Have you checked your tyres and wheels?
Caravan wheels may look similar to car ones, but they are usually specially made for caravan use.
On a single axle caravan, each wheel has to support at least half the weight of the caravan, which is often more than one quarter of the weight of a typical car.
It is important, therefore, to consider carefully any change in wheel specification for your caravan. As a general rule, it is not a good idea to use car wheels on a caravan, unless you can establish (usually from the wheel manufacturer or supplier) that they are appropriate.
Tyres, however, are not specially made for caravan use. Caravans use either tyres made for cars, or ones designed for use on small vans. While there are tyres designed specifically for use on trailers, these are only available in specifications which suit models like small camping trailers, or one or two specialist types of larger commercial trailer. All caravans use car or light van tyres.
If you have bought a new caravan and are new to caravanning, you should be able to assume that the specifications of the wheels and tyres are appropriate. The correct inflation pressure should be indicated in the caravan handbook, and is sometimes marked on the wheel arch for convenience too.
Many new caravans come equipped with a spare wheel, but this is not a legal requirement. If you get one as standard, it should be the same or equivalent specification of wheel and tyre as the others. If you need to buy a spare separately, make sure both the wheel and tyre are suitable, and compatible with the original ones.
We strongly advise carrying a spare wheel and tyre.
Caravan manufacturers tend to buy tyres in bulk, and it may take them some time to use up their stock. This is not necessarily a problem if the tyres have been stored in suitable conditions of temperature, humidity and light. Any time the caravan has been stored awaiting sale or delivery should be counted as time during which the tyres will have started to age.
Wheels and tyres on second-hand caravans
You are unlikely to know the history of a second-hand caravan - at least in terms of issues such as how much care the previous owner took of the tyres. Assume the worst, and look for signs of abuse and wear and tear.
We recommend to always check the tyres are set to their optimum pressure, including the spare tyre.
Some people prefer to take no chances and factor in the cost of replacing all the tyres on a second-hand purchase as a matter of course.
The most important thing to check is the age of the tyres. Even if visually good, and if the caravan has seen careful use over modest mileage, you may still need to replace the tyres due to their age. Particularly on older caravans, the tyre specification may need to be upgraded, either to allow use overseas, or simply because the original type of tyre is no longer available.
When to replace caravan tyres
Caravans do a fairly low annual mileage – on average around 2,000 miles a year, so it would take many years of use to wear out the tread.
However, two or three factors can make them deteriorate in a different way, even with careful use.
- All tyres age and deteriorate due to exposure to sunlight and atmosphere, even if not used.
- Caravan tyres can suffer fatigue due to the repetitive small impacts they suffer in everyday use.
- Being stored for long periods of the year without use can put undue strain on one particular part of the tyre.
It should go without saying that tyres which are damaged or worn to the legal minimum tread depth must be replaced immediately. Caravan tyres need regular replacement, irrespective of their visual appearance. We recommend that you replace your caravan tyres when they reach five years old and should never be used when more than seven years old.
If your tyres need a high inflation pressure (50psi or more), you should check regularly for signs of deterioration from three years old and should not be used when they reach five years.
Remember – the tyres age starts from when it was made, not from when it was fitted.
As with all new or second-hand caravan purchases, we recommend taking out caravan insurance or an alternative for added peace of mind.