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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Are tire pressure monitoring systems “TPMS” worthwhile?

The short answer in my opinion is YES.

TPMS are relatively new development for passenger cars and pick-up applications. A system for notifying the driver that one or more tires were significantly under-inflated was mandated after it was confirmed that a number of vehicle crashes and even some fatalities had occurred because tires failed due to being run while under-inflated. Today all new vehicles rated at 10,000 Lbs or less come with a warning light. Some look like this

Since all Class-A and most Class-C and Class-B RVs exceed that load limit there is no TPMS required to be provided by the manufacturer new on these vehicles. It is up to the owner to select a system that will notify the driver if a tire looses a significant amount of inflation.

Now some will say that they check their tires frequently. The reality is that even if you do check your inflation, with an accurate gauge, every morning before leaving a campground there is no way for you to know if you picked up a nail as you pulled out of the driveway. Given the significant cost associated with a tire failure on an RV what with body damage and possibly damage to one or more of your on-board utilities such as plumbing, generator etc.

I consider a TPMS a good investment and it was one of the first items I added to my RV when I bought it.

I am not in a position to recommend one system over another as I have not been able to do an evaluation of actual performance. There are aftermarket systems starting as low as $90 at TireRack.com. Doran Manufacturing, a long-time advertiser with RVtravel.com, has a comprehensive website with information about its system.

Other four sensor systems run about $250 while many six to 10 tire systems for RVs can run in the $400 - $700 range. Simply Google Tire Pressure Monitor System and look for the application that fits your needs.

Mark Polk wrote a nice piece on his experiences. I have seen a number of people post their experiences on some of the RV forums so I suggest you do some research before spending too much money only to discover the system you selected offered great marketing but maybe not the best hardware.

One item I would be concerned with is the accuracy of any temperature reading with a sensor that screws on the end of the valve with a hose extender. I have not seen any data that identifies the temperature difference between the tire and the sensor, or if it is significant. I have looked into the subject and am only comfortable with sensors that bolt into the valve hole with the sensor internal to the tire. The bad news is this costs more to install. If you keep an eye on the inflation and continue to confirm the TPM sensor pressure matches your hand held digital gauge, I don't think you really need to worry about the temperature as the chance of loosing air at the rate that matches the increase of pressure due to increasing temperature of the remaining air is a low probability.

If the sensor matches your digital gauge +/- 2 psi or less you are probably just fine. If you do have temperature readings I would get concerned if I saw a temperature reading exceed 170F assuming the sensor is accurate to +/- 5F or less.

Bottom Line. I very strongly recommend all RV owners have some system of notifying the driver when a tire looses air. With the exception of a failure of the sidewall due to some damage, you will almost always get enough advance warning to save you the expense of damage to your RV. You might even be able to have the tire repaired if you stop soon enough and have not lost too much air and damaged the tire. Just one warning could pay for the system.

Finally having a TPMS is not a substitute for checking your inflation before each trip. I have read of some people having the TPM sensor fail for as we know nothing is perfect. Better safe than sorry when it comes to having sufficient inflation to carry the load in your RV.

3 comments:

  1. One way to monitor the approximate temperature is by watching how far the tire pressure increases as you drive.

    On my MH I kept my tire pressure at 110psi and in hot weather at 55-60mph the pressure would go to 120-125psi. While driving, every 30 minutes to an hour, I would cycle the monitor through all the tires looking for any tire(s) which had higher pressure thab the others. If one tire pressure was somewhat higher than the other, I knew something was wrong and I needed to stop and find out what was causing it. I could also detect a slow leak well before the monitor would alarm. The monitor isn't going to alarm until the tire gets about 10% below 110psi (about 99psi) but since my tires, while driving, are about 120psi the monitor won't alarm until the pressure drops about 20%.

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  2. Al & Sharon
    You are right on with your approach. I feel that monitoring the pressure is a bettery way to know what's going on rather than waiting for the temp alarm to go off. I like your using a comparison of the hot pressure for all tires as they should all go up about the same amount. If ones does go higher then you have reason to believe something is different with that tire positon.

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  3. I'd say you do recommend a TPMS. Your blog is sponsored by TireTracker.

    ReplyDelete

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