Sunday, September 3, 2017

TPMS: What Is It and Do I Need One?

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A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is an electronic system that gives you the ability to see specific data about your tires while in motion. There are a few points of data that are the leading indicators of tire failure, and if you have a monitoring system that gives you this information in real time then you can avoid certain troubles.
First, a TPMS will give you the PSI of each tire on your RV, tow vehicle, travel trailer, or whatever vehicle you have. The second piece of data that a good system will give you is the temperature of each tire position. If either of these points of data gets out of your specification, then the monitoring system would alarm you so that you can get off of the road and resolve the issue before it becomes a bigger issue. Driving a motorhome or a truck that is pulling a trailer can be a great experience, but it can turn bad quickly if there is tire failure.
A TPMS works by placing a small sensor on each tire valve stem. These sensors will simply screw on the threads of your existing valve stems; installation is easy. Each sensor is programmed to a particular tire position. This system then transmits the data of each tire to a monitor that sits with the driver. The driver can see the data of each tire at a quick glance, and if there are any issues with the tires then the system will alarm you. A monitoring system should allow you to set your own parameters that you want to be alarmed at, and of course it should alarm if there is a rapid pressure loss. There are a lot of brands on the market such as Tire Minder, TST, EEZ tire and more. As full time RVers, we have tested many systems and hands down the best on the market is the TST TPMS.
TechnoRV only sells the TST brand, as we have tested them and use them ourselves with great success. TST uses high quality GE circuitry, double insulated sensors, the display shows the temp and PSI on the same screen, and the monitor auto-scrolls so you can see the data without having to push buttons while driving. TST offers both cap sensors and flow thru sensors, and all sensors have anti-theft components. We have put over 25,000 miles on our TST system with absolutely no issues.
The TST 507 Cap Sensor is only 1 inch tall by 1 inch wide and has sturdy brass threads. The sensor weighs in at only 13 grams, so no balancing of your tires is necessary. The sensor has a user replaceable battery (CR1632) that should be changed about once every year.
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You can get batteries at TechnoRV, and you can also watch battery changing videos on TechnoRV’s YouTube channel. The cap sensor is double insulated, and has an anti-theft component. Because of the anti-theft measure, you simply use a provided tool to put the sensor on the valve stem, and if someone tries to remove the sensor without the proper tool the sensor will just spin. The cap sensor easily screws onto the valve stem of any tire and broadcasts the PSI and temperature to the TST monitor. The sensor is pressure activated, not motion activated; this means as soon as you turn on the monitor, it will start broadcasting data. The anti-theft component can be removed to make the sensor only ¾ of an inch. Without the anti-theft component, you can put the sensor on and off with just your fingers. The 507 cap sensor cap be used with any type valve stem. If you are using aluminum valve stems then be sure to use some anti-seize lube on the threads of the stem to prevent the brass and aluminum from seizing together; this will not occur with other types of metal.
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The TST Flow Thru Sensor is 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, and weighs in at only 17 grams, so no balancing of the tire is necessary when you add these either. The flow thru sensor allows you to air up your tires thru the sensor, without taking the sensor off of the valve stem. The sensor has sturdy brass threads and comes with a user replaceable battery. The battery needs to be changed about once every year and uses the same CR1632 battery as the cap.
The flow thru sensor can only be used on metal valve stems; do not use on rubber valve stems as the extra length can create too much stress on the rubber. The flow thru sensor has a anti-theft screw that locks the sensor to the valve stem. The flow thru sensor easily screws onto the metal valve stem of any tire and broadcasts the PSI and temperature to the TST monitor. The sensor is pressure activated, not motion activated, this means as soon as you turn on the monitor it will start broadcasting data.

Which sensors do we recommend?

TechnoRV recommends cap sensors for tow vehicles and smaller towables. Usually cars and smaller towables will have rubber valve stems and shallower wheels so the lower profile cap sensors are better for this. The flow thru sensors are great on larger RV tires that have metal valve stems and deeper wheels. You can mix and match these sensors; for example, we use flow thru sensors on our motorhome and cap sensors on our tow vehicle. The only other thing to consider is whether or not you need a signal booster for the sensors. The signal booster is called a repeater. Generally speaking, if you are over 35 feet in length, then you need to add the repeater to help boost the signal from the back sensors to the monitor.

Why do you need a TPMS for your RV?

Tire failure can end a family trip in an instant. Tire failure can cause a great deal of damage to your RV, and the safety of you and your passengers would immediately be at risk if there was a failure.
  • Truck and travel trailer or 5th wheel – Towables are not known for their quality of tires that come from the manufacturer. Proper tire pressure is crucial for ensuring that the load you are carrying is done so safely. Each tire manufacturer will tell you the proper tire pressure for the load you are putting on the tires. The problem with towables is that the driver can have a blow out on the travel trailer and not even know it. There are countless stories of RVers that did not know they had a failure until someone pulled up to them and told them. Once the tire starts to come apart then it will certainly cause damage to the underside of any towable, and the repair bills will start to pile up. This is the one set up that I cringe the most when I see someone without a TPMS. From the smallest pod to the largest 5th wheel, these are the RVers that should be lined up to get a TPMS system.
  • Motorhome with or without a tow vehicle – Large or small, motorhomes are heavy. Everything is riding on the tires and when you add a tow vehicle you have doubled the potential problems. Just like the towables, you can have a tow car tire failure and not even know it. We have even heard stories of tire failure that was left unidentified until it literally caught the car on fire. You just can’t take the chance of not knowing what is going on with your tires.
If you have a TPMS, then you would be notified of the leading indicators of future tire failure which is high or low PSI, and temperature increases. Low tire pressure is the enemy to the life of a tire. Low pressure causes more heat on the tire and high heat can ultimately cause tire failure. Extended periods of low PSI will certainly decrease the life of your tires. So, a TPMS can not only notify you of potential tire failure to come, but can also increase the life of your tire by ensuring you are at the proper PSI at all times. In addition, proper tire pressure can lead to better fuel mileage, which is the added bonus. Whether you are a full-time RVer or a weekender, a TPMS can save your tires and prevent a great time from turning into a nightmare.