Friday, May 8, 2009

Carlisle Tires...BOOM!

Camping is fun. While tent camping has it's attractions, it's not nearly as convenient as taking an RV. With an RV, you can pack many of the conveniences of modern civilization. There are several choices with an RV. Years ago, a buddy and I invested in a camping trailer. The biggest advantage of the trailer is that once you get to the campsite, you don' t have to break camp to go somewhere, as you might do with a Class C or Motorhome.

While we sold that trailer a few years later, my family found we liked trailer camping. In 2002, we bought a new Travelstar 21SSO. It's easy to tow, light, and has plenty of room. It came with five ST175/80R13 tires made by Carlisle.

Trailer tires take a lot of abuse. They are small, and are asked to carry a lot of weight. These tires are designed to run at 50 psi cold, and the manufacturer recommends the trailer be towed with the tires inflated to that level. Even a slight under-inflation can cause tire failures.

Imagine my surprise a couple of years later when I lost two trailer tires on one trip. We were coming back from the forgotten coast of Florida, and one blew out in south Georgia. I didn't think anything of it -- I just put the spare on and continued driving home. This turned into a disaster near Byron, GA. I was watching my remaining tires in the rear-view mirror and saw one go flat. By the time I could turn off the highway 2 miles later -- the tire was completely shredded.

After losing two tires in one trip, I didn't want to repeat that experience -- so I did the most rational thing -- I called the company who sold me the trailer. I was trying to find out how I might prevent failures in the future. The dealership couldn't offer any information, other than the number of the tire manufacturer. When I called the manufacturer, before I could even ask my question, the person I was talking to told me they wouldn't give me any money. Huh?

A year later, we were headed for Florida again -- and just short of Tifton, GA, we had a tire blow out so forcefully that it broke my gray water drain valve. We immediately sought a tire store that had the right size tires. Not only did I replace the blowout, but also another tire that was showing an unusual bulge. At this point, none of the tires I was running on were Carlisle tires. I had the shop move the only remaining Carlisle tire to the spare.

Funny, I haven't lost a tire since. Last year was the final straw. I was prepping the trailer for a trip, and went to check the pressure in the spare. Now only did it not have any pressure, it would not pump up! Taking the tire cover off quickly showed why. This tire had a large crack across the tread -- which is why it didn' t hold air.

So, in six years, all five Carlisle tires failed. And the one tire, the spare, which had less than 150 total miles on it, had cracked across the tread. Today, I have three different brands of tires on my RV, and none of them have failed since they were put to use.

A couple of years ago, I asked a friend of mine who has been trailer camping for over 20 years with an A-liner how he dealt with blown trailer tires. He said in all the years he's been camping, he'd never had a tire go flat for any reason.

A co-worker of mine also bought a TravelStar 21SSO about two months after I did. He also had Carlisle tires. After three blowouts of his own, he has replaced all of them with Goodyear tires.

What conclusion can you draw from this? In my experience, Carlisle tires are defective. They clearly cannot meet the basic requirements for tires of this size. If you have any of these tires, I would strongly recommend you replace them with another brand. If you do this now, before they fail, you can shop for bargains -- rather than having to buy a tire where ever you can find one on the road.

I've had good luck with three Denman tires, even the Chinese-made SuperTrailer tires have outlasted the Carlisles.

Good tires are important on an RV. Nothing spoils a good camping trip like not being able to get there (or get home).