Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine
Yes, hitting a curb can damage your RV tires.
Depending on several factors like speed, angle of the hit, shape, and height of the curb, tire pressure, and more, hitting a curb can also damage your rims, axles, brakes, suspension, RV structure and cause damage to items stored inside the RV.
Here we’ll take a look at why this is, why it’s important, and the things to look for if you suspect your RV may have suffered curb related tire damage.
How Do Curbs Damage Tires?
RV tires are designed primarily to carry heavy loads on smooth paved surfaces.
As all of us who travel by RV know, there are not many truly smooth roads out there so by “smooth” I’m referring to your typical US paved road – imperfections and all.
To understand how tires are damaged by curbs you have to look at a tire’s structure.
Your typical RV tire is made up of rubber with steel belts embed within it. And those belts are oriented in line with the circumference of the tire spanning the area under the tread.
This metal structure is what holds the tread area of the tire together. It also keeps the round shape of the tire intact while allowing it to absorb the shock of minor imperfections on the road’s surface. The side wall is the other major tire structure. The sidewalls are thinner and lack the heavier steel belting that runs under the tread. In a radial tire, the sidewall is made up of layers of rubber and polyester cord which align in rows radially relative to the tire circumference.
The side wall has several jobs.
It provides distance between the tread and the rim, creating an airspace for the tread section to ride on. It also allows the rim to move relative to the tread when lateral forces are applied. So, when you’re cornering the sidewall will flex allowing the tread to stay on the road. This improves stability and traction.
Finally, the sidewall will absorb the impacts of larger defects on the road surface. While the construction of the sidewall allows it to be more pliable, making for a smoother ride, it also makes it more susceptible to sharp impact damage like it would experience in a hard curb hit.
Types of Curb Damage
Damage to your tires from curb contact will usually fall into one of two categories depending on how the tire hits the curb. Grazing hits, where the side wall is close to parallel to the curb will usually scuff up the sidewall. This type of contact can lead to pin holes in the sidewall or damage to the radial cords under the surface.
Hitting a curb where the wheel is closer to perpendicular to the curb can cause more serious damage. If the impact occurs at a high enough speed, or if your tire pressure is low, the sidewall can be compressed to the point where it gets pinched between the rim and the curb. This usually results in holes in the sidewall. Rim, axle, and suspension damage are also common. This can also lead to broken steel belts under the tread which will cause the tire to go out of round.
How to Tell If Your Tires Are Damaged After a Curb Impact
Do a visual and physical inspection of your tires and rims. Some damage will be obvious like leaks or dents in the rim. If you hear a hissing sound or notice your tire pressure going down over time then your curb strike likely created a leak in your tire. If you have a leak, swap that tire out for a spare and have it replaced as soon as possible.
Never attempt to patch or repair a tire with a leak in the sidewall. If the leak is in the tread, you may be tempted to repair it yourself using a DIY patch or plug kit.
While this may be technically “safe” in some circumstances on some vehicles I would recommend avoiding doing this if at all possible. First, RV tires carry a lot of weight and any patch or plug will weaken your tire’s structure, making a blowout or other tire failure more likely.
Next, the affected tire may have additional damage you can’t see. Patching it won’t fix that and may even make it worse. For the cost of a new tire, it’s simply not worth messing with.
If you have no obvious leaks or visible damage, try spinning the tire. Look for any indications that the tire has bulges or is out of round. If you see anything unusual, replace it with a spare.
Finally, you can have a professional inspect the tire for damage just to be sure. Most major brand tire shops can do this and if they find anything amiss, they’ll be able to install a replacement and get you back out on the road.
Avoiding Curb Impact Damage
The easiest way to avoid curb impact damage is obviously to avoid hitting curbs. However, there may be times when you need to drive over a curb. In those cases, try and roll up and over the curb with the tires as perpendicular to the curb as possible. Do it as slowly as you can, using your brakes and throttle gently pull the RV over the curb. Finally, avoid sections of the curb that are particularly sharp or rough if you can.