April 28, 2016

Tire Pressure Monitoring

One of the TPMS sensors on the fifthwheel. It will generate an alarm if the pressure drops below 110 psi.
For the last five years, since beginning our fulltiming adventure, we have used a Tireminder TPMS to monitor the pressure in the fifthwheel tires. It actually saved the rig from extensive damage 3 1/2 years ago, when one of the original equipment GoodYear Marathon tires started to disintegrate (we replaced the Marathons with heavy-duty commercial tires).

We never bothered with monitoring the six tires on the truck. Because the truck is a heavy-duty dually, it was not equipped with factory tire pressure monitoring. In light of our problem with a screw puncturing a rear tire on this trip, I am rethinking this strategy. If we had received warning of pressure loss in the punctured tire, I would have immediately pulled over,  mounted the spare, and been on our way. The tire with the puncture would have been repairable for $30 at a tire shop.

As it happened, I was not aware that a rear tire was running flat until I detected a subtle change in road noise. By the time I investigated, we had put about 40 miles on the flat tire at highway speed. The pin weight of the fifthwheel was carried by the remaining tire on that side. This tire was overloaded with about 4500 lbs, when the maximum load rating of a single tire is 3100 lbs. Because of this, I would not trust the tire over the long term.

The end result is that two tires needed to be replaced, at a cost of about USD$400 installed. This was mitigated by the fact that the tires are about 80% worn, and due to be replaced this year. However, with new tires, I will be adding pressure monitoring capability before our next trip.

This can be accomplished by adding six more sensors to the existing TPMS, which will handle up to 20 tire sensors. What I need to decide is whether to add six new sensors at $30 each, or replace the entire TPMS with a newer, up-to-date system. The existing system has been mostly reliable, as long as the sensors are regularly maintained with new o-rings and batteries every year, and new plastic caps every couple of years (the caps crack after exposure to the elements).

This gives me something to consider over the summer. The reliability of our rig is important, as it is inherent to our lifestyle. Tires are the single most troublesome item for all RVers, and this will eliminate yet another potential problem area.

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