Now that the weather has started to improve, many people will be taking out their caravans and going away for short breaks and holidays. Prior to leaving it is essential to check the tyres and tyre pressure on your caravan - many accidents are caused every year by incorrectly inflated and burst tyres. Spending a few minutes before every journey checking the tyre pressures could save hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, not to mention the stress and upset that a ruined holiday could cause.
For the last four to five years the majority of caravan manufacturers have been been stamping the information you need on to a plate or sticker which is then fixed to the outside of your caravan, possible near the door. This plate holds vital information including the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM), Mass in Running Order (MRO), approved tyre size and recommended caravan tyre pressures for your specific van. If this plate is missing, your owner handbook can also be a valuable source of information. Should the information plate be missing from your caravan, never assume that the plate on a similar caravan will hold accurate information for your caravan, even if it is the same make and model. The specification of a touring caravan, within a model range can often change from year to year - the fixtures and fittings will be different for example, and this will have an obvious effect on the weight. It has also been known for the wheel bases to be upgraded or changed and if this is the case the size of the wheels may well vary.
What if you don't have a manual or information plate for your caravan?
However, should you be the proud owner of a pre-loved caravan that does not have the information plate, or the owner’s manual is missing, the following information may be of some use. There are 3 diagrams and charts in this article which hopefully will remove some of the mystery of what is the correct tyre pressure for your caravan.
As you can see from the first diagram above, there are numerous letters and numbers moulded into the side wall of your tyres. Several of the markings can be disregarded as they only apply to USA regulations. The important ones, as far as caravan tyre pressures are concerned, are shown indicated.
What is the maximum weight for tyres?
Whilst the majority of responsible caravan owners ensure that they do not overload the inside of the caravan to exceed the maximum tow weight of their car, it is equally important to make sure that the maximum weight for the tyres on their caravan is also not exceeded.
The UK tyre industry strongly recommends that the maximum vehicle load should not exceed 90% of the combined tyre load capacity as indicated by the load index. To work out what weight your caravan can safely carry, take the load index figure from your tyre - shown above; look at the chart below and look for the corresponding figure - so if your tyre wall shows a figure of 100, the number on the chart has a corresponding figure of 800kg. The 800kg is a weight per tyre, and hopefully your caravan has at least 2 tyres, so the figure can be doubled (1600kg). As the recommendation by the industry is that you should not exceed 90% of the combined tyre load capacity, 90% of 1600kg is 1440kg. Put plainly, the total weight of your caravan and contents must not exceed 1440kg.
To work out the recommended, relevant caravan tyre pressure for your caravan, take the Tyre Size Designation code and Load Index figure from the wall of your tyre and read across the chart below. As you can see from the examples shown in our diagrams, a tyre with a size designation of 195/70 R15 and a load index of 100 will have a cold inflation pressure of 3.75 BAR or 54 PSI. Therefore, your caravan tyre pressures will be 3.75 BAR or 54 PSI.
One word of caution, however, is never exceed the load and pressure requirements that are moulded into the wall of the tyre as indicated in the top diagram. These are an absolute maximum and it is recommended that the tyres are not inflated beyond 10 PSI below this figure. In the example above, the tyre is showing a pressure requirement of 64 PSI, therefore you would not inflate the tyre beyond 54 PSI. Over-inflated tyres can be even more dangerous than under-inflated tyres as they have a greater risk of bursting.
Whilst it is never a good idea to ignore any of the safety information provided, the speed symbol, indicated by a letter after the Load Index can generally be disregarded, mainly because the maximum towing speed of a caravan is 60 mph on a UK motorway or dual carriageway.
It is also recommended that the tyres of your caravan are changed every 5 years and definitely after 7 years, regardless of the amount of usage that they have had. As caravans are regularly parked outdoors throughout the year they are subjected to a wide range of temperatures along with hot sun, snow and ice. All of these factors can have a damaging effect which is not necessarily visible to the naked eye. Like the majority of surfaces exposed to the weather they will deteriorate and perish over a period of time. Fortunately, the date of manufacture of the tyre is also molded onto the wall of the tyre as shown above. The format will be a four digit number expressed as weeks of the year followed by the year. So the numbers 1811 would indicate that the tyre were manufactured in the first week of May in 2011.
Many caravan manufacturers do not recommend that car tyres are used on caravans. Whilst they look similar, they are required to carry a much greater weight and this is due to the different role that the tyres on a caravan play to those on a car. Primarily, caravan tyres are load bearers and therefore need to be stronger than car tyres.
Last, but by no means least, make sure that your caravan is fully covered by a specialist caravan insurance policy. Many car insurance policies only cover you for third party and therefore you would not be covered fully if the unexpected happened.
UPDATE - June 2016
Tyresafe have launched an online tyre checking service for cars and caravans. For more information and the link to their website, please read this article.
This article is meant as guidance only. If you have any questions, or are unsure what your tyre pressures should be, your caravan manufacturer or local dealership will be able to advise you fully.
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