Motorhomes generally run with tyre pressures between 50 and 80psi depending on the type/make/weight etc. of your tyres. Running with overinflated/under inflated tyres is not only dangerous but is against the law. In these times of high fuel prices, driving with incorrect tyre pressures can have a marked effect on your fuel economy. Punctures or blowouts never occur at your convenience and may happen at night, in rain or high winds and isn’t it always the case that all the wheel nuts bar one come off fairly easily or you breath a sigh of relief when the last one is removed only to find that the wheel rim is jammed solid and all the hammering in the world won’t shift it. Taking good care of your tyres is important and a visual inspection and pressure check should be carried out on a regular basis. All the above could have been taken out of any motoring magazine and I guess most of us know it off by heart. However its not so easy in practice…..
There are several practical problems to overcome as many of the Garage Forecourt tyre pressure gauges will only cater for up to 50psi and pressures over that are considered “commercial” so you need to visit a specialist tyre company such as National Tyres, Kwik Fit etc. We have had to wait up to 45 minutes at times as these fitting centres aren’t allowed to let customers use their equipment for insurance purposes. There are numerous tyre pumps around supplied by Halfords, Motorist DIY shops etc. but again in general they are not up to the task of inflating tyres up to 80psi. They may be able to top up one tyre but unlikely to manage a fully deflated one. Then there is the balancing pressures according to temperature, particularly after a run when the temperatures are high – how much extra do you put in? cold air into warm tyre etc. etc.
There are one or two tyre pressure monitor systems on the market that will assist in keeping an eye on your pressures (however they won’t inflate your tyres if the pressures are down). What they do do is to monitor the pressures and alert the driver if any tyre falls outside a predetermined limit, giving you time to rectify the problem early.
One such product is Tyrepal and Tyrepal consists of a monitor and sensors for each wheel that allows you to configure the display to reflect your layout. There is a model that also caters for trailers. You can set high and low pressure alerts for each axle, together with high temperature alerts. The unit(s) run on included batteries for the sensors with a battery life of 2 to 3 years. The monitor can be run on AA batteries or from a cigarette lighter. Included in a kit is a mounting bracket and wheel locking collars.
Fitting the sensors is simple but removing the existing valve cap and replacing it with the sensor. The monitor can be mounted near the driver on a side window or dash. Configuration is complete in a matter of a minute or two and away you go.
In practice the unit works well. It was re-assuring to see the pressures on our Motorhome were within 1 or 2 PSI of the gauge I had been using and it was good to see the temperatures raise when driving along. Using the monitor has not made me lazy as I always visibly check the tyres however it does save me the time and effort of finding a suitable service fitting station and asking if they will check my pressures. I guess most of all it gives me a peace of mind when I glance at the monitor and visually see that my pressures are even across each axle and at the right pressure so I can achieve optimum economy.
Well yes there is one or two actually. The wheel sensors do stick out a few centimetres and any would be thief would not take a million years to remove these if he/she were so inclined. The lock rings may deter an opportunist but I suspect would be no match for a determined person. Clearly Tyrepal must have this in mind as they do supply replacement sensors and they are covered in the instruction manual.
Another con is that you have to remove the lock rings before you can inflate any tyre that needs it. A small point in the overall scheme and is more than offset by the peace of mind you get.
Oh. and… Do remember to set your alarm levels sensibly otherwise the beeping will drive you nuts. It is surprising how much tyre temperatures increase during a long run, especially in hot weather.
TyrePal themselves – well they are very good with their customer service however I get the feeling that they are simply distributors. They are willing to help whenever you call them but are a little short on technical ability and resort to swapping parts until its fixed. Now with small transmitter/receivers that’s probably all they can do but it would help if they knew more about the product and its set-up. That said they do return calls and they do try to resolve your issues so they get my vote.
June 2011 Update – I had reason to contact Tyrepal when one of my sensors went down. They sent out a replacement sensor very quickly. This unfortunately didn’t fix the problem and as I was passing their premises the following day I called in to get it fixed. I was very surprised and pleased to discover that the whole system was replaced within 15 minutes by a very pleasant member of staff. Well done Tyrepal. We have traveled some 3000 miles since and not a single issue.
Feb 2012 Further Update: – Our camper has been standing for a couple of months waiting for our next trip and I notice that out Tyre monitor now won’t recognise two of the sensors so I hope this is just a simple battery problem and not something more fatal as there is nothing worse than having a tyre monitor that doesn’t monitor the tyres…..
After speaking to the engineers at Tyrepal they decided that the batteries must be exhausted so I have replaced all the sensor batteries and all is now OK. Just a note of caution though – the manufacturers say that the batteries will last up to two years however speaking to their engineer – he believes that the battery life is dependent on how much you use the camper, which makes sense, so in our case they lasted approximately 9 months. The down side is that once the batteries stop transmitting to the monitor the last known pressures will be displayed for up to two weeks which can be misleading, particularly if during that time you get a problem.
One last tip:- We were completing a gruelling 3500 mile trip and noticed that the inner rear tyre was loosing pressure and had dropped to 50 psi The Tyrepal alarm went crazy as we were outside the limits I had set up. We pulled over to investigate and dreaded the thought of replacing the inner rear axle wheel. We discovered that the sensor on the valve had worked loose and was causing a slow air leak. Tightened it up and all was well. A gentle drive to the next garage was all that was needed to top up with air. Lesson learnt – check your sensors frequently.