Air Apparent: A TPMS Buyer’s Guide
Monitor your tire pressures and tire temperatures on the road
Most of us do not need to be convinced of the important role tires play on our motorhomes. They hold up a large vehicle and provide that very important contact patch that is literally where the rubber meets the road. Tires supply the friction we need to get going, and the grip needed to stop. They are an important component of the suspension system, providing a cushion between the harsh realities of uneven road surfaces and the precious cargo riding inside our home away from home.
Tires must meet specific specifications in size, shape, rubber compounds, sidewall structure and nonrubber components to provide grip, strength and durability. All of these tire construction characteristics are designed and built around one all-important specification that gives the tire sufficient load carrying capacity: proper tire inflation.
So much depends on the motorhome and dinghy vehicle tires having the right pressure, but safety tops the list. When tire pressure is out of spec, vehicles do not start, stop, steer or corner properly. An underinflated tire can soon get hot and fail, even come off of the wheel, causing loss of control and possibly a crash.
Fuel economy is another motivation to maintain proper inflation. Underinflated tires present more resistance to the road surface, which will cost you at the pump. Additionally, out-of-spec inflation pressures (too high or too low) can greatly decrease the life of a tire. It’s likely you can think of better ways to spend your hard-earned money than replacing motorhome tires before their time.
Change is the One Constant
There is no such thing as set-it-and-forget-it when maintaining tire inflation. Tire pressure is guaranteed to get out of spec, sometimes suddenly but most certainly over a period of time. There is, of course, the infamous blowout, which is rare if the tires are properly inflated. Then there are the road hazards, stray fasteners, broken glass and vicious potholes that can cause tire damage with a slower leak. Finally, whether you realize it or not, your tires are constantly losing pressure, not because they are poorly constructed but because of the nature of rubber, which is porous enough to allow a couple of psi loss each month.
For all of these reasons, it is imperative that owners and operators of motorhomes remain vigilant to make sure that the tires on the RV and dinghy vehicle are at proper inflation pressure. It’s usually not possible to identify an underinflated tire until it is dangerously low (particularly the inside duals on a motorhome), so checking tire pressure with a good tire gauge should be part of every pre-trip routine. But what about changes to tire pressure that occur while driving long hours? If periodic visual inspections are not reliable, do you really need to stop and check pressures? How often? What about the old trucker trick of thumping the tires to check for underinflation?
Not to worry because now we have the option of adding a tire-pressure-monitoring system (TPMS) to our rigs. At a glance we can check tire pressures right along with the gauges monitoring other vehicle systems.
Newer cars and some motorhomes have these systems built in, but for those without, aftermarket upgrades are getting better all the time. A quick read of our TPMS roundup will give you a good idea of the features you can look for in a TPMS.
Doran’s 360RV Tire-Pressure-Monitoring System features valve-stem-mounted tire pressure sensors that consistently transmit tire pressure and temperature data wirelessly to a monitor display mounted in the motorhome. A unique, three-piece seal maximizes valve core depression and minimizes leaks. Programming is simple for up to 36 wheel positions. The 12-volt DC monitor has multiple mounting options, and multiple visual/audible alarms alert for low pressure, high pressure, rapid drop in pressure and high temperature. Monitoring of a dinghy vehicle or trailer is a standard feature. MSRP ranges from $299 for a four-wheel TPMS to $899 for a 16-wheel TPMS.
Doran Manufacturing | 866-816-7233 | www.doranmfg.com
The EEZ TIRE TPMS 515 system comes with a monitor that can handle up to 22 tires and up to 189 psi. Sensor batteries are replaceable. The system is very easy to install and users can set their own parameters for monitoring the motorhome or dinghy vehicle. The 3½-inch monitor operates on a rechargeable lithium ion battery for 60 hours of continuous use, or it can be hardwired. Monitors feature multiple alerts, including an audible alarm, flashing red light and a plain English description of the problem. Theft-proof sensors alert on low pressure, high pressure, rapid air loss (catastrophic failure) and high temperature. An optional transceiver (booster) is available. MSRP ranges from $279 for a four-wheel set to $899 for an 18-wheel set.
EEZ RV Products | 510-910-5397 | http://eezrvproduct.com
HawksHead’s Talon 22 can handle up to 22 wheels with either theft-proof caps or feed-through sensors with replaceable low-cost generic CR1632 button batteries. A drop feature removes the dinghy vehicle from the monitor with the touch of a button to display the motorhome only. The Talon 22 constantly shows pressure and temperature, even when parked, and the monitor has its own rechargeable power pack, which allows it to be removed from the cab and used as a wireless tire pressure gauge when walking around the motorhome. Alarms are visual and audible with parameters that can be customized by the user to display a specific problem, such as low pressure/high pressure and high temperature. MSRP for the Talon 22 is $339.
HawksHead Systems | 888-321-8767 | www.tpms.ca
PressurePro’s all-new PULSE TPMS features an easy-to-read display, real-time pressure and temperature readings, high- and low-pressure and temperature warnings, fully adjustable reference pressures and alerts, fully configurable vehicle layout, multiple display types (per unit, axle or tire) and data logging with SD card storage. The system can monitor up to 80 tires and up to five stored vehicles. The unit installs in minutes with little to no maintenance. A six-wheel PULSE runs $705, but call for pricing.
Advantage PressurePro | 800-959-3505 | http://advantagepressurepro.com
According to HCI Corp., manufacturer of the Tire-SafeGuard, its TPMS has an exceptional sensor signal and monitor reception. External flow-through and cap sensors have user-replaceable batteries and the monitor supports any combination of flow-through and cap sensors. The monitor can be readily reconfigured to support different vehicle applications and supports per-axle pressure-warning-level adjustment. Features also include rapid detection and warnings for low pressure, high pressure, slow leak and high temperature. MSRP varies based on flow-through or cap sensor and number of tires.
HCI Corp. | 818-400-9976 | http://tiresafeguard.com
RVibrake makes a TPMS that is integrated in its RVibrake2 auxiliary braking system for dinghy vehicles. In addition to monitoring tire pressure, the wireless monitor alerts the driver if the dinghy experiences a flat tire, low pressure or high temperature in the tire. Since road feel is not as apparent in a dinghy vehicle, information about the status of the tires is very important. MSRP: $250 (TPMS upgrade) TPMS/RVi2 combo: $1,375.
RVI | 800-815-2159 | www.rvibrake.com
The TireMinder TPMS includes a 3¼-inch screen with portrait layout to mimic the motorhome so you know exactly where an issue is occurring. The system alerts when psi drops 15 percent below baseline, rises above 20 percent over baseline, loses 3 psi or more in 2 minutes, loses 6 psi or more in a 10-minute timespan or if the internal tire temperature reaches 167 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Features also include Disconnect Mode, Auto-Search Mode, Full Delete, simplified user interface, signal boosters and the ability to add a total of 22 transmitters. The transmitters weigh only 0.5 ounces with the battery installed. Flow-Through Adapters are available. The TireMinder A1A TPMS with four transmitters has an MSRP of $389; the six-transmitter system runs $459.
Minder Research | 772-463-6522 | http://minderresearch.com
Truck System Technologies’ variety of sensors are easy to install and very reliable. The easy-to-read monitor has a large display, built-in rechargeable lithium battery and an AC adapter. The system is automatically activated when the vehicle is in motion, and the automatic monitor illumination is adaptable to all conditions. Programmable high- and low-pressure alarms and programmable high-temperature alarm thresholds are coupled with visual warning lights and audible alarms. The system monitors up to 22 tires and can read a dinghy vehicle in tow. Tire pressure and temperature readings are displayed simultaneously. The unit can be configured per axle. The MSRP is $259 for the 507 Starter System Kit (with four sensors) or the TST 510 System (a base package that can be expanded to monitor 22 tires).
Truck System Technologies | 770-889-9102 | http://tsttruck.com
The new TT-500 by TireTraker features a large, easy-to-read display, continuous pressure and temperature monitoring, automatic updates and the ability to monitor any tire from 0-232 psi. The TT-500 also features visual and audible alarms for low pressure, high pressure, and high temperature as well as rapid pressure loss. A rechargeable monitor incorporates USB charging. Sensors weigh just 0.5 ounces and have user-replaceable batteries providing lower operating costs. The new system has a lifetime warranty and starts at $289 for a four-wheel TPMS; additional sensors are $35 each.
TireTraker | 866-200-9773 | www.tiretraker.com
Valor’s internally mounted sensor monitors both the tire’s temperature and pressure, in real time. The unit displays individual tire and axle position for an easy-to-read interface. Sensors are powered by a long-lasting battery and are installed securely on the wheel rim (tires must be dismounted) where they are safe from damage and theft. Telematics integration options are available. The antenna receives data wirelessly from the sensors. The system can be configured with either a 2-inch-round gauge for an in-dash factory look or with the Valor display that comes with a mounting bracket. MSRP for a motorhome is between $650 and $800, depending on the type of display and the number of wheels, but call Valor for exact pricing.
Valor TPMS | 800-568-9188 ext. 106 | www.valortpms.com