Out of spec and misaligned trailers result in early tire removals, uneven tire wear, the strain on suspension components, and a decreased vehicle’s fuel efficiency. This situation makes a lot of drivers unhappy.
Correct travel trailer wheel alignment is an essential part of RV maintenance as it will maximize the tire’s life and boost up your trailer’s fuel economy.
So, can travel trailer tires be aligned? Yes, travel trailers can be aligned, and absolutely should be aligned every 2 – 4 years. Expect to pay around $250 for a professional to do the job, or you can do it yourself assuming you have the tools to do so.
These specific scenarios can lead to wheel alignment problems in your travel trailer:
- Worn-out or damaged leaf spring
- Bent or distorted wheel rim
- Or a low pressure in a tire
The other thing is, your camper’s front axle must be aligned in a static position. Moreover, the axle should be aligned perpendicularly to the trailer’s frame.
Due to this, your camper’s wheel will be in an optimum position with the road’s surface. However, a minor deviation in the front axle can instantly notify you of the apparent effects when you will drive your trailer.
In several cases, you only have to adjust or replace the defective part to fix your problem.
The sign of wheels misalignment is when your trailer weaves, pulls, or drifts to one side. Similarly, your steering wheel might become off-center while you are driving straight.
Furthermore, your trailer’s tire alignment is vital to prevent trailer damage and for safe towing of cargo.
If your trailer’s tires are not aligned, you can easily do it yourself or seek professional’s help. Follow these courses of actions to align your camper’s wheels.
You will need the following items:
- Fishing sinker
- Trailer’s manual
- Four axle extension tubes
- A tape measure
Assess Trailer’s Tires
With your automobile’s hitch, join your trailer’s tongue. Make sure to park your camper on a leveled road or a surface. If necessary, you can lower your rig tongue jack stand for leveling your camper.
Now at the fishing line’s end, fix your fishing sinker (it will act as a plumb line). You will find threads at the bottom of your automobile’s hitch, tie your fishing line there. This will make your fishing sinker hang.
Ensure that your fishing sinker and line hang right below the middle point of a trailer tongue coupler. Hence, it will allow the plumb line to assess your tire alignment quickly.
If necessary, you can remove the center or hub caps from your trailer’s wheels. Now on trailer tires, screw the axle extension tube to its center spindle.
Spindles are the trailer axle and wheel assembly’s innermost part that provide a surface for wheel bearings and allow wheel caps to rotate – a little insight for the novice in screwing axle tubes.
With the help of an inch tape, measure the distance of axle extension tube tips of the right and left wheel to the plumb line, and note it down.
Compare these distances, and if the difference in the measurements exceeds ⅛-inch, it means that your trailer tires are misaligned.
Moreover, measure the distance of the rear and anterior wheel, and note it down. Compare these distances, and if the difference in the measurements exceeds ⅛-inch, your rearmost axle is not aligned with your trailer’s front axle.
It’s Time To Align The Tires
Check the leaf springs as they are the suspension for vehicles that protect and suspend the axles.
Furthermore, if you find cracks or loose retainer brackets or U-bolts (these are the parts that hold up the leaf spring to an axle), replace them.
If rear and front shackle brackets are bent or cracked, replace them as well. It is necessary to change worn out shackle brackets because they secure the ends of the leaf springs to an undercarriage.
Moreover, if a leaf spring cracks, twist, or sag, upgrade or renew it.
If your trailer does not have any problems discussed in Step 1, you should examine your camper’s tire conditions.
Check if the tire has a bent rim, worn treads, or low pressure because these problematic conditions will interfere while you will drive your trailer.
A bent tire rim may need an expert’s attention, and it depends on the severity of the damage. Sometimes, it might need replacement.
You can experience some wear in a suspension component, and it can also be a symptom of axle misalignment.
Sometimes tire wear usually happens when you overload your trailer; therefore, take a look to see if the axle has been flipped or not.
When you carry heavy loads in a trailer, the bow supports a little bit of the weight, whereas, the axles will straighten out to let your tires run evenly. This causes the tires to wear out quickly.
Therefore, you must opt for special trailer tires (ST). Non-trailer wheels are built for vehicles that carry passengers. In contrast, ST wheels are designed to carry heavy loads present in a travel trailer.
If we talk about its structure, STs have solid and straight ribs – these are durable rubber circumferential bands parted by grooves. Therefore, this feature makes ST tires suitable to bear heavy loads.
Moreover, ST has 10% more carrying capacity than the light truck (LT) wheels. The ST tires have stiff sidewalls for controlled swaying and better stability.
Since carrying heavy loads generates a substantial tire heat, the shallow groove design in special trailer wheels helps these tires remain cool and improves fuel economy.
Contrastingly non-trailer wheels have deeper grooves and ample voids. These tires often have jagged and non-continuous ribs.
To obtain maximum benefit, always check your trailer’s four wheels for alignment. Several benefits of wheel alignment are as follows:
- It increases your trailer’s safety as you can drive straight on the road.
- It prevents tire wear.
- Reduced tire wear means it prolongs tire’s life expectancy and lowers operating costs.
- It reduces fuel consumption due to lower rolling resistance. Also, it reduces the trailer’s drag and enhances fuel efficiency.
- It reduces stress on your trailer’s suspension components; hence, it prevents costly repairs.
Misaligned tires mean you have to struggle with your steering wheel while driving straight on the road. After aligning them, they significantly reduce the driver’s fatigue.
Trailer’s fuel efficiency, performance, tire replacement cost, and trailer drags or bounces on the road are the paramount effects of misaligned tires that you should cater to immediately.
Yes, travel trailer tires can be aligned. But do you really care?
Indeed, many RVers don’t pay attention to the trailer’s wheel and axle, their alignment, to be precise. And there’s no rocket science involved.
All you need is take a closer look at your trailer’s wheel. If you see plenty of wear outside the tread, this can become a problem worth addressing before you hit the road.
You wouldn’t want to ruin your wonderful family RV trip and pay for something out of your pocket which wasn’t planned.
So, make a habit of inspecting your travel trailer tires for alignment problems, unusual wear, and check tire pressure. This would prevent many unanticipated obstacles during your road trip.
Be smart, be safe!