If there’s one thing that never ceases to amaze me, it’s the job your tyres do in transporting you and your beloved RV to your destination of choice, regardless of the terrain, particularly with such a small point of contact to the road.
While often it’s the men in our lives that bang on about tyres, given the safety implications, I’d say we all need to take a vested interest.
When travelling off the bitumen, a reduction in tyre pressures is mandatory to soften the ride and reduce the chance of punctures, particularly in gibber country. Most touring rigs have at least six wheels, many eight or more, so it’s all hands on deck to get those tyre pressures down and you on your way with minimum delay.
So ladies, for those who aren’t already, it’s time to get familiar with how a tyre pressure gauge works and get involved. Remember, if your partner is injured, you may find yourself doing this by yourself, so it pays to be prepared.
Those who follow my column may remember I have a dodgy back, with a couple of torn discs in my spine, so big bumps and heavily-corrugated roads are not my friends. In this terrain, shock absorbers and other components are working overtime and appreciate the reprieve a reduction in pressure can offer. But not as much as me!
So what is this magic tyre pressure? This is the tricky bit. While most vehicle manufacturers offer recommended pressures, much of this is related to the tyres they offer as standard which seem to be biased towards minimising noise and maximising fuel consumption rather than durability. Add a tyre with deeper tread and thicker sidewalls and the parameters change. Your RV or tyre retailer can suggest a recommended pressure for your tyres and load, the rest is up to monitoring tyre wear and pressures.
Personally, we have been very lucky, having never encountered a puncture in the outback, despite out extensive travels. But we do invest in premium tyres and monitor pressures religiously. In more recent times, we’ve invested in a tyre monitoring device, which keeps a check on pressures and temperatures and helps detect a slow leak, or worse, before it goes bad.
Quality tyres are like cheap insurance – they offer deeper tread, better compounds and often with local testing, which ensures the tyre compound is optimised for local conditions.
Of the many people we have met who have experienced tyre issues in the outback, the most common cause seems to be tyre pressures. Many people are just reluctant to drop their pressures when off the blacktop, for fear the sidewall is exposed to puncture. This is rarely likely to be an issue when outback touring, more so when travelling off the beaten track over virgin soil, which will rarely be the case when you are towing. Just another reason to tread lightly and stay on marked tracks.
If you are ever in any doubt, blow up a balloon tight, like a tyre at full pressure. Stick a pin into it and watch it pop. Take another balloon and blow it up with less pressure. Push the pin into its side and watch the balloon flex.
Just like the balloon, your tyres flex with reduced pressures, moulding around sharp objects such as gibber. While flexing produces heat, it also offers a softer ride and increases the footprint on the road’s surface, increasing safety. Reduced pressures always go hand-in-hand with reduced speed to minimise this extra heat. Travelling on unsealed roads increases your braking distance, affects handling and other aspects, which are further reasons to slow down in this environment, particularly in unfenced areas with wandering stock and wildlife.
Tyres do a fantastic job to get you to where you need to be, but they need some good-old TLC. Regularly check your pressures, drop them for back road touring and pump them up again as soon as you hit the blacktop. Do that and they will reward you with years of trouble free service.