Your tires do a whole lot more than just carry the weight of your bus. They are expected to give traction when you get going, provide maximum grip when braking and handling the twists, turns, and potholes of the roads between adventures. They can be one of the largest and best investments in the safety of our rolling homes.
Choosing the right tires for our Skoolies can be confusing and overwhelming. The tire market has its own lingo and codes that need to be deciphered in order to find the right fit, the right application, and of course the right safety features for our homes. Here is a bit on what we found out while trying to replace a tire.
It is important to remember that while tires do not technically have an expiration date, they do have a recommended date of use. Some manufacturers call for replacing your tires every 6 years, while others recommend a longer life of 10 years. If you are within the 6-8 year, you probably want to start shopping and saving.
Read below to see how to find the date code on your tires.
The tread of the tire is the point of contact between vehicle and ground. In order for the tire to do its job effectively the tread patterns are designed to grip the road and move water and debris from its path. Treads patterns are made for all types of different driving situations and every type of vehicle. Tread patterns also allow the tire to dig into the sand, dirt, or mud of our favorite boondocking spots. In these conditions, tread depth can facilitate safer driving, better handling, and a more comfortable ride.
Different tread patterns will generate different amounts of road noise as well. A more aggressive off road tires will be louder than a standard road tire. Depending on your intentions with your adventure rig though it may be worth it to go with a more aggressive tread in spite of the added noise while driving.
There is a lot of information imprinted into the rubber on the sidewalls of tires. To us the three most important for the bus community are the load rating, speed rating and DOT Code.
The load rating on a tire indicates the max load the tires can handle. This is the maximum gross weight each tire can safely handle. The speed rating indicates the maximum speed at which the tire can carry a load corresponding to its load index. Together these tell you how much weight you can carry and what speed the tire can handle safely.
The DOT Code specifies the company, factory, mold, batch, and date of production (two digits for week of the year plus two digits for year; or two digits for week of the year plus one digit for year for tires made prior to 2000). This is important to look at when you first get your bus to determine if you should replace them, it is also important to look at when buying new or used tires.
In this image you can see the code 4309. This indicates that the tires were manufactured on the 43 week in the year 2009.
New or Used?
Deciding between replacing your tires with new or used ones usually comes down to cost. New tires are generally expensive. But remember, it is the best investment in your safety and your bus, so the price may be worth it.
When we had to replace our front drivers side tire we shopped online. We purchased our tire from SimplyTire.com and found exactly what we wanted for a decent price. New tires also come with warranties and plain old peace of mind. Used tires come with a better price…
If you aren’t ready to fork over that much money on new tires, used tires are literally the next best thing. Finding used tires does take time and patience, and a lot of leg work. Calling local tire shops that specialize in light to heavy duty trucks is going to be your best, yet most time consuming route. You can find really good used tires at a great price this way though. Another way is to look on the local marketplaces (FB, Mecari, Craigslist) for people selling used tires. Sometimes you can even get lucky by calling the school bus yard in your county and see if they will sell you some used tires. It has happened before.
Steer, Rear, and All Around.
When looking for tires you may notice that in the descriptions they mention Steer, Rear, or All Around positioning. It is as it sounds. Some tires are designed to be used in the front of the bus as a steer tire, while others are designed to be mounted on the rear axles. The tread and makeup of the tire determines its functionality.
Then there are All Around Tires which can be mounted front and rear. They have a more aggressive tread pattern normally. You’ll notice these kind on a lot of logging trucks and other trucks that drive on paved and unpaved roads.
Maintaining your tires.
Keeping your tires in good shape is fairly simple. Keep an eye on your tire pressure. It is a good idea to check the tires weekly, especially if you are driving a lot. When you are checking the pressure take a look at the tire for any rubs, scrapes, cuts, gouges, and remove any rocks stuck between the treads. Some people use tire covers if they are sitting for periods of time to reduce the chance of sun damage to the tires, and to keep the pressure a bit more regulated.
If you start to notice uneven wear in your tires or a drift when you let your hand off the wheel, you may need an alignment. And if you notice a lot of wobble you may be in need of balancing the wheels and tires. Both of those can be done at home or by taking your bus to a tire tech.
Removing these bus tires and wheels can be difficult. The sheer weight of the tires is one thing but adding in the wheel weight, not to mention the chore of getting the lug nuts off, these things are heavy.
Another good tool to get is a Torque Multiplier. This will help to get the lug nuts off without using air or power tools. It allows almost a one handed removal of the lug nuts.
Fact is, old tires are dangerous, the wrong tires are dangerous and damaged tires are even more dangerous. Building a home on wheels means we need to take care of them the best we can and replace them to be as safe as can be.
I hope this has helped you in finding the right tires for your bus conversion, let us know in the comments.
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