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.

F-250 dual battery change

Some people have said a 3/4 ton truck is overkill when towing an Airstream trailer, but I am very happy that we chose a 2006 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×2 Crew Cab diesel truck when we purchased our 2007 23′ Airstream Safari trailer nine years ago, especially every time we travel from near sea level to 5,000 feet elevation over the often windy mountains to our favorite campground in the desert.  It gives us a great sense of confidence, security, and peace of mind under the stars.

DSC_0057 F-250 & Airstream trailer

The truck has been virtually trouble free and only needing the routine scheduled items listed in my service manual, and the routine tire and battery changes.  This truck requires two 12-volt batteries to turn over the diesel engine and my original batteries lasted 5 years before dying.  In 2011, I replaced these batteries with Costco’s Kirkland Signature batteries, 65-850, which had a 100-month limited, prorated warranty.  I was hoping that these batteries would also last 5 years, but a few weeks ago, I noticed that the engine was slow to start.  I first thought this was due to old fuel sitting over the summer (our off-season for camping).  But reality set in when it would not start in a parking lot last week and required AAA to do a jump-start!

I returned to our local Costco and bought two new batteries.  The battery brand, Interstate, has now replaced the Kirkland Signature brand, but both are made by the same company, Johnson Controls.  For the new batteries, Costco now provides a non-prorated, 42-month warranty.  My new Interstate batteries cost $89.99 + battery core charge (deposit) of $15 each.

I returned my Kirkland Signature batteries to Costco and since my $85.99-batteries lasted 50 months, Costco gave me 50% back (credited to my credit card), along with the battery core charges.

Changing my batteries was relatively easy (since I took notes last time and am now documenting them here for future use, but note that the steps below are how I went about changing my batteries and are not intended to tell others how to change their batteries).  As a refresher, I viewed “How to replace dual batteries on a Ford F-series diesel“.*

DSC_0150 F250 6

DSC_0154 Interstate 65-850 battery

Our F-250 diesel truck requires two 65-850 batteries (65 is the group size and 850 is the cold cranking amps (CCA).  On the top of the battery is a sticker indicating the manufacturing date (10/15) and a label to scratch/mark the installation date.

First I assembled my tools: 5/16″ hand wrench and a 8 mm socket with wrench extender. Then (and most importantly), I disconnected the black, negative (ground) cables first from both batteries (the clamp nut is loosened and the clamp is worked back and forth while pulling up).

DSC_0151 Disconnect black:negative cable 1st

Important: only after the black, negative cables are disconnected, did I disconnect the red, positive cables!  Then I unsnapped the street-side battery cover by pushing in the tabs on each lower side while raising the cover off.

DSC_0152 Driver's side battery & cover

A 8-mm socket wrench and extender were then used to remove the bolt and clamp holding the battery in place and the batteries were removed. The battery tray was inspected and cleaned (of dust and sand) and the new batteries placed and secured with the clamps and bolts.  The street-side battery cover was re-secured. The cables were then attached in the reverse order of how they were removed.  The red, positive cables were connected first, followed by the black, negative cables. I was careful not to over-tighten any of the nuts.

So now our Ford truck is a perfect fit and should be good to go (for at least another 4 years), and I guess you could say, “I’m a Ford truck man!“*

HPIM2824 Ford truck man

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Shifting sands at Agua Caliente

We had just finished celebrating Día de los Muertos* and brought along Larry’s homemade anise pan de muerto for our return to Agua Caliente County Park for five nights of camping in the sunny Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0029 Larry's Anise pan de muerto

DSC_0114 Desert bound

It was not so sunny here in late August when a weekend of heavy rains unleashed flash floods, rock slides, shifting sand and mud, causing damage to roads, parks, and homes.  When we made our November reservations for this park at the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Administrative Office in September, an administrator there told us that about $10,000 worth of damage had occurred and that the park was closed for repairs,* but would be expected to be open at least by November.  When we checked in, Supervising Park Ranger, James Stowers, said that a lot of sand had washed down onto our reserved site, but we should be able to go in and out OK.  But as I backed the trailer up into this site, the trailer tires sank into and pushed against dry, very loose, uncompacted sand (about 5″ deep), while the rear truck tires spun.

DSC_0039 Too much loose sand

Since I got the trailer far enough into the site to be workable, I unhitched, and the next morning I reported my concerns to James about the large amounts of loose sand that might make it difficult for our 2-wheel drive truck to pull our trailer out on departure day.  I was pleased that he personally got on a tractor with a front-end loader* and scooped up buckets full* of sand and placed them in eroded areas in the sites above us.  This made us smile.*

DSC_0093 Ranger removed excess sand

Beautiful sunny weather with day temperatures in the 70s also brought smiles to our faces and even my rescued childhood doll, Howdy Doody*, seemed happy as Larry worked on Howdy’s major cosmetic and clothing makeover.

DSC_0144 Desert smiles and vistas

I again hiked the Moonlight Canyon Trail, and although I did not see the bighorn sheep that I had seen in January, 2011, I did see interesting plants… and peculiar rocks.

DSC_0129 Interesting plants & rocks

I also spotted a large black widow spider on the fleece lining of our trailer tire covers!  (I always carefully inspect the covers during their removal since previously finding various spiders, a scorpion, and a field mouse!)

DSC_0149_2 Black widow spider

The spider had found a comfortable, albeit temporary home, while we were at home in the trailer.  We were cozy and content and had no idea that the sands would continue to shift for us when we got home, but at least wherever we are, home is where the heart is.*

DSC_0101 home is where the heart is

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Airstream Safari trip notes

I start by making checklists and notes on a 8.5″ x 13″ yellow pad days before our Airstream Safari camping trips and specific tasks are assigned to specific prep days depending on the weather.  For example, Friday’s weather was clear, two days before departure on our first trip of the season, so I completed one of the scheduled tasks by attaching my PressurePro tire pressure sensors to the tires of the truck and Safari and adjusting the pressures toward the recommended cold tire pressures (50 psi for my 14″ trailer tires, 60 psi for the front truck tires, and 75 psi for the rear truck tires).

Starting a trip with the right tire pressures is important because an under-inflated tire could get too hot, stressed, and fail.  The tricky part is that tire pressures fluctuate with the outside air temperatures by as much as 1 psi per every 10° F change in temperature.*  The temperature was 80° that Friday afternoon when I attached the sensors.  I knew that the pressures would be lower the next morning and even lower at our mountain camping destination, predicted to get the first cold storm of the season by midweek.  My task was facilitated by the PressurePro monitor, which shows the pressures at a touch of a button and then I recorded the pressures, along with the date, time, outside temperature, and weather conditions.  So when we departed, I was confident the tires had the optimal pressures for our 5 days of camping.

DSC_0017 Solar & Tire pressure notes

My note taking continued when we arrived at our non-hookup campsite as I kept track of weather conditions and how well our Lifeline AGM batteries were being recharged by our two Airstream factory installed solar panels (See my Columnar Pad notes in above photo).  These notes are saved and assist me in determining when it’s time to replace the batteries (I replaced our first set after 5 years).

I continued to write notes on my yellow pad throughout our camping trip, which are also saved for future reference.  At home, Larry maintains a running camping log on a Word document on our aluminum iMac* of trip mileages, menus, plants, birds and people seen.  I also make concise entries in “The Airstream Travel Journal”.

DSC_0003 Journal hardcovers

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal“, designed by Bryan Burkhart/MODERNHOUSE, was published by Chronicle Books LLC in 2002.  (Bryan Burkhart is also the designer and coauthor of Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht, Chronicle Books LLC, 2000.)  The spiral-bound journal with aluminum* front and back covers and featuring lined pages along with vintage Airstream spot art and photos, originally sold for $16.95 and I bought two of them in 2006.  This journal is now out of print and is no longer available from Chronicle Books*, but it can be found online for prices ranging from $79.99 to $600!  (For now, I think I will not place notes in my second copy and will just keep it in pristine condition for future possibilities!)

DSC_0002 Lined pages with notes

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal

Another journal, “Airstream Prism Journal Book“, is currently available online for $16.95 from Airstream, Inc..  Per Airstream’s website, this journal has a silver anodized aluminum front cover and a black leather back with an elastic pen loop and includes a black Airstream pen.

Our aluminum Airstream (75th anniversary)* Safari trip notes also find their way into our aluminum MacBook Pro*, which transforms them into a blog post, documenting those riveting experiences.*

HPIM2381_2 MacBook Pro & Safari

I prefer writing my trip notes with a pen and paper, but perhaps I should consider a simpler tool, the pencil, or a more powerful tool, the iPad Air*, or perhaps the typewriter (with its classic, iconic image and sound)* would be more appropriate!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Fired up, and ready to go

With a backdrop of fall foliage, our F-250 and Safari were fired up, and ready to go to the Anza-Borrego Desert for another adventure, meeting with good friends, hiking, reading and relaxing, especially needed after this tumultuous election year.

We love the beauty of the desert with its many colors and textures.

Bert and Janie came down from their resort camping location at The Springs at Borrego and joined us for lunch and a day of celebrating Thanksgiving, life, tarantulas, Montana Icons (Bert’s latest book), the 2012 presidential election, and our friendship.

I got another chance to see Bert’s new, lightweight Gitzo carbon fiber tripod (described in “Bert Gildart’s art“) and we took off on a short side trip for another opportunity to photograph the compassionate water tanks that Bert saw and photographed just last month, but they had mysteriously disappeared.

For this trip, I brought along a good book to read, The Presidents Club — Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, and Larry brought along kokopelli noren curtains that he had just made.  We enjoy these curtains because they provide privacy when the door is open, act as a sun screen, and are short enough for the dogs to look outside while the dog gate is up.

Just outside our door, Gambel’s Quail feasted on breadcrumbs in the morning.  At sunset, we fired up our Volcano grill and feasted on shrimp.

I got especially fired up while hiking on the Moonlight Canyon Trail and had a third encounter with desert bighorn sheep, which will be described in my next posting.

In the meantime, we’ll fire up our oven and enjoy roasting turkey as the herbal aroma of Bell’s Seasoning (that I first smelled as a child) wafts through our home, and cherish these precious days!

Happy Thanksgiving!