Tips for the Aspiring Rubber Tramp

Road lifers often have gypsy souls. If you have seen Into the Wild, you are aware of the two categories – leather tramps and rubber tramps. The former type wanders on foot and the latter wanders behind a wheel

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Sometimes it’s awkward when we’re sitting inside the RV and we hear people outside talking about us or the rig. A few weeks ago we overheard a passerbyer say, “whoever drives that RV must be a good mechanic.” My original reaction was “Ha! If you only knew! I literally know nothing about cars.” And then I thought about it for a minute and realized, “Well, I guess I technically have access to everything I need to know about cars. It’s called the internet.” Sure I don’t personally have 50 years of mechanical experience, but the guy on YouTube does! Sure I don’t know how to drain the fluid from my brakes, but a random member of the Toyota forum, can give me a play by play with pictures. Sure I’m no professional electrician, but the company where I bought our solar panels from can explain everything. I am by no means a “good mechanic” like the passerbyer assumed, but I definitely have access to a wealth of mechanical knowledge. 

Maintenance for us on our trip is so crucial because not only are we taking care of our vehicle, but we are taking care of our home. If our car dies, our house dies with it. 

Luckily to live life successfully on the road you don’t have to be a brilliant mechanic. But, there are a few essential pieces of maintenance that you need to take care of regularly.

Fluids – There are a lot of fluids that are needed to run a vehicle. It’s important to make sure they are all at the proper levels whether it’s power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, engine oil, gasoline, or coolant. They all need to be at the recommended levels for everything to operate correctly. 

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You can YouTube everything you need to know to be road ready, or for a more hands on experience, go to your local mechanic or lube shop and have them top off all the levels and show you how to check them all yourself. We always travel with extra motor oil, coolant, break fluid, and power steering fluid (only because we already know that our RV has a small power steering leak). 

One problem that has plagued us since we bought the RV – complications with tires. 

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On our first big trip from Utah to California, we got a huge blow out about 15 minutes into the journey. We gimped our way to California on the crusty, old tires and immediately upon arrival bought a full set of brand new tires. At the time I knew nothing of proper tire maintenance. Since then, we have learned good ol’ fashioned  hard way that if you don’t take care of your tires, your tires can’t take care of you. Life on the road is harder on your tires than you may think. 

Here are four tips for the aspiring rubber tramp. 

  1. Check tire pressure once a week. This is especially critical in colder climates. Tire pressure is super important, and even more so when you’re hauling big loads like an RV or a van. Not only does it improve your gas mileage when the tires are properly inflated, but it also increases the life of the tires. When you drive on low tires, they’ll heat up and wear down quickly. If they are overinflated you’ll have a bumpier ride and you may have less traction and control on the roads – especially in the snow and ice. Get it right Goldielocks! Check your car manual or on the inside of your door for your car’s specific recommended pressure. 
  2. Rotate your tires regularly. When we got new tires for the RV, I kind of thought we could just “set it and forget it.” Unfortunately, months later I realized that the back tires were wearing differently than the front tires. I went and got the tires rotated as quickly as I could, but the damage was already done. It is recommended that you get your tires rotated every 3-5k miles.
  3. Check for wear and replace when needed. When we had our three blow outs in Canada the tires only partially peeled off and cut open a fuel line, ripped open a storage cabinet, and wreaked all kind of havoc to the underside of the RV. It was a good lesson to me that, yeah sure, it can be expensive to replace a few tires, but if you don’t, then you may be out even more cash and time and you’ll still end up having to get new tires.

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So in summary OurVie’s tires tips!

  1. Check tire pressure once a week 
  2. Have the tires rotated regularly (every 3-5k miles) 
  3. Check for wear and replace worn tires – it can seem expensive, but a blowout can cause even more damage. It’s always better safe than sorry. 

Tire maintenance is important and a big part of living life on the road. Be especially aware in the upcoming holiday season as you drive to and from friends and loved ones.

Thanks to Michelin for sponsoring this post. When it comes to those we care about, no distance is too far. Use #BeThereMoments on Instagram to connect with a community of likeminded people who are making the effort to show up when it matters most.



One Comment

  1. Pam Sheppard

    I have enjoyed following your adventures since your story first posted in KSL. If you think the roads in Alaska are bad now you should have seen them from 1963-66 when my dad was stationed in Anchorage. We drove from Vermont to Anchorage and the Alcan wasn’t paved then. 1500+ miles of unpaved gravel road. When we finally got to the state line my mom got out of the car and kissed the pavement only to shortly realize that the road from the Canadian border to Anchorage was just as bad because of frost heaves and cracked pavement. It was all worth it though. Three years living in Anchorage when it had just become a state 3 years earlier. Nothing like it is now!! Thanks for all the reminders about tires! Safe trip!

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