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Friday, September 21, 2018

How to take good pictures of a tire tread (Not too technical I hope)

I occasionally  see posts from folks complaining about some tread or sidewall condition but either they can't properly describe the condition or if they have pictures the image is too small, poorly lit or from too far away to allow proper inspection of the condition for me or others to help and offer an opinion.
I recently wrote this post:
Some general guidelines and suggestions for taking good pictures of tire conditions.

Full sunlight and NO flash.
Set the camera to maximum pixels or max quality
Take close enough to only include 8" to 10" of the tire surface. Closer if you have a camera that allows "Macro" or close-up.
If all you have is a phone you need a minimum of 10 Megapixles.
Only use "Optical Zoom" not digital zoom if possible.

Here is an example of a good quality tire picture that would allow someone to make a judgement on a tread surface complaint.

The following, while showing an obvious problem really would not be good enough to show a sidewall or tread cracking complaint.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Do you have to replace valve stems when installing TPM sensors?

Got this question on an RV forum:
"I understand from the thread that you should use metal tire stems with TPMS caps. The ends of the tire stems on our trailer are metal with the only visible rubber part right where they go through the wheel. I am guessing these are still considered rubber stems and should be replaced prior to installing TPMS?"

"Metal" stems can be a bit misleading as some newer stems may have some brass showing. I posted pictures on THIS post showing standard passenger rubber valve, a "bolt-in" metal valve, and a new style rubber/brass valve.
When it is recommended that "metal" stems be used, what is actually meant is "bolt-in". You will see the nut that retains the bolt-in stem on the outside of the wheel for most of these stems.

The concern is that over time (months or maybe years) the extra weight of TPM external sensors may cause some vibration and movement of the rubber stem body which might result is a failure of the rubber portion of the stem.

I am not aware of any testing done on the new style rubber/brass stems with a TPM sensor screwed on, so I and others are erring on the side of caution when we recommend "bolt-in" metal stems.

Cracking and failure of the rubber part of valve stems is another time & temperature aging thing, just as it is with your tires. You visually inspect your tires monthly, as outlined in your RV  owner's manual, so just include the rubber part of your valves and just as you would replace your tires when signs of significant signs or aging (cracks) are found do the same with your valves. 

You could consider running your current valves until you get new tires and at that point have the bolt in valves installed. In the meantime, I would take a close look at your stems when doing your monthly visual inspection. You can push sideways a bit on the rubber/brass stem and look for any cracks. If you find any, that would mean you need to replace them sooner rather than later.