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Tiny House Concerns: Trailer Tires Decomposing or Going Flat

I thought I’d start a new series of posts called tiny house concerns.

In it we’ll go over questions and concerns that readers from Tiny House Talk have sent in.

Then in the comments, we’ll all discuss possible solutions and swap ideas. So here’s this week’s question from Pamela.

Hi Alex,

A couple of things I’ve never seen anyone address regarding the tiny houses on trailers is, what about the long term decomposing of the tires? Do folks jack the house up a bit to alleviate pressure on the tires, remove them, or do they pick the house up and take it to the local gas station now and then to fill them up? Also what happens if they leave the trailer to rest on the tires and one gets a flat or loses air? And finally, have you heard of anyone building a small house on a trailer with the intent of being able to remove it from the trailer once they get to a more permanent spot?

Thanks,

Pamela D.

Tiny house on trailer foundation

Photo Credit Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders

If you have any ideas, tips, or suggestions on protecting trailer tires from decomposing, please share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 44 comments… add one }
  • MsDawnBurton September 29, 2012, 11:47 am

    I am having this problem with my storage camper. All four tires are flat and I need to move it. Ughhh I don’t have an air compressor, so I am gonna try fix a flat.

    Another problem is tires settling into the ground. My mobile home is doing that as we have sandy soil.

    Great topic! I am anxious to hear how others are dealing with these issues.

    • Frank Rodrigues September 29, 2012, 8:17 pm

      Park your mobile home on planks of wood, or a thick piece of blue stone or cement block

    • Chuck October 9, 2012, 4:21 pm

      Strongly advise you avoid fix-a-flat like the plague unless in an honest to goodness emergency. It’s not likely to solve your problem, and may make your tires irreparable. Take the cash that would’ve bought a couple of cans of the stuff, and spend it on a cheap compressor that plugs into your car – you’ll be much better off.

      (Spoken by someone who has had to repair numerous tires for friends, and dealt with this nasty goop a time or three).

      • James McNitt October 11, 2015, 10:53 pm

        The decomposition of neoprene or synthetic rubber is caused by oxidation. The tire gets old( just like us) and leeks air ( also just like us). Getting them out of the sunlight is a good idea as the heat increases the rate of the aging process for tires. You can further retard the process be filling them with inert gas, and /or just keeping them filled to the recommended pressure. If your going to remove them from the trailer you should check with the local ordinance’s for RV registration. When you remove the wheels and tires and set the frame on blocks it is no longer a recreational vehicle. This is true in my location, you should check yours.

  • Michael September 29, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Hi Pamela,

    Regarding your first issue, tire-decomposition, over the last few years I’ve read that one of the biggest deteoriating issues associated with “parked” trailer tires is caused by UV rays from the sun. Going back to my southern Indiana farm days I’d agree with that because of all the tired-farm implements we had. To help prevent such problems we’d simply jack up the farm implement (including some trailers), remove the tires (store them on their rim in a covered area from environmental elements), and cover up the exposed hubs with a secured heavy-duty plastic bag. I’ve also known some people to simply jack up their trailer (taking weight off the tires) and cover up the tires (still on the trailer) using either plastic or plywood…anything to help keep external environmental elements from affecting tire longetivity.

    Some folks buy a small air compressor that’ll run off of your car’s cigar/cigarette lighter accessory. Vehicle engine has to be running to use. Such compressors are small and not that expensive.

  • Lynne September 29, 2012, 12:41 pm

    As a long-time RV’er and owner of a vacation cottage (on wheels), I’ll make some suggestions about the tires. At the long-term location, the house will feel more stable inside if it’s up on well-placed posts/jack-stands and not bouncing around on the tires. Protect the tires from UV damage by covering or shading the tires as much as possible. Many RV owners won’t store their rigs long-term with the tires in contact with concrete because of possible leaching, so they place boards between the tires and the concrete surface. Also, I wouldn’t run on tires that are more than about 7 years old (manufacture week/year is posted on the sidewall), even if there’s lots of tread and mileage left. A blowout and resulting damage will be far more costly than replacing the tire(s) before you move your beautiful home. And always, always check your tire pressure before you move. Finally, don’t forget about those wheel bearings – have they been recently serviced/lubed/repacked? If one freezes up, you can lose the whole wheel going down the highway.
    Think and plan ahead and stay safe and happy during the move!

  • jim sadler September 29, 2012, 12:51 pm

    One thing is for certain. never, ever use mobile home wheels on your tiny home. Those are the ones that use washers shaped like your finger to press down and hold the tire and rim in place. They are not suited for use at all and they fail all too often and all too easily and can easily result in death and mayhem. You want wheels that bolt on like the wheels on your car bolt on. Please take this seriously I have seen the consequences of mobile home wheel failures.

    • Marsha Cowan September 29, 2012, 1:02 pm

      Do you have a picture of those things? I may have them on the wheels of my used trailer that I bought on Craigslist. Can I replace them with regular wheels?

      • Frank Rodrigues September 29, 2012, 1:57 pm

        If you have a regular car hauler or equipment trailer, you will not have that style of tire’s mounted on it.

      • Alex October 4, 2012, 5:06 pm

        Hi Marsha,

        Jim email replied to your question so I figured I’d copy and paste it here for you:

        I do not have a pic of those wheels. When you loosen the bolts the finger shaped part no longer presses against the wheel hub. If you remove the wheel from the trailer you will see that the rim has no center. So if you see a large hole with no places for bolts to sink into the outer rim then that is what you have.

        Normal wheels will not fit on those hubs at all. You would need to buy new wheel hubs as well as wheels. But if you do have these wheels on your axles then consider replacement an emergency priority. If one bolt loosens just a bit then suddenly all five washers will spin and the wheel will go flying. The impact of a flying wheel is amazing. Often the wheel will hit oncoming traffic and bounce back at a radial rate of speed sufficient to kill every occupant in a car.

    • Alex October 3, 2012, 2:08 pm

      Thanks for making us aware of this Jim

  • Lynne September 29, 2012, 12:56 pm

    One more thought about tires, especially if you plan to use the ones on a used trailer that you’ve purchased for your tiny house. Make sure that the load rating and index for the axle(s) and tires is in the right range for the weight of your completed house. It could be significantly different than what the trailer currently has on it. I don’t know if anyone has weighed their tiny houses, but this can be done at most truck stops using their commercial truck scales. It would be helpful if we could get some ballpark weights on this blog.

    • NGD October 2, 2012, 10:57 am

      Tumbleweed has ball park weights for its homes on wheels you could use as a rough guide.

    • Alex October 3, 2012, 2:10 pm

      Good points Lynne, thanks. As NGD says Tumbleweed is a great place to get estimated weight based on the size but they usually weigh anywhere from 4000lbs to 8000lbs depending on size and scope of house.

  • Michael September 29, 2012, 12:56 pm

    Great additional comments by Lynne and Jim, and I meant to add to jack up your trailer – take the weight off the tires … and the 7-yr. tire life – excellent comment from Lynne!!!

  • Marsha Cowan September 29, 2012, 12:59 pm

    I have 7 ply truck tires on the used trailer that I bought off Craigslist. I put jacks under the trailer as soon as i got it has been pretty stable and level the whole time I was building even though the tires went flat. Now that I am finished building the little house, I want to get my tires checked and blown up or replaced, whichever is needed. Who would I get to come to my house and do whatever is necessary is my tires?

    • Frank Rodrigues September 29, 2012, 1:52 pm

      With the way our economy is these days, there are a numerable of people offering a trade for services on Craigslist. Check out the Bartering listing. You’d be surprised. The Mechanic can service your brake system as well. If you feel you need to rebuild your brakes, they can be purchased online in many different sites at a discounted rate. Basically, I would have all the parts required on hand before the mechanic shows up, to keep labor cost down. Or you can simply do it yourself, if you can build a tiny house, you certainly learn to replace your tires and brake system. just check out youtube for starters.

      Frank

    • Jeff September 30, 2012, 9:22 pm

      You can jack up the trailer, take the tires off and take them to a local les schwab or similar automotive facility if their is no mobile mechanics available. What helped me was calling around to different RV centers in the area and getting advise of this sort from them. They typically will help out a fellow “trailer owner”, even if ours are made out of ceder instead of metal. Hope this helps!

      -Jeff

  • Frank Rodrigues September 29, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Hello All !

    I’m a mechanic and I would simply jack the trailer completely off the ground and support it on temporary foundation blocks. Then, completely seal around the tires with a heavy mil plastic, to one keep them from being exposed to the uv rays, snow and mostley to keep critters from taking up residence in my brake housings !

  • Garth September 29, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Here in earthquakeland, I think I would want to leave the tires on in case a quake made the house fall off the jackstands or other leveling supports. Then the quake-induced fall would be no more serious than hitting a bump in the road during towing.

    We often see RVs or travel trailers with some kind of fabric covers over the tires to keep the sun off when they’re not going anywhere.

  • Nancy September 29, 2012, 7:09 pm

    Definitely protect tires from the sun. Nitrogen filling can help with air leaks. If you decide to block the trailer, contact a local mobile home center. They can level it, block it, and most importantly, strap it down so it doesn’t go flying in a bad storm. Be safe and enjoy your home.

  • EP September 30, 2012, 9:01 am

    Protecting Your Tires in Storage
    Unless you spend all of your time on the road, your RV will probably be parked in storage some of the time. That’s why it’s important to follow these steps to help protect your RV tires when you’re storing your vehicle:

    – Keep the vehicle in a cool, dry storage area out of direct sunlight or UV rays.
    – Place the vehicle on blocks to remove the weight from the tires. If the vehicle can’t be put on blocks, make sure the storage surface is firm, clean, well-drained and reasonably level.
    – Unload the vehicle so that minimum weight is on the tires.
    – Inflate tires to the recommended operation pressure plus 25%, but don’t exceed the rim manufacturer’s inflation capacity.
    – Thoroughly clean the tires with soap and water before storing them.
    – Move the vehicle at least every three months to help prevent ozone cracking and flat-spotting, but avoid moving it during extremely cold weather.
    – Adjust the tire inflation before putting the vehicle back into service.

    Keeping your RV’s tires properly inflated is the single-most important thing you can do to enhance performance and help extend the life of your tires. Improper inflation can cause issues and stress for the tire. Underinflation can cause poor handling, fast and/or irregular wear, decreased fuel economy or even disablement. Overinflation can reduce traction, braking ability and handling, as well as result in uneven wear and a harsh ride.

    For more information on Tiny Home Tire Maintenance Check out this article:

    http://thebonsaihouse.blogspot.com/2012/09/tiny-home-tire-care.html

    It addresses these concerns, plus:
    Tire Repair Or Replacement
    Mixing Tire Types
    Wheels And Ratings
    The Importance Of Tire And Wheel Balancing
    Wheel Alignment
    Routine Tire Inspections
    Cleaning Your RV Tires
    Adjusting Tire Inflation Pressure
    How To Check And Adjust Your RV Or Trailer Tire Pressure
    How Tire Inflation Pressure Affects Treadwear
    Determining Proper Tire Inflation
    RV Tire Service Life

  • Jeff September 30, 2012, 9:17 pm

    Hey Pamela, We have a Tiny that we have lived in a for a couple months now and bought heavy duty jack stands to place the house on. We have some garden pavers that the jack stands set on and have lifted the trailer off the ground a small amount to take pressure off of the tires. If you are in a somewhat secluded place I think it would be fine to take the tires off of the trailer. However, since a tiny house does draw quite a bit of attention, if you are in a more open place I would leave the tires on for curious code inspectors roaming the neighborhood. Hope this helps!

  • alice h October 2, 2012, 8:09 am

    When you do put a trailer/house up on blocks be careful where you place them and make sure the weight load is distributed evenly or at least the same way as the wheels would take it. If you just put blocks at the ends, as you might be tempted to do because it’s easier, it could leave the centre a bit too flexible. Even with a short trailer it could put too much stress on the structure and cause problems.

  • Brian Scobey October 2, 2012, 11:06 am

    One thing to keep in mind is that trailer tires and car tires are different. They are not interchangeable. Trailer tires have a stiffer side wall to keep the trailer from swaying during travel. Using car tires could lead to fish-tailing and swaying which can result in a serious loss of control.

  • john October 6, 2012, 11:42 am

    I never leave a stored trailer resting on the tires or suspension, wood or blocks are good for temporary or common trailers, but for a tiny home/ travel trailer being level and stable are important.
    Leveling jacks on each corner with large plates to stand the jacks on are important, i prefer to use plates the size of manhole covers down in Florida’s sandy soil, and recognize that may be overkill. Understanding the ground beneath your trailer and the wind/seismic events that may destabilize your home should be considered for long term parking.
    Wood and bricks are fin if done right, but wood will rot quickly in wet mud, and bricks don’t stay stable if wind rocks your home on a regular basis.
    Tires are the bain of any trailer or motor home…some are several years old just from sitting in a warehouse before selling…new tires are designed to break down quickly for environmental disposal reasons.
    I don’t have an answer for extending tire life beyond covering them from the sun…i would also never trust any tire that has been sitting unused for a year or so regardless of the tread life or appearance when moving something as heavy as a tiny home or travel trailer…blow outs are just too dangerous when towing heavy loads.
    Replace them every two years no matter the mileage or lack of…that’s how i would ensure the safety of my home while towing it…not a cheap move, but the alternative can be much more costly. Sell your used tires to offset the cost…

    • john October 6, 2012, 11:43 am

      Yes…i’m over reacting and overly cautious. but we’re talking about your home, not a landscape trailer or utility trailer.

  • Noel October 16, 2012, 3:49 pm

    I jack my house up on blocks when I’m parked up. Also I designed the chassis so that the house could be unbolted from it if I ever decide to put the house somewhere permanently and so the chassis could be used to build another house. There is 18 M20 high tensile bolts, 9 a side ( the house is 16ft long) holding the house to the chassis.
    Noel.

  • Peggy May 22, 2014, 8:47 am

    I am planning on investing in solid rubber tires.

  • Marsha Cowan May 22, 2014, 8:25 pm

    I recently sold my tiny house and am now fixing up a bus in which to live and drive on a daily basis. It is very short (4 windows short), and so easy to drive and great on gas (diesel), so it is going to be my home in which I go over the river and through the woods to my four children’s homes and visit. So my tires will be rolling every day, but if I had to park a tiny house, I would mAke sure the wheels were on some kind of pavement and covered with wheel covers.

  • Scott Coleman January 17, 2015, 7:04 am

    My concern is dealing with a flat tire while being out on the road. Is that something AAA can deal with? Just curious.

  • Chris May 30, 2017, 11:49 am

    I agree with Scott. Flat tire while transporting my tiny house is my number 1 concern. I’d hate to be changing it and have the house fall over.

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