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.

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.

Resealing our Airstream plumbing vent

Last month,  I posted about our annual “Wash, wax and treat II” job and mentioned that I used a ladder to wash and wax the roof of our 2007 Airstream Safari trailer, while inspecting the roof seals for any signs of deterioration.  Five years ago, I resealed the Fan-Tastic Fan and bathroom air vent seals.  This time around, the plumbing vent pipe seal was cracking and in obvious need of repair.

DSC_0056 Cracked plumbing vent seal

This job needed to be done before the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season, so I consulted Rich Luhr’s The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, and read that Sikaflex 221 is a good general multi-purpose sealant, especially for roof work such as around vents.  I was reminded that the shelf-life of sealant is relatively short (12 months from the date of manufacture), and of course, my old tube of sealant had solidified.

Airstream Life's Maintenance Guide p

I ordered a new tube of Sikaflex-221 Multi-Purpose Polyurethane Sealant/Adhesive from Amazon and once it arrived, I checked its expiration date (12 May 2016) and gathered my tools: a caulk gun, plastic scraper, isopropyl alcohol (see note below) and…

DSC_0166 Resealing tools

a sturdy ladder (Little Giant*).

DSC_0157 Removing old sealantPlease note that this time inquiring readers should feel relieved that I am standing on the second step from the top and not the first, per the American Ladder Institute.*

Our plumbing vent is near the trailer’s edge, but if I needed to get up on the roof, I would review Colonial Airstream’s video and maintenance tips, “How to climb onto a roof of an Airstream Travel Trailer.”*

 

I used a plastic scraper (putty knife) to remove the old sealant that was softened with isopropyl alcohol.

(Note: alcohol can prevent the polyurethane in Sikaflex from properly curing, so care must be taken to remove any traces of alcohol by washing, rinsing and drying the prepared surface before applying Sikaflex.)

 

DSC_0170 Cracked sealant removed

The flange of the Ventline plumbing vent was intact (no cracks adjacent to screws) and new sealant was applied with the caulk gun* and smoothed by my finger.

DSC_0174 Sikaflex 221 Sealant

Now it’s time to get on the road again!*

*Note this is a link to a YouTube video.

Wash, wax and treat II

This week I completed our annual wash, wax, and treat (filiform) chores on our 2007 23′ Airstream trailer prior to the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season in our wonderful coast, mountain and desert parks in San Diego County.  Rich Luhr, in his newly published book, The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, says, “Most of the maintenance associated with the aluminum body and clear coat is simple cleaning.”  This guidebook includes pertinent “Exterior Cleaning and Appearance” and “Filiform corrosion” sections.

My blog’s web site stats show that my post “Filiform corrosion” gets the most interest and views, which is understandable because many people would like to know how to protect their Airstream trailer.  Modern Airstream trailers*, such as ours, have an exterior body of clear coated aluminum sheets that can corrode beginning at the cut edges and rivet holes.  Using tools and techniques, such as some of those seen or listed below, I have stopped most filiform and protected our Airstream for the past eight years.  Can you spot the filiform in the image below?

DSC_0113 Wash, wax & treat tools

Yes, it is on right side.  Air, water and salts can corrode exposed aluminum and travel as filiform threads under the clear coat finish.  (Other white areas shown below are from protective sealant residue.)  This filiform has not progressed since 2008 when we started treating with Boeshield T-9* (seen and listed below).

DSC_0118 Filiform close-up 2015

Important general note:  This article is my report on how I went about washing, waxing and treating my trailer.  It is not intended to tell readers how to wash, wax, and treat their own trailers.

Important safety note:  Even though I am seen (in a photo below) standing on the first ladder step from the top, be advised that there are a warnings on the ladder such as: “CAUTION: DO NOT STAND ABOVE 2ND STEP FROM TOP… YOU CAN LOSE YOUR BALANCE” and “DO NOT OVER-REACH.”

My tools:

Sun protection for my skin: wide brim hat (except for photo shoot), long sleeve white shirt, long pants, sunglasses, shoes (rubber soles for safety) and sunscreen (Think sport SPF 50+, recommended by EWG).

50-foot garden water hose, 6-foot step ladder, 5-gallon pail, Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash (label states, it “removes loose dirt and contaminants without stripping wax protection… Dish washing detergents strip wax protection”), extendable car wash brush, vinegar & water (to remove hard water spots), Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant, Long Lasting Protection #20, (label states, “A unique blend of polymers, resins, silicones and imported waxes… safe for clear coats.”), extendable wax applicator (I used my crutch), cloth-covered waxing sponge, two hand buffing mitts, detergent & water (to clean waxing tools), Boeshield T-9 (label states, “… a combination of solvents, lubricants, and waxes designed for penetration, moisture displacement, lubrication, and protection.”), soda, and a cooler.

DSC_0055 Boeshield T-9

My strategy: Wash one day and wax the next day to not overwork my 68-year-old muscles and joints.

My procedure: I pulled out about 50 feet of water hose and hosed off dirt from the trailer top and sides while standing on the ladder.  I then put 4 fl. oz. of Meguiar’s Car Wash and 4 gallons of warm water into a pail.  I raised the TV antenna and scrubbed the trailer top, including the solar panels and AC shroud, using an extendable car wash brush while standing on the ladder (This also gave me an opportunity to inspect the integrity of  the topside seals.)

DSC_0050 Scrubbing top to bottom

The rest of the trailer was washed from the ground and I removed yellow insect stains with my thumbnail. The trailer was then rinsed off and hard water spots were removed with a chamois moistened in a pail holding 2 1/2 gallons of water and 4 fl. oz. of vinegar.

The next day I sprayed Boeshield T-9* to appropriate areas of filiform (It dries quickly.)  I topped off my 16 fl. oz. squeeze bottle of Meguiar’s Professional Sealant from my reserve 64 fl. oz. jug (About 12 fl. oz. covers our trailer.)  The sealant was applied to the trailer top and AC shroud (I believe it extends the life of the shroud) with an extended wax applicator, while standing on a ladder.  I used a sponge wax applicator to apply the sealant to the metal awning cover and the rest of the trailer.  The dried white residue was easily removed from the top with an extendable wax-buffing tool and from the sides by using a buffing mitt on each hand.  Wax applicators and buffing tools were then washed with a laundry detergent, rinsed, and hung to dry.

DSC_0046 Meguiar's wash & wax products

 The benefits:  From my experience, this sealant will last at least a year and the trailer will only need an occasional rinsing or light washing, especially after camping at the beach (to remove salt deposits), and the trailer will be protected.

So now I’m a happy camper and ready to be ridin’ with…

DSC_0068 Ridin with..

Pepsi!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Propane gas leak and summer reading

(Updated September 6, 2015)

Last April, while doing our routine prep week chores before a camping trip, I lifted the propane tank cover to see if the gas regulator showed green (indicating that my active tank had propane) and I noticed the faint smell of propane.  I know that the first places to look for gas leaks in this area are the pigtail hoses that connect the tanks to the regulator, especially at the connection points.  These thermoplastic hoses become hard and stiff and often develop small leaks after a few years.  To find the leak, I used a small spray bottle filled with soapy water using liquid dish soap and spritzed the hoses and connections. (See Airstream Life‘s video, Detecting a propane leak.*)

DSC_0454 Propane pigtail hose leak

The leak was revealed by profuse bubbling at the QCC ACME Type 1 (green) fitting that connects the hose to the tank.  Since our OEM hoses were eight years old, I decided to replace them both.  The trick was to find the correct replacement hoses. Our OEM hoses were Model A4 made by Marshall Gas Controls in 2006.  Propane pigtail hoses are available in different sizes and with different fittings at the regulator end, such as male inverted flare and male pipe thread fittings (See The RV Doctor article, “Propane Pigtails Needed.”)  Our OEM regulator (Marshall Automatic Regulator, Model 250) accepts a 1/4 inch MNPT (Male National Pipe Thread) fitting.  I found that the easiest and best way to find my correct replacement pigtail hose (and not have to buy an adapter) was to take my OEM hose to our local RV supply store, San Diego Trailer Supply, which assured me they would have the right hose or make me one!  They matched my OEM pigtail with one off the shelf, a  Marshall Excelsior MER426-15, a 15″ pigtail with 1/4″ MNPT fitting.  My OEM hoses were 12″ long, but some believe the 15″ hose would be subject to less stress (See “It’s as easy as bungee jumping.”)  The hose on the left in the photo below is the OEM hose.

DSC_0458 Old & new hose, & tools

I gathered my tools, which included a 9/16″ wrench (an adjustable wrench would also work just fine) and PTFE thread seal tape (yellow coded for gas line).  (I did not use the pipe thread sealant seen in the photo above.)  I then wrapped the 1/4″ male pipe threads with 4 full wraps of the seal tape, wrapping clockwise.

DSC_0465 New pigtail wrapped with tape

The new pigtails were then attached to the tanks and regulator.

DSC_0470 New 15" pigtails connected

The job was finished by placing and securing the propane tank cover.

DSC_0474 Propane tank cover in place A green cable lock was applied to slow down would-be thieves!

This job was done by using just three tools: soapy water sprayer, wrench, and seal tape.

This job is one of many routine tasks covered in the hot-off-the press new book, Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance, by Rich Luhr, Editor of Airstream Life magazine.  Rich says, “You can keep your Airstream investment in excellent running condition for the rest of your life with just a little knowledge and a few tools. Most Airstream maintenance is simply a matter of inspecting, cleaning, lubricating, and easy adjustments — and this book will teach you how to do all of those things.”  In writing this book, Rich says, “I wanted to defuse the myths, clarify the facts, and point people to easy and correct options.”  This spiral-bound book has 219 pages packed with information, is well illustrated and the perfect size to keep in our Airstream, along with our traveling toolkit.

DSC_0486 Guide to Airstream Maintenance

Now that I have my current Airstream maintenance in hand, I can go back to my ongoing summer reading, Promises To Keep: On Life and Politics, by Joe Biden.**  Additional information about this riveting and moving book is seen in my latest post, “End of summer flowers, fruit, and promises,” History Safari Expresso.

DSC_0151 My summer reading

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**This is a link to a CBS NEWS video.