I had to ride on some pretty bad roads on my latest caravanning trip, so I felt it safest to check the condition of the tyres.
The tread wear was minimal, but there were some “wavy ripples”, particularly on the outer edges, which were more pronounced when I ran my fingers over them.
I contacted a friend with good knowledge of tyres, who diagnosed that the fault was caused by deterioration as they were over eight years old. This was confirmed by the large dealership where I replaced them. I was advised that nobody would issue a tyre warranty for more than three years, and that the industry standard for the usable lifespan is five years.
I became concerned about the possible effect that this could have on the many older – including “golden oldies” – caravans still being used, so I phoned my insurance company and spoke to a senior advisor. He told me that there were so many variable conditions that they did not have any specific regulations, but that the assessment of any claim would take the age and condition of the tyres into account. Another “grey” area discussed was that any insured item is expected to be maintained “with due diligence”, which, when the item is a caravan, implies regular inspection and servicing done by a “competent” person. This further implies that, in order to be classed as “competent”, the person should have sufficient knowledge to know when the tyres should be replaced, and that this includes the owner who does his own maintenance. He stressed that, in order to maintain their reputation for being “fair”, most of the reputable insurance companies train their assessors not to apply the regulations too rigorously; but the danger is that if an incident occurs in an outlying area where an outside assessor is called in, he may apply the rules strictly. The upshot of this, put plainly, is that if there is an accident away from home and the tyres are more than five years old, an insurance claim could be rejected, which could land you in deep trouble. It would be very difficult to challenge an adverse ruling legally as the insurer has a virtually watertight case regarding the age of tyres.
I hope that the technical staff of “our” magazine could verify my information, and, if there is any basis in fact, issue a warning to us owners of older caravans. But, please try to keep this away from our money-grabbing traffic officials, or we may find them jumping out of bushes to fine us for “old” tyres.
Ed: Hi Les, you raise a very important issue. We contacted Ian Lesar from Cara-Sure, who provides specialist insurance cover for leisure vehicles (Caravan, Off-Road Camper or Motorhome).
His response is below, but the bottom line is that the safest option for caravanners would be to have their tyres checked by a professional.
HERE’S WHAT IAN HAD TO SAY ON THE MATTER:
In short, tyres are not covered on their own, and tyre cover could be taken out independently from your motor/caravan policy. The conditions of SA roads do make it very difficult to provide ‘stand-alone’ cover for tyres in South Africa, and there is also the amount of fraud involved − people who take out insurance, replace their tyres, and then cancel the policy.
With regard to “insurance cover on tyres”, Cara-Sure cannot provide a blanket opinion on tyre cover for the South African Insurance Industry, as each insurer applies its own rule of thumb –it depends on the policy wording and the rates that were applied when the policy was issued.
If a Leisure Vehicle had been involved in an accident caused by a tyre, such as the tyre bursting because it was too old and had no tread or illegal tread, the Assessor / Investigator would be able to establish this and we would have the right to repudiate the claim. The onus is on the insured to make sure that the tyre is “roadworthy”. This is not necessarily related to age.
If the Leisure Vehicle had been involved in an accident which was not tyre related, but the tyres were damaged during the accident, the tyres would be covered. However, Betterment may apply: for instance, if the tyre thread was worn 50%, we would then indemnify you with 50%).
It is advisable to check your tyres and wheel nuts regularly, especially for the safety of your family, as they form the most important aspect of towing.
By Les Crusoe