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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Is monitoring tires "Rocket Science?"


I get asked this question quite a bit. I think that after reading various posts on tire inflation and load, some people want to complain a bit and are hoping to use the excuse that it is too much work to monitor tire pressure every travel day.

Here is an example from a trailer owner:

"I've noticed that 50 psi cold at sea level at ambient 65F is 54-55F at 6,000 to 7,000 feet.
  While touring should I deflate to 50 psi cold at 7,000 feet if I'm hanging around there for a day or two
?"


I am hoping that if I share my personal experience, it will provide a down to earth view on the topic that some want to turn into "Rocket Science"

I just finished a two-month cross-country trip.  Ohio > Oregon > Seattle  > Calgary, Canada > Yellowstone > Ohio in my Class-C MH with LT type tires that are 7 years old but have always been covered whenever parked for more than a couple of days, Always running inflation about 15 psi above what is needed for actual max load based on 4 position scale weights that are confirmed to have not changed significantly each year with a trip across CAT scales.
 Fastest I ever run is 70 mph but most of the 7,400 mile trip was with cruise set at 62mph. In other words, the tires have had a good life with good care.

Elevation ranged from about 25' at Olympic Nat Park to 8,000'+ in Rockies. Morning temperature ranged from 33 F to 94 F. I have TPMS (both internal and external) so I am able to constantly monitor both pressure and temperature.

I adjusted the tires once during the trip. I think I needed to add from 1 to 4 psi in the 6 tires. Since I run a nice inflation cushion of +25% I don't get all bent out of shape when the cold inflation is off by 3 to 5 psi from my goal.

You don't have to make the task of monitoring inflation a big deal. While I may set my pressure to +/- 0.5 psi, you certainly don't need to be that fanatical, and I would consider it completely acceptable to be +/- 2% for  the average user as long as the "goal" cold inflation has an appropriate safety margin.

With TPMS I simply hit the button a couple times a day and get a real time reading of tire temperature and pressure. Yes, the temperatures vary and so do the pressures, but unless I see a sudden drop in pressure and there have been no external changes such as a sudden rainfall or one side constantly hotter than the other after spending hours with one side in full sun, I just do not worry about it.

Relax.  Let your TPMS monitor your tires and enjoy the scenery.

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2 comments:

  1. PLEASE do not install the valve stem tire monitoring sensors UNLESS you have metal, not rubber, valve stems. Though this is a suggestion by some vendors, it should be a requirement. I experienced two valve stem failures. one of which was at highway speed and could have been catastrophic. The sensors weigh about 1/2 ounce and as a tire rotates, exerts centrifugal force which deforms the base of a rubber valve stem. This can lead to a gradual loss of pressure and in my case, a complete failure which could have lead to complete loss of control. The tires were Michelin with 15,000 miles on a 3/4 Ton Dodge Ram diesel towing a 6,000 lb trailer. The system works great, but PLEASE convert your tires to metal valve stems before installing.

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  2. Good observation and comment. It is too bad that so many vehicle MFG cut corners to save a few pennies. Standard rubber valves are rated 65 psi Max. So when the tire requires 65 they feel it is OK to use a "snap-in" valve. Read my post on What valve to use from January 23, 2013 for more details.

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