Tire pressure monitoring system

One of the selling points for us when deciding which Airstream trailer would best meet our needs was that it would be safer to have two axles rather than one in the event of a flat tire. We chose the largest trailer (23′ Safari) that would comfortably fit in our driveway, and considering all of the stuff that we take with us, it is good that we have two axles.

One of the caveats (as noted in this Airstream Forums thread) to be aware of with multi-axle trailers is that drivers are often unaware of low or flat tires until the entire tire fails which could lead to extensive or catastrophic trailer damage. For years I have followed Rich Luhr’s experience with tire problems as summed up in his Tour of America post, “A tirade about tires“. One way to increase awareness of the state of our tires, especially while moving, is through a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), discussed here on the Airstream Forums.

After reading about Rich’s decision to install (last May) the Doran 360RV Tire Pressure Monitoring System for RVs, Tow Vehicles and Trailers, and after reading the Doran 360RV advantages in their ad in Airstream Life, Fall 2008 issue, page 74, and as our tires are now over two years old, we decided it was about time to add an extra measure of safety and ordered our Doran 360RV directly through Doran Manufacturing LLC. The item was shipped free and arrived within four business days via UPS.

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This system can continuously monitor up to 36 tires. We started with 4 sensors for the trailer. This system installed and worked so well during our trip to the desert last week, that we plan on getting four more sensors for the truck. Besides the monitor and sensors pictured above, other system components included are the sensor lock with wrench for each tire position purchased, visor clips and self-mating fastener tape mounting kit, adjustable pedestal mounting kit, Dill valve tester, and the Installation and Operation Manual.

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First I programmed the monitor for the appropriate maximum cold tire pressure rating of 50 PSI for our ST215/75R 14C tires. Then each sensor with its own 3-digit serial number is assigned to each tire location. Once the monitor is programmed, the sensors are screwed onto the tire valve stems and the monitor is hooked up to a 12-volt power receptacle. In our 2006 F-250 truck the monitor fits perfectly in the pull down smaller storage compartment and is securely held in place by the self-mating tape supplied. It is then plugged into the 12-volt power receptacle nearby.

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The Operation Manual points out that the sensors transmit a coded RF signal and the monitor will alert if the pressure drops more than 12.5%. A second more urgent alert occurs if the tire pressure drops more than 25%. Additionally, we have our monitor programmed to alert us if a pressure is detected to be 25% higher than the programmed baseline pressure, which can assist in the checking of elevated heat in the tire. During our recent trip to the desert, we heard no alerts, thankfully, and it was interesting to see the tire pressure raise from 50 to 55, and to a maximum of 58 PSI coming back due to tire heat.

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After unhitching the trailer, I covered the tires to protect them from the UV rays of the sun. The picture above actually shows the trailer being lit up by the full moon last week, as evidenced by the stars over the trailer, candlelight showing through the windows, and trees on other side of trailer glowing from the campfire! (More about that in my next posting).

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When we arrive at a campsite, we check for nails, screws and any other dangerous items before backing in. The above picture shows the Doran 360RV sensor in place and the nail and large screw that was in our space waiting to puncture our tires. Another benefit of these sensors (which I added to my routine) is that I can now check the tires during our stay (and not have them lose any air) to make sure they don’t have a slow leak from any inadvertent screw or nail picked up along the way.

Three months ago, Rich Luhr’s Doran 360RV Tire Pressure Monitoring System alerted him of a rapid de-inflation of his right front trailer tire, enabling him to do a quick stop before the tire “shredded into lots of expensive rubber parts”, as described in his Flat tire on I-270 post. A short time later his system warned him of low pressure in his left rear tire that he attributed to bad valve stems.

Overloading and under-inflation are two common factors in why tires fail. Other factors are listed here by Rich Luhr. I found this sobering You Tube video, How to Handle a Tire Blowout in Your RV, made by Michelin for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, which I urge you to watch.

Although “It’s the end of the mall as we know it“, it is the beginning of the holiday shopping season and time to start buying more stuff to save the economy… at least stuff that will support our RV industry and Airstream Life (Doran Manufacturing LLC continues to be a supporting advertiser, their ad will appear in the Winter issue).

Happy Holiday Shopping!

Cuyamaca spirits rising

Despite the Red Flag warnings, we returned last week to William Heise County Park near Julian, CA., in anticipation of the full moon lighting up the night sky, and we were not disappointed. As others may be about to winterize their trailers, we are just starting our camping season and will follow the sun, moon and seasons, somewhat like our local Native American Kumeyaay Indians did in finding the most comfortable sites to set up camp, ranging from the mountains to the desert and down again to the coast.

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This park is in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Cuyamaca is a Spanish corruption of the Kumeyaay phrase “Ekwiiyemak”, meaning roughly, “the place where it rains”. The Indians had seasonal mountain camps near streams and springs where acorns and pine nuts were plentiful. The Kumeyaay Nation lived in this and other areas of San Diego County for at least 10,000 years before the arrival of Spanish and other European settlers. San Diego County has more Native American Indian reservations than any other county in the United States. Richard Carrico, professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University, is the author of Strangers in a Stolen Land, (Sunbelt Publications, 3rd edition, July 31, 2008).

Shortly after we set up camp and ate dinner, the moon rose and lit up our trailer and truck.

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The stars are hard to see in the above picture, but the visual clue that this is actually night (and the reflected light is really moonlight and not sunlight) is the light coming out of the trailer windows. (By the way, the refrigerator vent is propped open to help the fan do a more efficient job… details of this can be seen here.) This and the other night images seen in this article were taken with our Nikon D40 camera set to the new feature, Auto (Flash off) Mode, useful in situations where the use of a flash is undesirable.

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Click on the image to enlarge it and see the stars. All of these night shots were also done with the camera and its heavy 18-200 mm lens supported and stabilized by the Slik heavy-duty Pro 700DX tripod.

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Sleeping under the stars…

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By the way, other than resizing, there was no image editing or manipulation in any of these images. The images were directly loaded into the iPhoto program of our MacBook Pro, resized and uploaded to this article.

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We traditionally celebrate the fall harvest season by eating apple pie. The nearby town of Julian celebrates Apple Days from September 15 to November 15. Also shown here is a pumpkin, carefully hand picked from the market (rather than the field of spikes) and maize (not to be confused with maze).

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Let us toast to the spirit of the season…

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And to the spirits of the sky and land and nature…

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And to Native Americans and all peoples of the world…

May we live in peace and harmony with a respect for life in all of its variations and life styles…

May we focus on the positive and inclusiveness

Let our spirits rise as we listen to our hearts… and Native American music.

Traveling and Pet Safety

Our pets are our family. We love them and want them near us, but many pet owners are not aware of the potential consequences of not restraining pets while traveling. There are reports that the American Automobile Association indicates that tens of thousands of accidents are caused each year by dogs in front seats.

Christina Selter, founder of Bark BuckleUp, a pet safety educational program similar to “Click it or Ticket”, is on a nation-wide campaign promoting pet safety in vehicles. “Be Smart. Ride Safe”, she said at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show (hear her message in her own words).

In 2006 we carefully researched which tow vehicle would best meet our needs upon ordering our Airstream Safari. One of those needs was to have a tow vehicle that would easily accommodate two dog carriers on top of a folding back seat. We continue to be very happy with our choice of the Ford Super Duty F-250 (despite the rising price of diesel fuel). Our dog carriers (Vari Kennels) rest on the folded back seats and are secured with a ratcheted strap to bolts in the back of the crew cab.

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Our dogs are safe, and seem to be comfortable, and enjoy the view, while we can keep an eye on them.

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Carriers work well for our small dogs (Corgi and Pug), but for larger dogs, a pet harness might work better. Either way, they will be out of harm’s way by keeping them in the back seat. (Airbags can kill or injure a loved one.)

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There are many good reasons why pets should be restrained while traveling in vehicles:

  • Unrestrained pets can distract the driver, jump in driver’s lap, block driver’s vision, or get in or around pedals.
  • Unrestrained pets can easily fall off the seat while you are braking or turning, sustain an injury and distract you.
  • Unrestrained pets could get you a ticket depending where you drive.
  • If you have an accident, your pet can become a projectile with a force of up to eight times its regular weight, risking injury to the pet and all others in the vehicle. Your pet could also be ejected through a window.
  • If you have an accident, your dog might interfere or bite the emergency responders, run out of the vehicle into more traffic and possibly cause another accident, get killed or run away. (If your dog caused a second accident, your insurance rates might go up.)

So, as Christina Selter says, “Be Smart. Ride Safe.”

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