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Wise Tech Tips

Monitoring Tire Pressure

By James Wise
web posted August 17, 2009
WISE TECH TIPS – While today’s tip is a little different from my usual computer related tips, it comes from a recent personal experience. It can also save you money and possibly save you, your family, and property from harm. I’m referring to Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) which help you keep your tires at the proper pressure to save gas, provide better handling, and hopefully alert you to problems before they are emergencies.

I take a lot of trips with my camper. Before each trip, I check my tires with a pressure gauge. Unless a tire is significantly low, it isn’t generally possible to tell this just by looking at it. Using a gauge to check the pressure before I drive (i.e. when the tire is cold) is the only way to go.

Last year, my family and I went camping at the beach. On our way, one of the tires on my camper suffered a blow out. We didn’t even know it. The tire in question was a rear tire that we couldn’t see from the truck. We didn’t notice any change in how the vehicle was riding. Without this tire, it was probably only a matter of time before the extra weight caused the other tire on that side to fail. This could have caused an accident and/or serious damage to the camper. Luckily, another driver pulled along beside us and alerted us to the problem.

Now, I have a tire pressure monitor and I feel safer knowing that it will alert me if I have a failure. Better still, it might be able to help me prevent a blow out. Many tire failures are caused by improper inflation or by hitting something like a nail which causes a slow leak. With a monitor, I should know about these problems before the tire fails. Proper inflation should also result in better mileage (and therefore lower fuel costs) and longer tire life.

Many vehicles now-a-days come equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems. I’ve read some things that indicate this to be a government requirement for 2008 and higher model year cars in the U.S. (warning when one or more tires are more than 25% under pressure). My Chevy Silverado for example allows me to see my tire pressure at all times from my dash display:

If there is a problem, the system immediately warns me. If you are shopping for a new vehicle, the presence of a TPMS may be something you want to consider.

Even if your vehicle doesn’t have a TPMS, there are options to add one very easily. These systems can also help you if you have a camper, boat, etc… In my case, even though my truck was covered, my camper wasn’t. So, I added a system to cover the four tires of my camper.

There are a number of systems available. I chose one from http://www.tsttruck.com/ which monitors tire pressure AND the temperature of the air within the tires (temperature monitoring can also help indicate whether or not there are problems). The system I purchased was around $250 (for four tires). This is about the best price I’ve found. While this isn’t “cheap”, I believe the peace of mind and protection it can offer makes it worth the cost.

The backlit rechargeable monitor communicates wirelessly with the sensors. I placed the monitor on my dash using Velcro pads. It rotates through each tire showing pressure (66 PSI in the example below) and temperature (e.g. 100 degrees Fahrenheit). You can setup alarms on the unit as well to trigger based on low pressure, high pressure, etc…
                   Monitor                                               Sensors

The sensors simply screw into the valve stem (replacing the normal cap). So, you can easily install the system yourself. However, you will need metal value stems. If you don’t have these, any tire shop should be able to install them for you pretty quickly. I paid $40 to change the valves of my four camper tires. The sensors use batteries which the company says should last for 5-7 years when used full time. The monitor should alert you when the batteries are low at which point you could purchase new sensors. With the company where I purchased my system, you can also send sensors back for battery replacement for $25 each.

Values are transmitted every five minutes. However, the sensor is continuously monitoring the tire (every six seconds) and if it detects a problem (like rapid air loss), it transmits that information to the monitor immediately to trigger an alarm.

Here are some links to other systems I’ve seen:
http://www.tpms.ca/ - A nice feature of this system is that the sensors have “watch type” batteries which the user can replace himself.

http://www.tirepressuremonitor.com/ - This is a popular system with a lot of positive feedback.

http://www.tireinsight.com/ - This is a system I found where the sensors have “feed through” (so you can add/subtract air without removing the sensor)

If you have any questions, just send me an email (edgefieldtechhelp@gmail.com). If you are a fellow “RVer”, there are many great sources of information out there. One of my favorite sites is http://www.rv.net/forum/.

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