This Inexpensive Tool Could Save Your Life
Maintaining proper RV tire pressure is crucial to avoiding costly tire repairs/failures and potentially lethal accidents. While many add a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) to their RV, this little tool is just as important, whether you have a TPMS or not.
As part of my pre-departure inspection, I check the tire pressure in all twelve tires (six on the coach, two on the dolly and four on the car) before we pull out. The other morning set out to go do some grocery shopping. Right after we left, our Honda’s internal TPMS flagged me as to having a tire with low pressure. Sure enough, after pulling over, it was obviously low. So, I turned around and pulled back into the RV park to air up the tire.
A Slow Leak
Over the next few days it became obvious that we had a slow leak. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find any punctures in the tire that might be causing the problem. I inspected the valve stem, but it didn’t appear to be leaking.
To check for a puncture in a tire, apply some soapy water to the tread area. If you see bubbles you’ve located the puncture. To check a valve stem you can do the same thing. Check the valve stem valve by applying a little soapy water or spittle on the end of your finger and place your finger over the end of the valve stem (cap removed). If bubbles appear, the valve is either loose or faulty.
A couple of days later the tire was once again low. We didn’t want to chance having a flat in the backcountry or far from our rig, so we stayed home until we could get the tire checked or replaced at a tire shop. Yes, this did spoil our plans for continued exploration of the area.
The day before our scheduled departure I did a preliminary tire pressure check of all of the tires. I usually start with the coach and today was no exception. When I removed the valve stem cap on one of the rear duals I felt a wisp of air coming from the valve stem.
Solving the RV Tire Pressure Puzzle
It was ever so slightly leaking … so slight that the valve cap had been holding back the pressure. Had this been a plastic valve stem cap under that amount of air pressure, it probably would not have held pressure. Next, I checked the valve stem valve to ensure it was properly tightened. This was easily achieved with a very inexpensive tool available anywhere tire repair items are sold. I have a couple of them … or so I thought, but searching through my tools I could not locate either of the two different types normally kept on hand: a screw driver type or the small four-way as pictured. Instead, I ended up using a very fine pair of needle-nose pliers to twist the valve to tighten it. I did the same to the offending tire on the car which seemed to help.
Upon arriving at our next destination, I purchased another tire valve tool at a local Wal-Mart at a cost of only $1.84, which includes four replacement valves. Once back at the rig I tightened every valve stem valve on every tire we own. To my surprise, several were at least a quarter of a turn from being completely seated. Two were a half turn or more. Needless to say, a loose, leaking valve stem can cause a tire failure due to low pressure under load at highway speeds. So do yourself and your vehicles a favor … pick up one of these very inexpensive tools and make sure your valve stems are snugly seated in the valve stem. Make sure your valve stem caps or TPMS devices are also in good condition and on tight.
The leaking valve stem on our car seems to be holding pressure, which means I don’t have to replace the tire(s) while the tread is still good … which is what we were and are prepared to do if required, to keep us and others on the road safe.
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