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Monday, June 27, 2016

Quick TPMS test and a couple of tips.

As the use of TPMS in the RV world continues to spread, I am noticing a number of comments on usage, pressure and temperature accuracy and general reliability of different systems.

I am in the process of making a test fixture to allow calibration check of pressure and possibly of temperature reporting also. I hope to have the first round of testing in a few weeks. I have a target of offering a "TPMS Pressure Test" in August in West Springfield at the FMCA Reunion for folks to learn the actual accuracy of their individual system. I will collect and report the findings in Sept.

As I do some initial runs, I am noting some interesting results and readings that need additional investigation as I am not always seeing numbers that I am expecting. This is especially true when it comes to temperature readings.

One thing I have learned is that it might be a good idea for everyone to do one test on their own unit.

With all tires properly inflated you can confirm that your system can provide a quick response and that your monitor is receiving the radio signal properly. With someone watching the monitor, go and quickly unscrew the sensor and have the person watching the monitor beep the horn as soon as the sensor issues its warning. Hopefully you will see that your system consistently reports the loss of pressure the sensor is seeing in one or two seconds.

Be sure to securely re-attach the sensor and maybe even give it a little squirt of soapy water or even Windex to check for leaks. I certainly do not want anyone reporting back that they had a tire failure because they lost air due to a loose sensor.

A side note. My sensors, and I believe many others do, have an "O" ring seal around the battery chamber. As with any device containing a battery that is exposed to water, I give the battery chamber a little squirt of WD-40 to help prevent corrosion of electrical components. You might take this opportunity to also inspect the "O" ring for tears or cracks. Don't forget this little rubber piece ages just as rubber tires do. I keep a couple spare "O" rings on hand just in case. Your TPMS supplier should have a package of replacements for a nominal fee or you can pick up some at your next RV convention or show.

 If you have a monitor that is small and portable, I suggest you not carry it around with you as one of the features we want to test is the ability of the monitor to receive the signal over the distance from the tire to the location you have mounted the monitor. This would especially be important for those monitoring sensors on a toad. You don't have to actually hook up the toad but at least park it in an appropriate location and distance behind the RV.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

"Why do I need a TPMS?"

I occasionally run into folks who say "I check the air in my tires every morning and at every fuel stop so I don't need a TPMS." I might then ask if they have an oil pressure gauge or warning light on their dash. After all, they can check the engine oil every morning and at each fuel stop. How about an engine temperature gauge?  Same follow-up about checking the water in the radiator.

TPMS were mandated in all cars and light trucks back in 2002 with a 3-year roll-in. The primary reason for this was the abysmal record of people simply ignoring tire inflation. This despite the news at the time of hundreds of fatalities being traced to tire failure due to low air pressure.

While the regulations exclude vehicles with gross weight over 10,000 pounds or trailers, where most of the RV market resides, it didn't take long for aftermarket units to hit the market and for smart RV owners to start adding this important safety device to their unit. Yet almost every day I read a post on one of the various RV forums I monitor from owners complaining that they had a tire failure.

I have written more than 30 times about tire failure and the real causes. IMO almost all tire failures in RV application can be traced to one of three causes:

1. Tread Separation -- Which is a condition where the belts and tread separate from the body of the tire. This takes months and thousands of miles to develop and grow to the point of coming apart. This condition can many times be discovered with good tire inspection effort and practice by the RV owner.

2. Run Low Flex Failure or more commonly called a sidewall blowout. This failure can develop in only a few miles and much less than an hour, so the loss of air is seldom discovered when the RV owner does a walk-around visual inspection or even daily check of inflation of the tires. This condition can be prevented with the use and proper set-up of a TPMS.

3. Impact Break can occur when a tire is run over a curb, across a large pothole or even just hitting some road trash. While a TPMS cannot prevent the break, there is a good chance that as soon as air loss occurs, the TPMS would inform the RV owner so he can pull over sooner rather than later and not have to depend on some passing motorist to flag him down by pointing to the disintegrating tire. This may reduce the damage to the RV and save some money.

I believe that some RV owners may have failed to look at the cost of a TPMS, which can be less than  $99 for a 4-tire system as seen on eBay with only the most basic of features. A much better system for 6-tire RV application is the brand I bought from TireTraker. The cost needs to be balanced against the cost of replacing a tire or tires plus the potential of hundreds to thousands of dollars by avoiding  RV damage. A TPMS can also help avoid finding yourself along the side of an Interstate trying to change a tire. In some circumstances and with a better system, the TPMS may provide sufficient advance warning to allow the driver to continue, at reduced speed, to a location where there is more room and it is safer to pull over.

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