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Friday, December 29, 2017

Too much pressure increase

Reading an RV forum thread on TPMS usage. One comment jumped out at me.

"I have a serious concern with the G rated tires on my 5th wheel trailer. When I run the cold max pressure at 110 PSI, I get TPMS readings up to 134 PSI rolling down the road. Lately, I have been running 95 PSI cold and am getting 115-119 PSI rolling. The tires and rims are rated for 110 PSI, I can live with 120 PSI, but the 134 PSI concerns me."

I replied that inflation ratings for wheels are based on a "cold" pressure. Increase in pressure due to operation is considered by manufacturers and I would not be concerned as long as the proper cold inflation is used along with appropriate limits on load and speed.
Tire wording "Max Pressure" can be confusing but in reality the pressure stated on the tire sidewall is the cold pressure needed to support the stated load and that load is the maximum load the tire should be subjected to. I advised the owner that he should NOT underinflate his tires and plan on operation temperature to increase the pressure. "Cold" pressure is the only pressure you should be concerned with.

Tire pressure increases by about 2% for each increase in temperature of 10F. If you don't remember the Science from High School you can read THIS post.. If you are seeing a 21% increase in pressure (110 > 134) that means you are seeing about a 100F increase in internal tire temperature, which I would consider a bit excessive for normal tire operation.

If you are seeing a 25% increase in pressure (95 > 119) then you are getting a 125F increase in temperature which indicates you are working the tires even harder . This extra "work" that is generating a greater temperature increase is not good for long term tire life. You are "aging" the tire rubber faster. Some might want to review this "Key Point" of tire life as covered in THIS post.

I cover these points on Temperature, Inflation and Aging in various posts on my RV tire blog.

Your temperature increase indicates you are possibly overloading your tires and also possibly driving faster than desirable for your tire loading.

You need to confirm your pressure is 110 psi AND that your gauge is giving an accurate reading at that level.

The poster then responded:
"Today drove 250 miles and my 95 PSI tires were running 115-119 PSI and the tire temps were at 20F above out side temp, 50 outside and 71 tire readings. I still contend that 134 PSI is way to dangerous for tires to run on 110 rated tires."

So I responded back:
 Few people realize that the pressure increase as a function of temperature is based on well established and confirmable Physics and that a TPMS is not reading the actual tire temperature  but is actually reading the temperature of the brass valve stem and the metal base of the TPMS itself, which is being cooled by outside air.

Air is a very good insulator and if you think about it, you have a small column of air running up the inside of the valve stem which makes it difficult for the heat to travel up the center of the stem and past the valve core itself all the while the valve is moving rapidly around being cooled by the outside air.

I am aware of laboratory tests that goes against what "common sense" might indicate. That being that the air inside a tire is not uniform in temperature but it is always cooler than the hot spots of a tire and it is the hot spots that can result in tire failing if hot enough for long enough.

I have no doubt that the TPMS was indicating only 20F above the cool 50F outside air temperature. If you are still concerned about the hot pressure of 134 on tires that have a cold pressure rating of 110 for its max load capacity rating.

As a tire design engineer with 40 years experience, I trust the science of the "Gas Law" and knowledge that air is an insulator and metal conducts heat from a hot source to a cooler one.
I don't know what to advise other than to decrease the operating load and speed and to confirm your hand gauge is accurate and to always inflate the tire when cold to 110psi, as continued operation at current load and speeds will certainly result in pressure reading that are above the cold pressure of 110 psi.


  1. Are you advising to always inflate to the max cold pressure printed on the tire? What about using the tire manufacturer’s inflation tables based on axle weight?

    1. I have covered my suggested inflation levels in numerous posts. Motorized vehicles need to run the inflation based on the heaviest loaded tire position on an axle plus a margin. I suggest the margin be +10%.
      Trailers will have better tire life if they the tire sidewall pressure as this lowers the Interply Shear forces. This force has been covered a number of times in this blog. Trailers also need to ensure their measured load is no greater than 85% of the max load stated on the tire sidewall.

  2. Thanks for all the great information on your site. I have read through many of your posts about hot tire pressures in particular, but I’m hoping to get your thoughts on a more specific example. How much pressure increase is reasonable in load range H (4805 max load) tires inflated to 122-125 psi CIP? I have tandem axles on a fairly heavy fifth wheel. All weights are within limits, but with the wheel-position weights, one of the four tires is carrying c. 4,700 lbs, which is 53% of the total for that axle. I know this violates your ‘85% of max load’ recommendation. However, I’m seeing up to 32-35 psi increases (to about 157-160 psi) after 3-4 hours on the road when in the sun. The heavily loaded tire reaches these ranges first, but the other three aren’t far behind, although accounting for shade, wind, etc. all four increase in psi and temps together fairly steadily throughout. The temperatures aren’t much higher than 30 degrees above ambient, but I’m really wondering if there’s a point I should be concerned about the pressure increases. I know you’ve said the tires are engineered to handle pressures up to 100% over max CIP (and elsewhere I think it’s noted as up to c. 200%), but just trying to find the threshold of when one should begin to be concerned. The tires are within specs, but close to the maximum. I can add to the CIP as you recommend, but I’m limited to only a couple of PSI before I hit the max CIP of 125 psi. Rims are rated to 130, but not sure I have the clearance for larger tires, that may be my best option.


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