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Friday, March 29, 2019

It appears Goodyear agrees with me

I have written a number of times on the advisability of running trailer tires at the inflation molded on the tire sidewall.

Some posts dove deep into the Science behind the recommendation. I know this can make your eyes glaze over so how about just following what Goodyear says in their RV Tires information web page:

"Unless trying to resolve poor ride quality problems with an RV trailer, it is recommended that trailer tires be inflated to the pressure indicated on the sidewall of the tire. Trailer tires experience significant lateral (side-to-side) loads due to vehicle sway from uneven roads or passing vehicles. Using the inflation pressure engraved on the sidewall will provide optimum load carrying capacity and minimize heat build-up."


Friday, March 22, 2019

Valve stems, cores, and caps "Oh My", and how tight is tight enough?

Yes, some rubber valve stems have a metal center and some valves are all metal except for a rubber gasket. The metal part of valves is almost always brass. Sometimes Nickle plated to look like chrome or to match aluminum wheels.

The two valves on the left are "Snap-In" rubber valves.  The two on the right are "Bolt-in" metal stems. By "Snap-In" we mean the valve is installed into the hole in the wheel by pulling on the threaded part of the brass until the small rubber ridge "snaps" through the hole.

The best way to know for sure is to look for a nut that "bolts" the stem to the wheel.  I would suggest a TR416 or similar as seen HERE from Auto Zone.  O'Riley's parts stores have a similar short stem.  You should be able to find similar in almost any auto parts store. These metal stems come in many lengths from less than an inch to 2" or longer (different lengths have different TR part numbers).  The hole in your passenger, trailer or light truck wheel is most likely 7/16"  Old VW wheels were 5/8" All 19.5 and 22.5 wheels should have come with a metal bolt in valves but those use the 5/8" rubber grommet/O-ring. Many metal stems sold at retail, come with two different rubber gaskets, one for each size hole. The gasket is just a snug fit and should just push into the wheel hole.

Note the nut has a torque spec of  25 - 45 INCH Pounds so do not over tighten the nut. I have found that a regular 9/16" wrench is just fine and you do not need a big ratchet wrench to tighten the nut.

Keep the stem short to lower the chance of the TPMS being knocked off if you get near a curb. There are some unique wheels that may require a bit longer stem to allow you to attach your TPM sensor. I suggest you have the sensors available when you install the bolt in stems to confirm sufficient clearance.

The main reason for metal stems when running TPMS is to prevent vibration of the stem which can fatigue the rubber stem.

While you are at the auto parts store be sure you have METAL valve caps. Plastic caps are IMO only good for keeping dirt and small birds out of the valve core area. Metal caps should have rubber "O" rings in them and can retain air if you are not running TPMS. Look in the thread end and you should see the gasket.

Each Fall, when I remove my TPMS for the Winter, I place metal caps on my stems. I will admit that one year I didn't do that and the valve core had a very slow leak but I ended up with a tire being damaged because it lost air over the 7 months between when I parked and when I was getting ready to go traveling.
I have a couple of posts that focuses on the valve cores. One on why they leak.

One detail is how to know how tight is enough for your valve cores. Over-tight can cause the small gasket to deform and even split and under-tight will result in a slow leak. After 40 years of installing valve cores I consider my fingers to be close to "calibration" but it would be better if you followed a specific procedure.

I did a test that may help. The spec for valve core torque is  1.5 to 5.0-inch pounds MAX  but I don't expect you to run out and buy a special inch-pound torque wrench as seen here.

To help you I devised this test. Using the test fixture I made when running my TPMS comparison I loosened a core till it leaked as seen here.

 Then using my torque wrench I tightened the core till the leak just stopped. I then continued to tighten the core till I reached about 1.5 Inch Pounds (this was 1/4 turn after the leak stopped) I then continued to tighten the core till I reached 5-inch pounds (This was 3/4 turn after the leak stopped)

  So I would suggest that you can simply tighten a core till the leak stops then rotate 1/2 turn more.

Here are sample core tools.
The one on the left is a "professional" tool but I have also used my home made core tool for many years. This is just an old scrap rubber valve stem with a cap that has the cut-out to fit a core.
I hope this helps you understand a bit more about valves and valve cores.


Friday, March 15, 2019

How much Reserve Load or "Headroom" is enough?

Following an RV forum discussion on How much extra load capacity or "Reserve Load" or "Head Room" is enough. Some folks had moved from LR-C to LR-D  others to LR-G but were concerned about running the tire sidewall pressure as it would be too hard on the trailer.

There was also some confusion about the "Maximum" allowable inflation.  I said:
"The inflation on a tire sidewall is the MINIMUM inflation pressure needed to support the MAXIMUM load (also molded o the tire sidewall).
There is a sound scientific reason to run higher inflation when running tires on multi-axle trailers. It is called "Interply Shear". This force is what can result in belt/tread separations. I have covered this in detail along with references to technical papers on the topic.
IMO you need a minimum of 15% "head-room" of load capacity over the measured load of the heavier end of an axle. (CAT scale only gives the total on an axle and very few RVs have 50/50 load split. Some folks have discovered unbalance of 500 to 1,000#)
Most cars come with 20% to 40% tire load capacity headroom. I run 25% on my Class-C.
Which resulted in this reply:
"So if a given pressure (below the tires maximum) still provides the necessary headroom over the measured load, it's okay to run it, correct? Or am I not understanding something? "

This leads me to respond:
"I wish it were that simple but all radial tires have the Interply Shear force. It's a question of how much "tire life" is being "used up". The force results in microscopic cracks forming between the two steel belts at the outer edge. Once cracks form they do not repair themselves but can only grow.
No good tool or math model can turn Shear Force into Miles of tire life is "consumed" as there are just too many variables.
Finite Element models simply indicate that higher inflation can result in lower shear force every time you turn a corner or every time a tire completes a revolution. 

About the best you can do is to do a close visual inspection (Free Spin) to look for signs or out of round or side to side runout which are strong indicators of internal structural tears. I have a video and pictures of the autopsy I did on a tire where you can see the separations running across 50% to 70% of the tread width. This large separation might run a thousand miles or under certain circumstances might fail tomorrow.
Think of it like your Blood Pressure. Higher is worse. So the question is at what number can you expect to have a fatal attack?
If you consult your owner's manual you will see a suggestion that 3 to 5 years is the max expected life but obviously someone that runs at or above Max Load and above 65 mph and drives 4,000 mi a year is more likely to suffer a failure than someone that only drives 2,000 mi, never faster than 62 and at only 80% of tire load capacity.
Moving up one Load Range C>D or D>E can probably expect longer tire life if they also go from 50 to 65 or 65 to 80 psi. Going to LR-G in a Commercial grade all-steel tire should result in longer life even if you don't run 110psi.
Since load capacity is shown in the Load/Infl tables then I would suggest trying to get to 20 to 25% Reserve Load would be a good move. You still need to watch max speed and minimize sharp turns (as seen when backing) and of course, do a good free spin inspection once a year or once every 2,000 mi whichever comes first. Plus run a TPMS to confirm you never run lower pressure than your goal

I realize this is a long winded post but hopefully, you can think about the ideas and concepts we are discussing.  Easy questions do not always get simple answers, Especially when talking about a complex topic.



Friday, March 8, 2019

Are ST tires the "Best" tires made?

One fact that many choose to ignore, or just don't think about, is that very few RV have the axle load evenly split between axles on trailers or end to end on any one axle. Some owners have learned that there can be upwards of 500# to over 1,000# load unbalance.

It takes more work and effort to learn the reality of YOUR RV tire loading. I and others have covered the how and where to learn the loads on each individual tire (usually not on CAT or similar truck scales).

Regulations are written based on the assumption that RVs have close to perfect weight balance but few owners will make the effort to learn the actual tire loads. Also, those sacred regulations fail to tell the trailer owners that they can expect to need to replace ST tires at 3 to 5 years usage based on the tire DOT serial.  You will see numerous complaints about tire failures but most can be traced to overload/underinflation and over-speed or other external damage.  There is no "magic" rubber in tires with "ST" on the sidewall but many seem to want to believe there is.

As a tire engineer I have yet to have anyone explain why or how ST tires should be expected to perform better than any other tire of the same size on the road, yet that is what some would have you believe based on their insistence that simply because a tire company makes such an ST tire with greater capacity than their premium LT line.  Where is the tire company that makes an ST tire, that will offer a warranty on their ST tires comparable to what they offer on their premium P or LT tires?

Friday, March 1, 2019

Optimum, Appropriate, Required Inflation ?

I have seen people use a variety of words to describe the inflation numbers on Vehicle Tire Placards.  These numbers are arrived at by different methods for different vehicles.

For cars and Light Trucks (1/2 ton), Tire pressure is almost always arrived at based on on-vehicle testing and evaluation by the engineers of the vehicle manufacturer in conjunction with the tire company engineers. There will be a number of evaluations done using prototype vehicles and requests will be made to the tire company to adjust ride, handling, noise and a dozen other objective and subjective qualities of the tires. Eventually, the desired compromise is arrived at with one of the variables being the placard inflation.

For most cars, the inflation is significantly higher than the normal expected GVWR. Many cars have reserve load 0f +20% to over + 30% of the normal vehicle loading. You will note that the tire placard for passenger vehicles do not show GAWR or GVWR.
Lightweight trucks (1/2 ton) will normally be treated more like a car but as you move the heavier vehicles Federal requirements kick in and by the time you get to HD 3/4 ton and certainly 1-ton units the GAWR & GVWR ratings become a higher priority.

RVs have different DOT requirements and also different Tire Placard requirements. Most RVs have the inflation specified based on just one criterion, that is load capacity.

DOT requires that the inflation specified to provide the load capacity of the tires when inflated to the specified level, be able to support half the GAWR.
RVIA in 2017 upped their requirement to requires to be capable of supporting 110% of the GAWR (IMO this is better but not enough).

So the bottom line is that for most RVs the inflation is basically the level needed to support 100 to 110% of the GAWR. But many RVs are not loaded to that level which means you can lower the inflation to achieve better ride as long as you don't end up with overloaded tires.

DOT doesn't trust the average driver to know the actual weight of the RV. They have done studies and discover that a significant portion of the population thinks they are OK but actually have tires in overload. So the DOT doesn't publish alternative inflation guidelines and RV companies follow what the government does.

It's just that simple.