Tire pressure monitoring system II

Special Trailer (ST) tires have a maximum speed rating of 65 mph,* and if exceeded or if the tires are under-inflated, the tire temperatures increase, causing a weakening of the tire structure, which can lead to a shortening of the life expectancy of the tire and/or a catastrophic accident.* We have learned the importance of continuously monitoring the tire pressures (and our speed) from preflight to our arrival and midway during our stay and during our return trip home.    To facilitate this, we have relied on a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) since 2008, first with Doran, and then with PressurePro since 2011 (See “TPMS-Update“)

DSC_0005 PressurePro monitor

Typically, two or three days before departure, I install the sensors on the tires and adjust the tire pressure to be as close as possible to the specified maximum 50 PSI cold for our ST 215/75R14 Goodyear Marathon tires for the expected temperature at the time of departure.  (Our tow vehicle’s truck tires also get the sensors and have a cold PSI of 60 for front and 75 for rear tires.)

DSC_0200 ST Tire, PSI spec- cold 50

I keep a running log of the pressures and temperatures for each trip, which is started at the beginning of our trailer trip prep week and detailed in my post “Airstream Safari trip notes.”

DSC_0123 Tire pressure logOn the left is the log for our December trip.  The sensors were installed on Thursday and I noticed that the street-side rear sensor pressure reading was lower than the other sensors, which may indicate a slow tire or sensor leak.  I added air to this tire on the following day.  Early Saturday morning, the outside air temperature was 40°, and I noticed that the rear curbside sensor was not transmitting a pressure reading until it warmed up to 50°.  We departed Sunday afternoon and when we arrived at our campsite, I discovered a 1″ washer head machine screw embedded in our rear curbside tire as I was covering it for the night.  The next day, our PressurePro monitor confirmed my fear that the screw had penetrated the inner tire.  I replaced this tire with the spare and documented this in my post, “A Marathon tire repair.”

DSC_0015 I" machine screw in tireWasher head machine screws, commonly used on automobiles and motorcycles, are often encountered on highways and back roads, and I suspect that the washer head, when run over, causes the opposite end to rise towards the tire and puncture it straight on.

We find the most screws and nails in campgrounds, often brought in with firewood by campers, as seen in my post, “Nailing it… A TPMS encore.”

This camping season, our PressurePro TPMS sensors became 5 years old and were showing their age.  As seen in the log above, one was not transmitting a pressure reading in the early morning cold and another was very slowly leaking air, confirmed by temporarily putting another sensor in its place.  I contacted PressurePro and they sent me 4 new sensors for my trailer at a discounted rate, along with a Sensor Seal/Installation Tool Kit, that I will use to upgrade the truck’s sensors.

DSC_0012 New PressurePro sensor

An obvious improvement in the new sensors is that each sensor has a unique green identification number displayed on its side, which decreases the chances of placing a sensor on the wrong location.  (Each sensor is programmed for each tire location and I place each sensor in a zip lock bag assigned for each tire location when not in use, thus prolonging the battery life.  See how to set up the PressurePro tire pressure monitoring system in the video, “Protect Your RV with a TPMS“*)

A less obvious, but more important improvement is that the new PressurePro sensors now have a new Sensor Seal, a two-piece valve system that uses a hard plastic depressor to more fully depress the valve and yet, provides a hard stop during installation, protecting the seal. (Older sensors were often over tightened, resulting in damage to the O-ring seal.)  Older sensors with the one-piece seal can be upgraded by using PressurePro’s Sensor Seal/Installation Tool Kit that contains 10 sensor seals and a seal installation tool.

A tire pressure monitoring system adds to our peace of mind while on our safaris, where we’d rather come face to face with a coyote than with tire trouble!  (See Author’s update below regarding high temperature alerts and other PressurePro improvements.)

DSC_0046 Coyote in my face

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

RV refrigerator drain tube failure

Our Airstream Safari trailer became 9 years old last December when I discovered that our Dometic refrigerator drainage tube was falling apart behind the lower, vented, outside panel door of the refrigerator compartment.  The OEM white, thin plastic drainage tubing becomes brittle and falls apart, some say as early as 3-years old,* undoubtedly accelerated by being near heat.

DSC002 Broken refrig drain tube

This was not an immediate problem because water only drains out of this tubing when defrosting the refrigerator or when condensation forms and drips from the cooling fins, and we live and camp in a relatively dry climate.  Typically, we can go 2-3 trips before needing to defrost the refrigerator.

(Defrosting for me goes quickly: I choose a warm afternoon and place a fan on the covered lobster sink directly across from the opened refrigerator door. I turn off the refrigerator, prop open the freezer door and, as the fan blows warm air into the refrigerator, I use chopsticks to gently nudge the melting ice sections off the fins and slide the chunks toward me and catch them in a Tupperware lid and deposit them on nearby plants.  Water that drips from the fins is collected in the condensation drain pan and flows through its bottom hole into the Dometic white drain pipe with cup, which connects with the drainage tubing on the backside of the refrigerator.)

After our third trip to the desert and coyotes this season,* it was time to replace this failed part, so I rustled up three feet of a more durable, vinyl plastic hose from our local West Marine store.

DSC126 PVC tubing from West Marine

Shields Rubber Series 162 Polyester Reinforced Clear PVC Tubing, 1/2″ ID (inside diameter).  I chose this tubing over the clear vinyl tubing because it is reinforced, can tolerate hot water (or being in a hot space such as near the boiler tube), more flexible and is slightly less expensive than their clear vinyl tubing.

DSC134 Shield's Rubber Series 162 PVC tubing

We saved the original Dometic drainage plug (seen above), which is valuable because it keeps critters out of the tubing and currently costs $11.99 to replace!

Some have found that the only way to gain access to where this OEM tubing connects to the Dometic drain pipe in the back of the refrigerator is to move, tilt or slide the refrigerator towards the trailer interior, which involves disconnecting the gas, AC and DC power, and foot screws!  In our case, I was able to reach this spot with my hand.  The old tubing was easy to remove because it disintegrated as I touched it!  I reviewed RV refrigerator condensation drain tube videos such as this one.*  The new tubing was attached to the protruding end of the Dometic white drain pipe seen below.  Larry held the pipe/cup from inside the trailer while I pushed the new tubing into place.

DSC142 Dometic drain pipe with cup

Cable (zip) ties were used to secure the tubing connection and to keep it away from the boiler tube seen below.

DSC150 Drain tube held by cable ties

Once the tubing reached the refrigerator compartment floor, it was brought to the opening of the space and secured by the OEM black vinyl coated loop hose clamp and Phillips head screw.

DSC153 Drain tube held by loop hose clamp

At this point, the tubing was trimmed and the Dometic drain plug was inserted.  Refrigerator water is now properly channeled and free to flow under the lower refrigerator access panel door and exit the trailer.  I am confident that this tubing will last for many years to come!

DSC158 Drain tube top to bottom

And future refrigerator defrosting with this upgraded pipeline* will almost be as much fun as surfing the tube!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Agua Caliente stars

Fasten your seat belts, its going to be a bumpy night* and a wild new year,” I thought as we returned to Agua Caliente at the beginning of the Mardi Gras season, to enjoy clear, cool nights under the desert stars and to discover new stars!  Howdy Doody was already celebrating* while sitting on the picnic table next to publication stars, Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), gold (power), and green (faith), and behind the mask, a Buddha’s hand (fingered citron) symbolizing happiness, longevity and good fortune.

DSC_0021 Mardi Gras stars

Good fortune came to our early morning wildlife stars, first the white-winged doves, followed by Purple finches, as they feasted from wild bird seed held by our vintage, rustic feeder from home.

DSC_0115 House finch & rustic feeder

Our local roadrunner passed by, so we threw out some breadcrumbs, but the roadrunner disappeared, probably because a hungry, young coyote was lurking nearby and soon made its bold appearance.  (Its mother made her appearance last month, resulting in the permanent disappearance of a chihuahua!)

DSC_0028 Agua Caliente coyote

Driven by hunger, this coyote came into our campsite, while keeping an eye on us and our dogs!  (Larry held corgi Tasha while I crouched and photographed by the rear of our truck.)

DSC_0038_2 Coyote eating crumbs

While hiking, I came across a more natural food for coyotes, a 3-inch Coyote melon, Curcurbita palmata, which when ripe, yields seeds that have been found in coyote scat.

DSC_0060 Coyote melon

At the beginning of my hike, I saw a new sign warning of recent mountain lion activity.  The rangers told me that around Christmas, a bighorn sheep carcass was found with marks and covered with sand consistent with a mountain lion attack near the seep area of Moonlight Canyon Trail.  Cameras were set up around the carcass for four nights, which turned this puma into a poster star!

DSC50 Moonlight Canyon mountain lion

More wildlife drama occurred the following day at camp when Larry spotted a white-winged dove dangling by its foot attached to the top of a  20-25-foot Agave deserti dead flower stalk by entangling string.

DSC106 White-winged dove entangled

DSC107 White-winged dove & familyLarry notified Camp Host Dan and Ranger Melinda.  Dan quickly arrived in his utility cart, assessed the situation, and returned with appropriate tools, such as a saw, large lopping shears, chainsaw chaps, and needle nose scissors and tweezers.  Since the stalk had already bloomed and died, it was permissible to cut it down in order to rescue this bird.  Dan donned the chaps to protect from nearby thorns and sawed three quarters into the trunk, while I supported it with the reacher.  He then supported the trunk as I made the final cut with the lopping shears.  We rested the stalk on the utility cart and Dan folded back the dove’s wings and calmed it while I cut the many threads that were wrapped around the foot, toes and branch.  Photos were then taken and the dove was released and flew off to our delight.  Camp Host Dan saved this bird’s life and is a star in my eyes!

DSC111 Camp Host Dan & dove

Larry and I celebrated the season each evening by turning on a string of LED light bulbs that Larry had covered with Mixed Pepper Light Covers, which was wrapped around a wreath of homegrown red trumpet vine encircling enameled laser-cut steel in the shape of the sun – our star given to us by friends!

DSC101 Holiday wreath, Mardis Gras colors

A wild beginning of the new year, yes, but I think everything will be OK because here comes the sun!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

A Marathon tire repair

Cold and darkness were rapidly descending as I was completing our trailer unhitching for our holiday camping stay in the desert when I noticed a screw in the Marathon tire as I was placing the tire covers for a long winter’s nap.  My hopes that the screw did not fully penetrate the tire were dashed the next morning when our PressurePro tire pressure monitoring system showed 21 psi for this tire, which should have been 50.

DSC_0013 Screw embedded in tire crown

After breakfast, I carefully unscrewed it with pliers and was amazed at its length of 1 inch.  It turned out to be a Torx hex washer head self-tapping machine screw* commonly found on automobiles and motorcycles.  I marked the puncture site location with masking tape (and later the wheel & drum to make sure the wheel was replaced in the same position per the Airstream Owners Manual).

205 Torx hex washer head machine screw

As the tire went completely flat, I consulted The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, which has 12 pages devoted to tire care, repair and issues.  This guide reminded me that when accessing the spare tire,* just pull out the cotter pin and hold up the handle while removing the bolt, rather than doing it the hard way of removing the lower nut and bolt as seen below (which I have done before)!

DSC_0029 Accessing spare tire

The trailer’s stabilizing jacks were raised before placing the truck jack under the exposed section of the trailer’s frame between the wheels.

DSC_0027 Tire jack placement

Before raising the trailer, I made sure the opposite side trailer wheel chock was in place and I loosened the lug nuts with a cross-type 4-way lug wrench that enhances leverage.

DSC_0020 cross-type lug wrench

The trailer was then raised, the flat tire removed, and the spare put in place.  I hand tightened the lug nuts before lowering the trailer.  Once on the ground, the spare tire lug nuts were then tightened with a torque wrench.*  Our Airstream Owners Manual reminded me to tighten the lug nuts on the spare steel wheel to 95 foot-pounds, rather than 110 for our aluminum wheels, and to recheck the torque at 10, 25, and 50 miles (I rechecked ours at 25 and 65 miles on the way back).

DSC_0022 Torque wrench to tighten

Once back in San Diego, I took the flat tire back to where we bought our replacement Goodyear Marathon tires, San Diego Tire & Wheel Outlet.  Per the Tire Industry Association,* this tire was repairable because the puncture occurred in the tire crown (and not the shoulder or sidewall) and was not larger than 1/4-inch (6mm), ours was 4.8mm.  The tire was removed from the rim so that the inside could be thoroughly inspected and repaired.  The inside puncture site was prepped by buffing and applying vulcanizing cement and after it dried, a mushroom-shaped patch-plug was applied.

394 Mushroom patch-plug close-up

393 Plug part of mushroom patch:plug

The patch-plug keeps water from entering and rusting the steel belts.  The plug was trimmed and now the tire is set to go and we’re ready to roll into a new year of living riveted!*

DSC_0397 Tire repaired correctly

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Polar Safari Holiday Express

DSC_0043 Polar Safari Express arrives

The corgis and I were cozy and enjoying the warmth of the early morning sun rays streaming into our Airstream Safari trailer as Larry, bundled in a parka, was mesmerized by birds feeding by the Palo Verde tree and the changing glowing colors bathing Whale Mountain.  A windy, cold storm had just passed through and brought ice to our dogs’ water bowls.  (Baby, it was cold outside.)*

DSC_0107 Sunrise & wildlife gazing

I ventured outside just in time to hear Larry say in a low voice, “Bill… a coyote!”  I looked across the park road and saw a very healthy, well-fed looking, beautiful adult coyote staring at Larry.

DSC_0110 Adult coyote, Agua Caliente

The coyote then took a look at me and went down through the creosote bushes followed by an adolescent and two pups.  The next morning, word spread throughout the campground that someone’s Chihuahua was off leash, chased something near the Nature Trail, yelped and then disappeared, which illustrates why San Diego County Parks require dogs to be closely attended and on 6-foot leashes!

As the sun rose, our campsite warmed and more wildlife emerged, such as the Hairy woodpecker pecking on our Palo Verde.

DSC_0178 Hairy woodpecker on Palo Verde

We brought along our birdseed feeder, but forgot to bring the hummingbird feeder, so we made our own, a wire-suspended glass tumbler filled with nectar (1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup of water) and topped with plastic flowers and a red piece of plastic that attracted the Anna’s hummingbird.

DSC_0361 Anna's hummingbird, rock tumbler

By late morning, the festive sun lit up our holiday table display.

DSC_0311 Winter holiday table

One of the items in this display is an Airstream-shaped pillow covered with a metallic silver lamé fabric that is now eight years old and shedding tiny silver particles that can be seen on the beaded palm tree trunk in the above and last photo of this post.  One of these silver specks landed in Larry’s eye, which resulted in a 4-hour visit to our local emergency room for removal upon our return to San Diego.  The pillow has now been retired!

Agua Caliente County Park had its own seasonal display in the form of Sweet Acacia, Acacia farnesiana, yellow flower puffs.

DSC_0293 Sweet Acacia, Agua Caliente

The days are now short and the nights have grown long but brightly lit up with our holiday lights.

DSC_0279 Camp night decorations

I especially enjoyed gazing in awe at the peaceful beauty of our hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah)…*

DSC_0255 Hanukkiah

… and thinking about what’s really important and beautiful in this world (real love).*  At this time of year, I also like to revisit the words and last sentence in Chris Van Allsburg’s book, The Polar Express,* “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.”

DSC_0303 "the bell still rings for me"

*This is a link to a YouTube video.