Disaster averted in trailer tire failure

We bought new sneakers for our Airstream. I bought four new sneakers this morning to replace the original ones, we installed high-pressure stems to replace the insufficient original equipment ones, and bought a new set of solid lug nuts. We had considered we were due for tires sometime later this year. We heard stories of these tires failing disastrously and damaging rv trailers. Our tires were installed on our Airstream sometime in 2004, or almost five years ago so were near end of life.

picture of separated tire tread plies

picture of separated tire tread plies

Did we now change the tires just because they were out of date? No, actually we hadn’t gotten around to checking the date until last week. Pretty good timing, right? Again, no. We parked the trailer at Jerry’s and Ann’s house and I clamped the wheel chocks into place. I happened to look at the clamp surface and saw this irregularity in the tread.
picture illustrates tire's DOT date code

picture illustrates tire's DOT date code

Okay, now I’m checking the date on my tires. I knew our trailer was put together in about the fortieth week of 2004, or 4004 by the DOT code. You can see in this picture the date code on our tires is a little earlier. The factory-installed tires had a DOT date of 1404, or fourteenth week of 2004. We are approaching the seventeenth or eighteenth week of 2009, so we had good service from our set of Goodyear Marathon ST225 75 15R tires.

We thought we would carry a 2 gallon air compressor for emergencies. The air compressor weighs very little, around twelve pounds, so I originally placed it well forward in the truck’s bed. The 1000w generator weighs twenty-seven pounds, or more than twice the air compressor. The heavier object should be in a more accessible location, near the tailgate, right?

I was digging the air compressor out, each time I needed it, from under the tonneau cover and whatever had arranged itself over and against the compressor. Fortunately, whenever we needed the air compressor we could plug it into the outdoor electrical receptacle on the side of the Airstream. And we had no occasions calling for the electrical power generator.

The effort to extract the air compressor was not extreme but I finally realized, “Hey, I did this backward.” So I moved the 1000w generator to the forward (and less accessible) position and placed the air compressor in a very handy location by the tailgate. Monthly I have been wrestling the generator from its tight little corner, carefully maneuvering it out and to the ground. And for months, I haven’t needed the air compressor.

One of our four running tires developed a hole a little over two years ago. The tire lost one pound air pressure per day. Immediately before we departed for our full-timing adventure last year we found a metal screw had penetrated the tire tread too near the sidewall to repair. So one of the running tires is only fifteen months old, and is now on the spare wheel. So this set of Goodyear Marathons performed as advertised, safely carrying our home across the highways and byways of North America for the past three years.

Much has been said in many forums about problems with Goodyear Marathon trailer tires. Some Airstreamers have doggedly tried to get satisfaction out of the brand. They replaced a couple of times with the same brand until finally, in frustration, finding a new solution in 16″ wheels and a higher priced European tire. Some RVers started more closely monitoring their tires’ condition and avoided problems by acting quickly on first notice of any problem. Others, I think, have reported damage to their wheel wells and nearby plumbing and wiring when a tread separated and slapped the trailer silly.

Like they say on the golf course, it is better to be lucky than good. I’ll take luck anytime, but don’t want to count only upon it. So we try to take good care of the equipment. Our trailer’s loaded weight is within the gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, and our tires’ rating is almost 3,500 pounds higher than our GVWR. Our tire inflation is 55-60 pounds, in accordance with Goodyear’s inflation/load chart for these tires. We use a tire pressure monitoring system to monitor our tire pressure during towing days. We keep our speed below the tires’ max speed rating of 65 mph. And maybe we are lucky?

picture of trailer's tire after >30,000 miles towing

picture of trailer's tire after >30,000 miles towing

I try to keep an eye on our tires. Although I hadn’t noticed it earlier in the week, the curbside front tire showed clear indication of tread ply separation in one spot. This separation resulted in a high ridge in the direction of the tread. The tire was running on a two-inch wide portion of tread along twelve inches of the tread length. This portion of tread was beginning to bald. Here’s a view of the tread on the opposite side of the damaged tire. We’re fortunate we noticed the anomaly while we were parked at Jerry’s and Ann’s, before the tire separated and became a flailing weed-eater in my Airstream’s wheelwell.

I guess I can move the generator to the tailgate area, very accessible for the monthly load testing and maintenance. And I can relocate the air compressor back to the originally designed niche, way forward in the truck bed under the low part of the tonneau cover. If I’m lucky I’ll need the generator before the air compressor. I especially don’t want to need the generator to make electricity for the air compressor, because then I may be pumping up tires along some roadside. All I need now is more luck.

Picture shows tread section raised at top of picture

Picture shows tread section raised at top of picture

I had read the Airstream Forums posts and had friends describe to me the damage to watch for in these tires. I wasn’t looking for this tire’s raised section. We feel lucky to have caught sight of the raised portion of our tread. And we narrowly avoided disastrous damage to the curbside wheel-well of our Airstream. Whew!

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3 responses to “Disaster averted in trailer tire failure

  1. Our Airstream is at a facility getting bearings repacked, and checking alignment on the axles. We have a slight edge on the outside on all 4 Goodyear tires, like the trailer has been running with the axle out of camber/castor, whichever it is. Thanks for the heads up! We have about 23000 miles on our set, and they will be needing replacement soon. I read an article that ST tire demand is outstripping supply, so dealers are opting for Asian sources, something I would be hesitant to place on our unit.

  2. We’ve had at least four (I’ve lost count now) tread separations in the past two years. Axle alignment makes a difference, as does avoiding other sources of stress on the tread. I check the tires visually at every fuel stop and this has allowed me to catch several tread separations without a single one causing a blowout or damage to the trailer.

  3. Pingback: Another tiring subject? « Dreamstreamr Odyssey

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