The Pros And Cons Of Camper Tire Covers
People have different opinions about the need for camper tire covers.
My personal experience might be of some value here. We traveled 120,000 miles over a 20-year span in our RV. We stored the RV outdoors when not in use, we never used tire covers, and we only replaced the tires twice during that 20-year stretch. As a side note, the last time we replaced the tires was right before we decided to go full-time, and those tires only had about 8,000 miles on them when we sold that coach, so two sets of tires lasted 18 years and 112,000 miles.
We only had one flat tire on an inside dual during all of our travels. Admittedly, we did buy the best quality tires available when we replaced them, and we had them siped to reduce the damage caused by excessive heat build-up.
Another environmental variable that may have played a significant role in our tire wear is that we lived in Oregon, and most of our 20 years of RVing was in the Pacific Northwest. We never experienced the extreme heat for extended periods of time like many other places in the country. Yes, Oregon summers can get hot, but not like Arizona, Nevada, or Texas, or other places that have prolonged periods of tire melting weather. Additionally, when not in use, we parked our RV in a location that reduced direct sunlight on the tires.
During all that time, we never really considered tire covers as a necessity, until we started traveling in other parts of the country. The heat and humidity in Florida in late October almost melted these two Northwest daisies. It was a rude awakening to discover how hot some parts of the country are, and the more time we spent in that relentless sunshine, the more we realized that tire covers might be a good idea. Frankly, we never really understood the idea of tire covers until we spent many months traveling through the south.
The downsides of tire covers
- The cost (About $60 each and up, times two, four, or six)
- The hassle of putting them on and taking them off
- The potential need for fasteners around the wheel wells
- The noise of them flapping in the wind
- The extra space they will take up in the basement
Pros of camper tire covers
All of the downside arguments listed above are outweighed by one simple benefit. Prolonged tire life.
Some people might consider camper tire covers aesthetically pleasing, but in my humble opinion, that would not be reason enough to spend the money and take the time to install and remove the tire covers. But the prolonged tire life is a compelling enough reason to buy and use tire covers.
After all, RV tires are expensive (> $400 times 4, 6, or 8) and just rotating the tires on a regular basis will not prolong the life of the tires as much as consistently reducing their exposure to damaging UV rays.
I once had a Les Schwab tire store manager explain to me that most RV tires rot before they wear through the tread, and that most of that decomposition occurred on the inside of the tires, not the surface. Excessive heat and the UV rays from direct sunlight exacerbate the decay, so if you can reduce their exposure to ultraviolet light, then you can mitigate the deterioration.
I checked in with the IRV2 forums regarding the need for camper tire covers. The vast majority of the posts were in favor of them, and some people were passionate about the amount of prolonged life you can expect from your tires if you consistently keep them covered.
I’ve seen tire covers snapped onto fasteners that had been installed around each wheel well, and I’ve seen canvas covers loosely draped over just the tires on the south side of the rig. But the most appealing covers were the ones that easily fit over just the rubber portion and leave the chrome wheels exposed. These covers attach with elastic straps, are easy to put on and take off, only cost around $60 each, and don’t take up much space in the basement.
There are other types of wheel covers that use magnets to keep them in place, but these require a metal structure, and an RV that has a wheel well, but not all campers or RVs have well wells. Also, you should be warned about the magnetic type of tire covers. Many of these style covers come with a warning to people who use medical devices, such as a pacemaker. Magnets can interfere with the operation of the medical device, so people with pacemakers should check with their doctor before purchasing magnetic tire covers.
All told, the general consensus is that camper tire covers are a good investment. You can use them perpetually and transfer them from one RV to the next if you trade in your RV for a different model with similar size tires. Tires wear out eventually, but slowing down their deterioration could save you a bunch of money.
I think the last time we replaced all the tires on our motorhome, the cost was nearly $2000, and the tires on our newer, heavier RV will cost close to $3000, so extending the life of these tires with 4 $60 tire covers and a little extra work seems like a bargain.
How many camper tire covers will you need?
Do you need two, four, or six camper tire covers? If you have tag axles on your rig, then there are two tires exposed to the sun on each side of the vehicle, as well as front tires if it’s a motorhome or van, so that would require 6 covers to fully protect all your RV tires.
If you opt for the screen covers that mount to the inside of your wheel wells, then you’ll only need four. If you’re towing a small trailer with dual tires on one axle, then you’ll only need two covers (one for each side) for your RV tires. But if your RV is a van or truck camper or a traditional motorhome with dual tires in the back, then you’ll need four covers to protect all the exposed tires.
To determine how many covers you’ll need, just count the tires you can see when walking around your rig. You may also want to add tire covers to your towing vehicle and not just your RV.
Do you need camper tire covers on both sides?
Do you actually need to protect both sides of your rig? Of course, it depends on where you’re parked, but in some locations, if your rig is facing north or south, the sun will come up on one side of your rig and go down on the other side.
In those cases, you’ll need 4 or possibly 6 covers for maximum protection. If you’re parked facing east or west, you might be able to leave the tires on the north side of your rig uncovered since they will perpetually be out of the direct sunlight. But if you’re going to use tire covers, why not be comprehensive and protect all of your tires, all of the time?
Spending $200 to $400 on camper tire covers compared to spending $3000 on new tires is a no-brainer. Yes, eventually you’ll need to replace your tires, but if you can extend their life by several years, the extra cost and nuisance of putting on camper tire covers will certainly be worth it.
RVers looking for valuable how-to information have learned to go to the experts. Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.