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Using a TPMS on Your R.V.

The author owns two small travel trailers and uses TPMS systems on each to monitor tire pressure.


How TPMS Can Save Your RV

Most RV's don't come with tire pressure monitoring systems installed. That fact may have contributed to an unfortunate event for a friend of mine, whose RV (in the photo above), suffered major damage.

Since many tire blowouts are often preceded by a gradual loss of tire pressure, you may be able to have some advance warning when using a tire pressure monitoring system or TPMS. Since RV drivers don't always notice when their trailer is pulling to one side or the other, or blame it on a cross wind, they may not have the same advance warning that a car or truck driver might have by feeling a slight change in steering or handling that often happenns before a blowout.

While my friend Dave was driving down IH-10, just west of Fort Stockton Texas he noticed that his travel trailer was pulling a bit to one side, but chalked it up to a slight cross wind that had been blowing all day.

About five minutes later, just as they were about to pass a slower vehicle, the right rear tire on the trailer blew out. As it did, my friend could see pieces of his travel trailer flying off into the air behind the trailer before he could bring the rig to a full stop on the shoulder. Luckily none of the chunks hit the vehicle they were about to pass but as the tread came off the tire it repeatedly beat the fiberglass side panel of the trailer until large chunks of it were hanging off.

After they had safely pulled over he and his wife ran back to the rear of the trailer to survey how bad the damage was. After putting on the spare and twisting off bits of side panel that were in danger of flying off, they made it safely into an RV dealer in Fort Stockton. Although nobody was hurt, insurance wouldn't cover any of the cost of the necessary body work on the trailer, and their vacation was cut short. In more serious cases, blowouts have caused drivers to lose control of their RV's, resulting in far worst scenarios than what happened to my friend.

Many of the tire pressure monitoring systems that are on the market now could have let my friend know that he was losing pressure in the same tire that blew out and caused more than $5,000 worth of damage to his RV.

As soon as the TPMS senses pressure loss in any of the tires it sends an alert to a sensor in the cab. An RV driver can then begin to find a safe place to pull off before a serious blowout occurs.

Problems With Using TPMS On RV's

One problem with using regular models of tire pressure monitoring systems for RV use is that most are made for single vehicle use and thereford don't transmit a strong enough signal to reach all the way from the back of a trailer to the receiver in the cab of the vehicle. For any TPMS system to be of use in an RV, it needs to have a strong enough signal to travel long distances and be listed as suitable for RV use.

Dave installed a TPMS system for RV's called a Pressure Pro system for just under $500. His system can be expanded to add more tire pressure sensors than just the six that are included with the unit. I went with a different model, as this price was a bit steep for me.

Never Use Canned Tire Sealant

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One should never use any kind of canned emergency flat repair, such as "Fix a Flat" when using a tire pressure monitoring system. My friend found this out the hard way unfortunately when a couple of the TPMS sensors quit working after he used emergency sealant on his tires. Fix a Flat and similar products will render TPMS systems useless as they coat the internal pressure sensors with their gummy glue-like sealant.

If you own an motor home or travel trailer, no matter what size, spending some money on a tire pressure monitoring system can be a very good investment.

A couple of other notable brands are EEZTire, GUTA, Orange Electronics and Doran RV tire pressure monitors.

How Long Do They Last?

Most OEM tire pressure monitoring sensors found in new vehicles are powered by a 3-volt lithium ion battery which is permanently sealed inside the sensor.

After market systems usually use a similar type of battery. Unfortunately most sensors are sealed and don't allow you to change the battery. The upside to this is that battery life may be as long as 7 years and replacement sensors may be available at a discount for those who already own a system.

My Own TPMS System

I use a TPMS system made by GUTA, which features 8 sensors. Although I only use four of them at the current time on my little 26' travel trailer's tires, I keep a fifth sensor on the trailer's spare tire. (My truck already has TMPS on its tires, but if it didn't I could use it to monitor both my truck and RV tires).

Range for this system is listed at 34' and so far I haven't had any trouble getting a reliable signal up in the cab. The small receiver features a solar cell for power, which frees up space in my cigarette lighter plug for other devices. If my trailer were any longer, I might need to install their repeater device, which sells for around $40 and which is designed to boost the signal coming from tires on longer trailers.

TPMS - Worth the Cost

Our own Guta TPMS system cost just slightly less than $300. The damage that was caused to our friend's trailer was more than $5,000. Had our friend Dave used a tire pressure monitoring system, the aforementioned blowout might not have occurred.

We think TPMS is a worthwhile investment that every RV'er should make.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Nolen Hart

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