Modern cars and caravans come with lots of sophisticated safety equipment.
From trailer stability control to Al-Ko’s ATC system, to the latest generation of autonomous emergency braking technology, vehicles and tourers are safer than ever before.
But there’s one item of safety equipment without which, all of these clever electronics wouldn’t matter a jot – the tyre. Whether accelerating, cornering or braking, everything a car or caravan does relies on these, which is where carrying out some caravan tyre safety checks come in.
As I write this, the fine, sunny summer weather is continuing, but in the wet, the condition of your car and van tyres becomes doubly important (see our guide to towing a caravan in winter if you’re planning to tour all year long). The tyres will struggle to find grip in those wet circumstances if there is not enough tread depth to clear water from the road surface.
Caravan tyre safety checks to carry out
No matter how much or how little you use your tourer, it pays to give its tyres a thorough check. In fact, inspecting the tyres regularly and before every long journey should be part of your caravan maintenance routine.
Caravan tyres tend not to wear down as much as those on your car might do, so they are often changed infrequently and can suffer from cracking through age – check carefully
for crazing of the sidewalls. Likewise, when they are left out in the sun for long periods, they can also be damaged by the effects of UV light.
If your tourer is only used occasionally, and tends to sit in one position for the rest of the time, periodically move it or (safely) jack it up and turn the tyres, to avoid deformation owing to all of the weight resting on the same point for prolonged periods. Otherwise, this ‘oval’ effect can lead to unpleasant vibrations on the road.
You can also take a look at our pre-tour checks guide to see the other crucial tasks to carry out before setting off in your caravan.
Just like your car tyres, caravan tyres are required by law to have a minimum tread depth.
There has to be at least 1.6mm of tread remaining across the central three-quarters of the tread, around the circumference of the whole tyre.
A tread depth gauge is the most accurate way to assess this, but failing that, use a 20p piece. If the outer band of your coin is still visible when you place it in the tread, it’s time for you to change the tyre.
You should also check for cuts or bulges in the tyre, and replace or repair it (if practical) as soon as you find anything wrong.
It helps to have the caravan safely lifted on a jack, so you can check the tyre thoroughly all over.
The chances are, your tyres will still have plenty of tread. Caravans typically cover far fewer miles than a car (say, 2000 miles a year), so tyre wear is less of a problem.
However, it’s still worth checking them because you don’t want the caravan to aquaplane on a wet road and take the tow car with it.
It’s also worth checking the age of the tyres. For a tyre made since 2000, you should be able to see four digits on the sidewall, which will tell you when the tyre was made. For example, ‘1220’ indicates a tyre manufactured in the 12th week of 2020.
We recommend that tyres should be replaced when they are five years old, even if they still have a legal tread depth and show no signs of damage.
Check the tyre pressures
So let’s assume your caravan tyres have plenty of tread left and are free from any sign of damage, and still within the recommended lifespan.
Now you should check your tyre pressures. Take a look in the caravan’s handbook to confirm the recommended pressure, and make sure you stick to it.
It’s important for van tyres to be correctly inflated. Air will gradually escape over time, so there’s a good chance that if you haven’t checked the tyre pressures for a while, they will be too low. Underinflated tyres will wear quickly, and could fail completely. The consequences won’t be pretty.
While you’re at it, be sure to carry out the same checks and correctly inflate the spare, too.
If you do find your tyres are worn out or damaged, replace them – to be on the safe side, it’s well worth checking their condition a couple of weeks before you go away, so there’s time to have them replaced.
Make sure the tyres you buy are of the correct load and speed rating for your caravan, and the correct size (rim diameter, width and aspect ratio).
You can find this specification on the side of the tyre you are replacing, but just in case the wrong tyre has been fitted in the past, check your caravan’s handbook to be absolutely sure. We’d also recommend buying the best tyres you can afford.
With the right tyres, in good condition and correctly inflated, all those clever safety systems will be able to do their job.
- We talk you through the caravanning mistakes to avoid.
Future Publishing Limited, the publisher of practicalcaravan.com, provides the information in this article in good faith and makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Individuals carrying out the instructions do so at their own risk and must exercise their independent judgement in determining the appropriateness of the advice to their circumstances. Individuals should take appropriate safety precautions and be aware of the risk of electrocution when dealing with electrical products. To the fullest extent permitted by law, neither Future nor its employees or agents shall have any liability in connection with the use of this information. You should check that any van warranty will not be affected before proceeding with DIY projects.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Caravan magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things caravan related.