With all the online debate about tires, pressure monitoring systems, and the mystery of how to change a trailer tire, I’m not surprised that most people feel it’s a confusing subject—and avoid it. It’s less intimidating to simply think “I’ll call roadside service when there’s a problem.”
But trust me, speaking as a long-time Airstreamer, you do not want to end up in a situation where you’re waiting for someone else to come cure a tire problem. Usually that means a long wait in a place you don’t want to be, and sometimes there no help to be had at all because you’re out of the service area or there’s no cell signal.
It’s really simple to take good care of your tires and avoid problems on the road. The trick is to build tire maintenance into your routine. Here's how.
- Make sure you have the right tools on hand to do these things:
- check air pressure
- change a tire
- inflate a tire, and
- identify a problem before it gets serious.
Keep these tools in your Airstream all the time so you never can forget to pack them. Read on, and you’ll see exactly what you need.
- Before every trip you take, check the air pressure of all the tires.
You can do this with a simple air gauge (obtainable at any hardware store or general merchandise store like Wal-Mart). If you have the Airstream Life Tire Changing Kit, there’s a good gauge in the bag.
But I prefer to just turn on my TST Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and let it verify all the pressures for me while I’m doing something else. This is the easiest, most accurate, and most efficient way possible. If any of the tires need air, the TST system will let me know on its digital display. I highly recommend this system, available at the Airstream Life Store.
Most late-model Airstreams come with Goodyear Endurance tires which need 80 psi of air pressure when they are “cold," which means before you start towing. This is why you want to check the pressures while you’re getting ready to go.
If the temperatures have dropped in your area recently, or you’ve changed altitude during your trip, you may find that the tires need a little more air in the morning to reach 80 psi. That’s why I make the next recommendation…
- Have an air compressor in the Airstream at all times.
It’s a real pain to search for a gas station with an air compressor in an unfamiliar town. That’s why I always carry a portable air compressor and an extension cord. I can add a little air to the tires anywhere, anytime—and that’s a huge convenience.
Late model Airstreams have inverters built in, so you can use a 120-volt AC (household power) air compressor. Portable ones are inexpensive (less than $40), light, small, and come with convenient carry bags. Simply turn on the Airstream’s inverter and plug the air compressor into the outside power outlet. I recommend this approach if possible, because it will be much more effective at filling tires than a 12 volt DC (battery powered) air compressor. Look for them at auto parts stores, hardware stores, and general merchandise stores.
- While you’re preparing your Airstream for your trip, do a visual inspection of the tires.
You may see a problem that can be fixed before you go. For example, look for objects embedded in the tires (a bit of gravel is normal in the treads, but a screw or nail has to be removed and patched).
You might also notice that the tire tread is getting thin, the sidewalls are cracking, or the tread is worn unevenly. These are all signs that there’s a problem or it’s time to get new tires.
For more information on what to look for, get a copy of “The (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance.”
- During your trip, take a moment to look at the tires again at every rest stop.
You’re checking for the same things as in step #4. It only takes a minute, and making this a habit will pay off some day.
- If you have a flat, make sure you have all the tools needed - even if you’re not going to change the tire yourself.
Roadside assistance may not be equipped to change a trailer tire. The Airstream Life Tire Changing Kit includes everything you need:
- torque wrench (to properly tighten the lug nuts)
- breaker bar
- safety vest
- pressure gauge
- instruction booklet
Keep this bag in your Airstream and you’ll be ready.
The 6-page instruction booklet includes photos and clear directions so you don’t have to remember the procedure if you’re stranded by the side of the road. I also demonstrate the entire Airstream tire changing procedure in this video.
- Make tire inspection a systematic part of your pre-departure checklist.
Here are the 6 simple steps I take before we leave on a trip. Add these to your own personal departure checklist.
- (Night before) Plug in TST tire pressure monitoring system to top up its charge
- (Morning of departure) Turn on TST - allow 5 minutes for sensors to update
- Visually inspect tires for damage or wear. Look for:
- Uneven tread wear
- Embedded nails, screws, etc.
- Verify that you've got tire tool in the Airstream. These include:
- Complete tire changing kit
- Portable air compressor and extension cord
- Leveling blocks
- Check tire pressures on TST monitor
- Top up any tires to MAX PSI COLD as indicated on the sidewall of the tires
- Check tire pressure on the spare tire, with a gauge (if it's not equipped with a TST sensor)
- If any wheels have been removed in the last 100 miles, check lug nut torque with a torque wrench (we include one in our Tire Changing Kit)