Tuesday, January 5, 2016

RV Airhead

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We spent a fortune on a tire monitor for our motorhome that is more hassle than it's worth. It works half the time and I am not sure it is even accurate.

My wife thinks I wasted money on a device that makes me more nervous with bad readings than if I didn't know at all what pressure changes were taking place.

Did I just get a lemon? Should I even worry about tire pressure? Am I being too cautious/paranoid? ----Airhead in Arizona

Dear Airhead:
The backbone of these devices seems to be the batteries that let them communicate. The valve relays power off those expensive little watch batteries. The main relay should be able to connect to your coach battery banks or run off AA batteries.

Ninety percent of the time it turns out to be a power issue that breaks communications between relays and monitor. I would suggest checking all of your batteries, possibly replacing them, then fire everything up and see what happens.

Since you have already invested your hard earned money in a system, why not benefit by it. Don't get frustrated. Get to know your system. Make sure you read and understand the manual, contact the manufacturer if you have questions, or hook up with a dealer that can fine tune and run you through the process of initializing.

If you are hauling a toad, it will save you a lot of money if you can see a problem before it gets critical. Same goes for the coach. If you can notice a low tire before it goes flat you will save yourself the danger of a blowout and the cost of a new tire damaged by running on low pressure.

One problem averted could pay for the entire system. Also, when working properly it will give you peace of mind. You would be amazed at how far you can haul a toad with a flat before you realize you have a problem. It can be very expensive, causing tire, wheel, strut or body damage in a very short distance.

So become an expert "Airhead."

--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink


Dan said...

Not all tire pressure monitors are equal. Five years ago I bought the tire monitoring system Camping World sold. It would not work no matter what was tried. First time setup took 3 hours to complete then 15 minutes into a trip a total pressure loss alarm went off, stop to check it out, nothing wrong and it wouldn't re-set. Second time trying to set the system the sensors wouldn't calibrate. Less than 3 months old and many calls to the manufacturer with no luck, I replaced it with a TST unit. No regrets and it works real good. Good response from the manufacturer and very glad I switched.

Sue and Brian said...

We have had two TPMS systems. We find regular inspection as important as regular checking of tire pressure was before TPMS. I don't mean daily or weekly but at least monthly. With monitor in hand I go to each tire position and loosen the cap device to see that the monitor shows that pressure reading going to zero and then tighten the cap to see that the position returns to the previous pressure reading. This tells me the device is working and the battery is OK. I have also set all my tire pressures using the same tire pressure gauge on each tire and then checking that pressure against what it shown for that position on the monitor. In my experience the monitor does not read the same as the pressure gauge so I write down the pressure the monitor shows. Example - front right 110 lbs on pressure gauge but 112 on TPMS - so I write 112 for that position and know it is really 110. Doing this with each tire tells me exactly what my TPMS should read to have the correct pressure in each tire. Once this is done I just need to run the occasional check of the system mentioned above and I should be good to go.

Unknown said...

Check with manufacturer, maybe you need a buster.

Bill said...

Our system, the Tire Tracker, generates a lot of false alarms, but it also has warned us of problems several times prior to their becoming crises. We have gotten used to the false alarms and are very, very happy to have gotten the warnings of low pressure early enough to add air, and once the Tire Tracker went off immediately when a tire blew on our trailer, which let us know there was a problem before the flapping tire caused more damage. Nothing is prefect, but using one of these is worth the occasional aggravation. My spouse says I'm occasinally aggravating also, but she says she'll keep me anyway.

Anonymous said...

I also chose to do without a tire pressure monitor after having purchased one. Every time I stopped for fuel, I had from one to three monitors show low pressure and the alert would sound for 15-20 minutes before shutting up. I had a blowout and after sitting on the side of the road for an hour waiting on Good Sam Roadside Service, the monitor still showed 69 lbs. of air in the shredded tire. I contacted the dealer and was sent a new monitor and three new tire sensors, but the problems still persisted. After much heated discussion, I returned the tire monitor system for a full refund. Now a happy traveler again.

Fred said...

I've had a tpms system for several years, have read a lot about the different brands, and have read a lot of complaints about the accuracy and reliability of tpms systems. I think the biggest problems with tire pressure monitoring systems are two fold. As you mentioned battery usage and frequent replacement can be a hassle, especially on dually tires. But the biggest problem is the industry itself has created a false expectation of accuracy. The real benefit of a tpms system is relevancy, not accuracy. It is nearly impossible to get all of your tires set and kept at an exact pressure setting. The settings are constantly changing due to temp, humidity, sunshine on a tire, angle the rv is setting at, and other issues. The tpms systems are designed primarily to let you know of a relative change in pressure or temp over time as you travel down the road. If you've set the alarm parameters properly, the unit will let you know if there is an unusual or dramatic change in the settings which would indicate a problem. But if the initial settings vary from tire to tire by 2-5 lbs, it's not a big deal. You're only looking to warned of dramatic changes, so you can stop before a violent blowout or permanent damage is done to a tire from travelling long distance on a low/high pressure tire. Like any electronic device, they can be a little intimidating trying to set up and use them. But don't get hung up on maintaining absolute accuracy. It's simply an early warning device.

Jerry X Shea said...

At 73 and just driving cars, I had my share of "tire blow outs"(in the day of tube tires and buying re-treads). We are now entering our 10th year of fill time RVing. Have had 3 sets of new tires (every 5 years) - you don't need something to "monitor your tires" if you have good tires. OH YES, I check my tire pressure everytime before I "turn the key."

Allan said...

My dealer and another dealer I do business with have both said that tire pressure monitors are not worth the buying for a couple of reasons: They seem to get stolen frequently; batteries are difficult to replace; the rotation of the tires at high speeds tend to mess up the batteries life span; and, they are never accurate because of the changes of tire temperatures from overnight stay to afternoons after driving several hours.

Sam said...

I'll side with Fred. A TPMS is a early warning safety device, not an accurate tire gauge. Haven't actually benefitted from having one, just as a lot of military pilots never actually benefitted from wearing a parachute. I'm not giving up on my error-code prone TPMS, just as I imagine fighter pilots will not stop wearing a chute.

Ken said...

I have the Tire Minders which were sold by Camping World on my 34' trailer and my pick-up. I was having problems with them and in speaking with the manufacturer was advised that I probably needed a booster (a receiver and an amplifier combination). I installed two, one on the trailer and one on the truck. The tire minders work much better now; however, batteries are still an occasional problem. I got them because I had had two flat tires, from picking up nails and ruined two tires because I did not find the flats in time. It gives me some peace of mind!