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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"Care and feeding" of your valve stems

I suggest that if you are looking for long "bent" metal stems you ONLY get them installed by a Truck Tire store. Preferably not just a "dealer," as anyone can sell tires, but a "company store" that is owned by a tire company or a store that is part of a large chain, as they are more likely to have a selection and actual training on proper installation of long truck valve stems. The shop should have the proper tool for bending the long brass stems without cracking them, if bending is needed.

With long stems it is also important to remember to not just press the air chuck or pressure gauge onto the end when adding air or checking pressure as you can generate a lot of force on the joint between valve and wheel. Always support the stem or hose extension with your other hand even if the stem or hose has a hard mounting, as you can loosen the mounting point too.

There are specifications for torque of the metal nut for bolt-in valve stems. (25 to 45 inch pounds) This is especially critical on your car or truck if it came from the factory with an internal Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Many of the internal TPMS are made of aluminum for light weight and as such have very low torque specs. It is easy to break the aluminum nut or, even worse, the stem itself – which could cost you $50 to $100 to replace.

"Tire Review", a trade magazine for tire dealers, had an article on TPMS sensors and they point out the following:

"What is the torque value required for the nut?
Typical torque values for the base nuts on a TPMS valve stem range from as low as 35 in.-lbs. of torque to as much as 80 in.-lbs. of torque. That’s quite a range. This doesn’t mean that any torque value within this range is acceptable. It means that the torque specifications for the base nut on one vehicle might re­quire 44 in.-lbs., another might re­quire exactly 62 in.-lbs., yet another might specify exactly 71 in.-lbs., and so on. Don’t guess. Look up the torque specifications for the vehicle you’re servicing to make sure you use the correct torque.

Why should the nut be replaced every time a sensor is serviced?
The nut is made of a softer metal than the stem, so it will be damaged – not the sensor – if it’s over-tightened. The material of choice is typically aluminum. If the nut is over-tightened, it will develop hairline cracks."

NOTE: Those specs are INCH-Pound, not your normal Foot-Pounds. Here is a picture of my TPMS Inch-pound Torque Wrench.

Standard "metal bolt-in valves" also have specs for the nuts and those valves are usually brass or plated with nickle or chrome. I am not aware of any stainless steel valve stems for regular automotive use. There are some aluminum bolt-in stems too, but those are expensive lightweight units made for race car application which would not normally be sold without being identified as such.

Even valve core have a spec (2 to 5 in-lb) as there is a tiny gasket that can be distorted and even broken if you over-tighten the core. There are some special tools. But rather than buy some special tools I suggest you tighten core till air stops, add no more than 1/4 turn more, then confirm no air leak by testing with soapy water. When no bubble forms the core is tight enough. I then attach the metal valve cap to ensure no air is leaking. There have been a few cases of slow leak through the valve core that ended up as a tire failure as no metal cap was used. The cap is primarily intended to keep dirt out of the core area but is also a "backup" on preventing air lost past the core.

Whenever "messing" with your valve it's always a good idea to confirm there are no leaks with a quick spray of soapy water.


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