Another Exploding ST Tire

Dec 20140Tires
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Photo of our rig a few hours after this story

On Dec 30, 2014 the wife and I weighed our rig at St George, SC at a Flying J truck stop. We had a full load of diesel fuel, 1/2 tank of DEF, Honda generator in the back of the truck full of fuel, me, the wife and Teddy the cat in the truck. Ruby the Goldwing was in Vickie the Cougar toy hauler and we had full tank of fresh water. I wanted to get an accurate weight for our rig fully loaded.

The truck has a 6,000 lb front axle, a 7,000 rear axle, GVWR of 12,300 lbs and a GCWR of 25,000 lbs. Vickie the Cougar toy hauler has two 5,200 lbs axles with load range E tires rated for 3520 lbs each. I had checked all tires before leaving the Raleigh, NC area and all tires has 80 PSI.

Jan 4, 2015 Sun 11:19 AM EST

Referencing the certified scale receipt I had 640 lbs of reserve on the truck front axle, 1,300 lbs of reserve on the rear axle, 1,240 lbs of reserve on GVWR and 3,680 lbs reserve on the truck GCWR. For the toy hauler I had 140 lbs reserve on the two axles combined and 920 lbs reserve on EACH of the ST trailer tires on the toy hauler. I keep a travel log and we had 5500 miles on the toy hauler tires in 9 months at this point.

Axle rating sticker on side of toy hauler.
Jan 4, 2015 Sun 10:54 AM EST
Jan 4, 2015 Sun 10:54 AM EST
Each of the 4 ST trailer tires could carry 3520 lbs at 80 PSI.

A few hours later at 1:00AM on Dec 31 with the cruise control set at 64 MPH, we had a catastrophic tire explosion on the curb side front axle of Vickie the Cougar toy hauler near Darien, GA. We were extremely fortunate. We were in the middle lane with no traffic on either side. No motorcyclists or small cars had to dodge flying pieces of tire rubber and steel belts. We easily got onto the shoulder to do a quick triage. Yep, it was bad.

However in just a few seconds it was obvious we were very lucky.

  • The damage was confined to the right side.
  • All the valves and plumbing for the waste tanks are on the left side and were undamaged.
  • The metal propane pipe running along the frame was undamaged.
  • Only one tire exploded and we had a spare.
  • We had tools, an air compressor and generator for power.
  • Traffic was very light and we were in the middle of nowhere. We were not downtown during rush hour with tight or no shoulders.
  • The temperature was very pleasant.
  • There was a large flat grassy shoulder.
We pulled further off the road for safety and got to work. I have 4 bright LED lights on Vickie the Cougar toy hauler and I turned those on along with the flashers. Laurie became the traffic watcher to make sure no one hit us and I placed three triangular reflectors behind us at the edge of the road as a warning to oncoming traffic.

Wooden blocks, a bottle jack, the proper tools and a torque wrench soon had the spare tire installed. I could not get the jack under the axle so I had to put it under the frame. That meant I could not get the axle high enough to remove the tire. But with a small shovel I soon dug a trench under the tire so that was a non issue.

I believe in always being prepared. I had all these tools with me along with several more wooden blocks of various sizes.
Initial triage. This is bad.
Exploded tire, showing damage and the spare tire underneath the toy hauler.
Spare installed and a trench dug under tire because I could not get the axle high enough. Note the wooden blocks and the bottle jack.
The valve stem was still intact so that was not the cause of the explosion.
Dec 31, 2014 Wed 8:33 AM EST Alt: 41
Dec 31, 2014 Wed 8:34 AM EST Alt: 41

In just over half an hour we were on the road again. Having the proper tools made this a minor break down. At the next exit we found a place to sleep for a couple of hours.

I hate ST tires and knew one day I would have to replace the tires on this 5th wheel. But they were 16 inch tires, load range E and running at 75% of rated capacity. I thought I would get a couple of years out of them first. The tire that exploded was a Trailer King ST235/80 R16 "Special Trailer" tire rated for 3520 lbs and MADE IN CHINA.

I had this same problem in 2002 with Carlisle "Special Trailer" tires so I knew what to do. You can read about that explosion here and how I solved that problem with 16 inch rims and Michelin LT truck tires here.

Our rig already has 16 inch rims so I only had to replace the tires. I pulled up my web site blog about my previous tire troubles to find the replacement tires I had used then, Michelin LT245/75R16 load range E tires which I knew would fit my rims. The Michelins have a 3,042 lbs weight rating so I will still have 442 lbs of reserve for each tire with my 5,200 lbs axles.

I am a loyal customer of Discount Tire and I located one about an hour south of our location in Jacksonville, FL and called them the next morning. They had four of the Michelins and although they had no open appointments, I was told to come in anyway. We did and in less than two hours, four brand new Michelin LT truck tires were on Vickie the Cougar toy hauler and we left our tire problems behind us. I remain a loyal Discount Tire customer. This particular location was:

Discount Tire
Rae E Huckleberry
560 Skymarks Dr.
Jacksonville, FL 32218
(904) 757-6760

The good people at Discount Tire replacing the tires. Note the damage to the metal.
Dec 31, 2014 Wed 11:48 AM EST Alt: 42
Discount Tire
I will never, ever own another vehicle with ST tires. These tires were properly maintained while in my possession, never over loaded and the tire pressure was checked before every trip. There was lots of tread remaining, it was wearing even and the valve stem was intact in the rim. This tire simply exploded.

And for those that say they would never put LT tires on a RV, I put about 50,000 miles on these same size Michelin LT tires on my previous Wildcat 5th wheel from 2003 until Apr 22, 2011 when I traded the Wildcat for a Copper Canyon. The LT tires were still on it. You can read about the actual miles traveled, nights spent on the road and see photos of our various rigs over the years here.

I don't know if Trailer King will compensate me for the damage. If they do I will update this blog. There was damage to the metal skirt and two metal wall supports attached to the frame. The black fabric above the tires was ripped out along with the insulation and the bare wood of the sub floor is showing above the tires. On the side of the camper are scratches and rubber scuffs.

EDIT Trailer King did compensate me nearly $3,000 for the damage. The process took over a month but was not difficult. For proof I simply pointed them to this blog. They did not have any questions. I think the receipt from the scales showing I was not overloaded was a big deal.

Jan 4, 2015 Sun 11:01 AM EST
Jan 4, 2015 Sun 11:02 AM EST
Jan 4, 2015 Sun 11:02 AM EST
Jan 4, 2015 Sun 11:03 AM EST
Jan 4, 2015 Sun 11:03 AM EST
Jan 4, 2015 Sun 11:04 AM EST

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© Bobby Daniel