra load’ tyre. Light truck or ‘LT’ tyres have a maximum inflation pressure of 350 kPa (50 psi) if it has a 6-ply rating and 450 kPa (65 psi) if it is an 8-ply. Should the inflation pressure of the tyre be less than stated above, the load carrying capacity will be lower.

Note: many light truck (LT) type tyres are identified by the letter ‘C’. For example 195 R 14 C.

It is generally considered unwise to inflate caravan tyres above 315 kPa (45 psi) as it may affect the ride of the caravan. The rear tyres on the towing vehicles, because they are subjected to much greater loads when towing, should be inflated to near their maximum. Front tyres will need an extra 25 kPa (4 psi) above normal. Always be careful to check tyre pressures when the tyres are cold. Early in the morning is best. During a trip heat build-up will increase pressure, giving an incorrect reading. Never let air out of a tyre when it has been on the move or standing in the sun.

Premature or uneven tyre wear can usually be attributed to under-inflation, overloading, unstable caravan or a mechanical defect like a bent axle.

If your tyres appear to be wearing quicker than anticipated, consult a tyre specialist who should be able to pin-point the reason. Do not expect tyres on a caravan to last as long as on a car. The loadings caravan tyres are subjected to are always well in excess of those of the car tyres.

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