Like most Airstream trailers made in the past several years, our 2020 Globetrotter came with Goodyear Endurance tires. After four years (one of which was spent on the dealer's lot before we purchased the trailer) and 22,000 miles, those tires were ready for replacement.
Getting new tires on your Airstream travel trailer isn't exactly like getting new tires for your car or truck. There are several important things to consider:
1. Find the right tire shop
Getting an appointment at an RV service center can sometimes take quite a while. In our case, we needed to swap out the tires between trips, with only 10 days working time, so we chose to go to a local Discount Tire. That way we could get an appointment within a couple of days.
Yes, some national chains will happily service your trailer—but not all. To know which places will take care of you requires a little bit of research. You might get really lucky and find a company with mobile service (swapping tires right in your driveway!) but more likely you'll have to tow it to their place.
So your first step is to make sure that the tire store's parking lot is big enough for your rig. Personally I never trust the store personnel's promises—I always check satellite imagery on Google Maps. Then, ask specifically if they'll work on a travel trailer. (Big O Tires, for example, turned me away.)
2. Don’t forget the spare
Is your spare still in good shape? Chances are it is, because the spare has probably never been used and is well-protected from the sun. But pull it out and check it anyway, before you place your tire order.
In my case, since I switched to a slightly wider tire (the Goodyears were 225 width and the Michelins are 235 width), I couldn't fit a Michelin tire in the Airstream's spare carrier. So I elected to keep the existing Goodyear spare. If I do have to swap it on, I'll use it only for a short time.
3. Note the location of the TPMS sensors, if installed
Most tire shops are going to be careful about putting the TPMS sensors back in the same place, but to be sure you should make a note of where they are installed.
(If you bought your TPMS from us and we pre-programmed it for you, we put numbered stickers on each sensor.)
If you don't have a TPMS, you should seriously consider getting one!
4. Stay on site and educate the staff
The Discount Tire guys are pros, but they don't work on Airstreams every day. They appreciated me advising them on the correct place to put their big hydraulic jacks, and double-checking so that they didn't punch a hole in the belly pan or use the axle as a jack point. Be prepared to get down on the ground in the parking lot to double-check the placement of their jacks on the frame.
The other tip they appreciated was the correct torque for the lug nuts. On most Airstream trailers with aluminum wheels, the nuts should be torqued to 110 ft-lbs.
5. Consider an upgrade to metal valve stems
Any good tire shop will automatically replace the valve stems with good high-pressure valve stems when you get new tires. If you think of it, ask for all-metal (steel) valve stems. They don't cost much extra and they will last a long time, plus they're ideal if you have a TPMS.
In my case, the tire shop stocked only metal valve stems, so I got them at no extra cost.
6. Re-program the TPMS if needed
I'm not a fan of ST (Special Trailer-type) tires, so with this changeover I took the opportunity to get a set of Michelin Defender LTX 235/75R15 tires installed. These tires have a much deeper tread, last longer, and ride softer than the original equipment tires.
The "catch" is that my TPMS was programmed for 80 psi cold tire pressure, for the Goodyear Endurance tires. The Michelins run at 50 psi cold, so I needed to re-program the TPMS once they were installed. For the benefit of upgrading to a higher quality tire was easily worth the trouble.
7. Check the torque more than once!
If you take only one piece of advice from this blog, take this one. You MUST re-check the torque on the wheels more than once. Airstream even puts a sticker on the trailer, just above the wheel wells, to remind you of this.
If you don't, there's a chance the lug nuts will work loose over time, and then you have a disaster on your hands.
Check the torque at least 3 times, after 25 miles of towing, then after 50 miles, and 75 miles. You'll quite often find that the nuts take a while to "seat" properly, and until they do some of the nuts will be a tiny bit loose when you check them.
This is one of the key reasons you need a good torque wrench on board. We include one in our Tire Changing Kit. If you don't have a tire changing kit, you need to get one.