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Club 4X4 Safety Series – Tyre Pressure Management Systems

Insurance is about risk management, so following our review of GPS trackers a few issues ago, we thought we would start picking out some other readily available items that serve a safety purpose. Now some of you might be cringing, but the reality is many of these items will suit multiple purposes, while maximising your chances of getting to and from your destination unscathed.

In this issue, we are going to look at Tyre Pressure Management Systems (TPMS). As the name plainly suggests – this is a system that helps you manage tyre pressures by giving you a view of the pressures at each corner of your rig (and sometimes even the spares!). The core of the system is a central monitor that is housed inside your vehicle, with sensors mounted on or in each wheel which connects and sends relevant data wirelessly for remote display inside. The information flow is constant and adjusts to the conditions.

temperature readout

Temperature readout is a handy function

Interestingly, units like the one we have been testing from Tyre Dog can provide data on heat as well as pressure. Being a bit of a data geek, it’s been pretty interesting watching temps and pressures go up (neither is mutually exclusive) both in on and off-road conditions over the last month or so. For some reason, my right rear seems to get the most fluctuations along with the left front. So, even though the OCD in me made sure the pressures were exact when I first set the unit up – the next morning I was frustrated to see slight fluctuations of up to 1 PSI in the various corners. I put this down to tolerances rather than escaping air – the numbers haven’t changed since the initial fluctuation.

Valve stem mounted sensor

Valve stem mounted sensor

There are two type of TPMS, one is internally mounted, sitting in the cavity between your rim and tyre. It’s still battery powered, but this solution is potentially neater, with reduced risk of theft or tampering. Obviously the downside is that installation requires removal of your tyres by a qualified professional, a step that will also need to be mirrored to perform any  maintenance down the track. The other type and the one we’ve been trialling, is a valve stem mounted unit. The basic premise is a screw-on sensor unit, which in this case comes with a safety collar that locks the items in with a small hex nut to prevent theft. A little fiddly to put on and in my case, I mounted all 4 with the battery’s in the wrong way – a combination of reading the instructions (HA!) and from memory, no real markings inside the sensor casing either. Nevertheless, once the batteries were in correctly, following an audible beep from the windscreen mounted display inside the GU, we were set.

You can easily pre-set the various thresholds you would like – the intent being to have an alarm that lets you know when something is going wrong fast – a great on-the-fly indicator of a serious issue. If your tyre is getting too hot, it may indicate an alignment issue which is causing the tyre to track incorrectly. Further, if your tyre pressures in one tyre are much lower than others you no longer need to do the dodgy visual inspection or dig the pressure gauge out – you simply pull up at the next servo and top up. If it keeps going down, you clearly have a leak.

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Locking cuff for security

So, in our opinion, it’s a great piece of safety monitoring equipment which may pick up a fast leak that could save your life on the freeway, or a slow leak that could save you a prematurely worn tyre and some folding stuff. Either way, for the price of a mid-range tyre you can have all this information at your fingertips – cheap insurance I reckon, pardon the pun…

Happy Touring

 

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Comments 49

  1. Tim Warner

    Hi, thanks for the article. I’ve been following reviews on these for years. Be interested to know, did you use it only on your GU or with a van combo, and how often did the sensor lose contact with the unit?
    Thanks Tim

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  2. Andre

    If you opt for a TPMS with internal sensors it also makes inflating/deflating a breeze. Just connect the air hose and watch the display

  3. andreas ( bob ) butter

    have you done any serious off-roading with these fitted? looking at the photos the sensors are prone to un-wanted removal when in the dirt/mud/rutted tracks. do you plan to test the internal versions?

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      Kalen

      Hey Andreas

      We did the VIC High Country with them on – but then i classify myself a tourer rather than a hardcore rock crawler – didn’t have an issue anywhere…

      Kal

    2. Dana

      We are not really an average 4WDrs that are satisfied driving on roads
      like Plenty, Sandover, Tanami, Birdsville or Oodnadatta track. These
      roads are merely shortcuts or more appealing way to our destinations.
      We love more places like Walcott Inlet, Walsh Point , Cape Arnhem,
      Steep Point and so on.
      When driving thru really, really tough, rough, stony, sometime
      muddy and very often thru water we never take the TyreDog’s sensors
      of our rims. In over 15years we never ever have had an issue that TyreDog’s sensors would stop working or they would get ripped off. (Never heard that would happened to anybody) Mind you, when we started using TPMS, there wasn’t any possibility to buy silicon protection cups. Only thing is, you MUST install S/Steel valves stems!

  4. Alan Johnston

    I have been a Safety Dave system for 5 years that monitors both car and van.
    Has do far saved me 2 tyres from destruction after warning of lowering pressures..

  5. Danny

    Great idea but why can’t they build one with a small actuator in it that can release air based in signals from the cabin command centre. Surely it wouldn’t be that hard?

  6. Neil Burbidge

    The TPMS is one of the first accessories I would put on any 4×4 . I put them on about 4 years ago and have been brilliant. Mine is Safe-T-Tyre TPMS which is a screw on type as per your illustration which I purchased from Safety Dave at a camping show. I had a small issue with one sensor and Safety Dave sent me a new one and a spare set of batteries overnight. I have heard from other people their warranty claims are second to none. I have 6 so 2 go on the camper trailer and when I hook/unhook I press 2 buttons and monitor immediately changes. I put short solid valve stems in and that actually hides the sensors in behind the rim further (I don’t know if it would have been a problem but thats me ). One tyre in a set often heats up more than the others must be different composition. It is amazing how much the temp and pressure goes up in use. I set my tyres at 15 psi for a beach run and they heated up with the hot sand and went to 20psi so without them I would be under the impression I was still aired down to 15psi. 40 psi cold and I expect high 40s psi on warmer roads driving at sensible speeds. I certainly would recommend them well before fitting other things which i consider only have ego effect .

  7. Bill Andrews

    I agree that TPMS are an essential, especially if going off-road. I have had 5 vehicles fitted with TPMS over the last 5 years with 2 now sold & 3 currently fitted. On several occasions, I have been warned of a slow leak, which would probably have developed into a shredded tyre on the gravel road with the associated noise. I was able to stop & attend to the problem without tyre damage. A couple of points in relation to the various systems on offer : the first that I had was fitted inside the rim and one sender was broken off by a ham-fisted tyre fitter when new tyres were required. All my others have been external and have not been pilfered or stolen in over 100,000 km around Australia. Also, I prefer to be able to leave the inside unit plugged into 12V rather than try to rely on solar powered units. These can go blank if they get hot sitting on the dash & can be difficult to read in some conditions. The system that I have on my FJ Cruiser at present is about as good as it gets : easy to read, permanent power supply & batteries in senders seem to last longer.

  8. Denis Gailey

    These TPMS systems aqre mandatory in all vehicles in USA. They are built in and were mandated back in 2007 after troubles with Firestone tyres. All mining vehicles are progressively having them retro-fitted as part of their aim for 100% safety record on their mine sites.

    I did have one on my last rig and am about to get one into my new vehicle real soon.

  9. graham

    How do these impact constant deflating and reflating tyres for changing conditions and surfaces? DO they have to be removed to use a deflator?

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  10. Peter Hanson

    I have used these devices before mainly monitoring my caravan tyres during our travels some years ago.
    They worked very well but the batteries and power cables have always been the weak points with premature battery leakage causing corrosion damage to the sensors leaving the rubbish bin its final resting place. The other issue was the control unit needing the 12 volt cig. P/Point to function meaning this could not be used easily for charging other items. The until I purchased very recently is now solar powered on the dash so at least one issue has been solved without the unsightly cables draped across the dashboard.

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  11. David Schmeider

    I have a similar one from Safe-T-Tyre. They’re well worth the money giving peace of mind and as above they give a visual and audible warning.

    I like the ability to set max.and min. tyre pressure and temp parameters. There’s also the ability to monitor the tyres on the trailer.

    I’ve found that (besides the time the tyres have been rotating generally 1 hr to stabilise ) the temperature and pressure measurements are effected by thickness of tred ie when using the spare (more tred) generally shows higher temp even though PSI the same as the others.

    Additionally the weather conditions/ seasons have an impact as does what side of your vehicle the sun is on has an impact.

  12. Anthony Charadia

    I have had a TPMS system for around 8 years now, its an internally fitted with monitors inside the rim.

    It gives me peace of mind especially when traveling on long rough dirt roads and low range tracks. It has a switch to enable monitoring for road pressures and with a flick of the switch to monitor for low pressure when off road. If a tyre drops below the prescribed pressure it beeps continuously and flashes.

    I feel its better to fix a leaking tyre that could cause a serious accident or when off road a potential rollover.

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      Kalen

      if you’re running the locks – it i a little painful as you need to undo them then remove the sensor… What i do is once i air them down when going on a trip – i remove the protective collars as i’m with the car the whole time – when i got to air up to hit the bitumen and head back home i put the collar back on

  13. Dana

    We use external (screw-on) TyreDog on our 4WDs for over 15years.
    I hope I’m qualified to write a review and give other users of this excellent device valuable suggestions.
    We bought originally our unit from TJM in Sydney. The unit was Chinese made and failed terribly. As I was in some stage of my live employed as an assembler, fine solderer and tester of electronic equipment for telecommunication, medical and industrial equipment, I could more than reasonably evaluate workmanship. The sensors and unit were absolutely terribly made. Cold soldering was so bad, even sensors batteries wouldn’t properly made connection. After opening no less than six boxes with the owner of TJM franchise owner decided to return all the products to Chinese and not to sell these monitors at all.
    But we were not discouraged by this failure and start shopping around. I found Taiwan made for ½ a price of TJM unit, and they gave me 12months guarantee
    including postage paid for posting units back to them if this unit fails.

    So, when you buy the unit, make sure it’s Taiwan made, not a Chinese.

    When it comes to theft, it’s no good to nobody to steal original sensors as the sensors are pre-coded to your and your unit only. This coding can’t be changed! Only replacement – learnable sensors would have value to steal, but as they looks as any other sensor, thief wouldn’t know.
    To steal sensors would be more case of not knowing, stupidity or just vandalisms.

    What you need and must have is steel (stein-less steel) valves stems! We discovered that on corrugations and badly maintained roads rubber valves stems moves, bashing the sensors against rim wall of the wheels. The sensors will finely fail, probably when you will need a monitoring most.

    We found that marking inside the sensors is not needed, if instructions for installation of sensors on wheels are followed. Batteries should be installed as last when sensors are installed on wheels.

    Status of batteries should be check before every longer trip. It’s good practice to keep spare batteries in car. If our sensor fails, it is always a battery.

    It is very good idea to purchase silicon covers for sensors. For on road driving is just that peaces of mind to further protect the sensors. But for off road driving especially on dusty and corrugated roads it is a must have items!

    Finally, we would never rely entirely on TPMS monitor for pressure. When deflating or inflating tyres it is better to use reliable good quality type pressure gauge.

    In my judgment, the TPMS – TyreDog (if it is rightly made) it’s a very valuable gadget that save you money and it’s worth to spend your $$ on.

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  14. Mark

    Good Idea, but not very practable four wheel driving in mud, under water or rubbed up against rocks the extension of the valve stem out past the tyre is bound to get ripped off.
    I like the idea as where aired down sometimes pressure is lost on an odd wheel

    1. Dana

      Hi Mark
      We are not really an average 4WDrs that are satisfied driving on roads
      like Plenty, Sandover, Tanami, Birdsville or Oodnadatta track. These
      roads are merely shortcuts or more appealing way to our destinations.
      We love more places like Walcott Inlet, Walsh Point , Cape Arnhem,
      Steep Point and so on.
      When driving thru really, really tough, rough, stony, sometime
      muddy and very often thru water we never take the TyreDog’s sensors
      of our rims. In over 15years we never ever have had an issue that TyreDog’s sensors would stop working or they would get ripped off. (Never heard that would happened to anybody) Mind you, when we started using TPMS, there wasn’t any possibility to buy silicon protection cups. Only thing is, you MUST install S/Steel valves stems!

  15. Jason Firmstone

    There’s got to be a hundred different models and makes across the globe. I’ve been desktop evaluating many for years now. Still no closer to finding the best and best value units.

  16. Adrian

    These may be useful on the bitumen, but more trouble than they are worth if you are into serious off-roading. I had them (ie, the Tyredog external valve-mounted version) on my previous vehicle and while they do give accurate measurements they are very prone to damage and bounce around while you’re travelling.
    This damages the wheel rims because the sensor unit hits against them (not a major issue, just cosmetic), but it also damages the sensor units themselves – so the caps get broken and the units fail or tart tiving false alarms of readings.. I tossed out the last set and wouldn’t make the investment again.
    For off-road work, my recommendation is visual inspection each time you stop, and of course a morning check of pressures using your compressor and gauge (and also as you air up or down according to the track conditions).

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  17. Ken Croak

    I’ve used safe-t-tyre brand of sensors on my last two vehicles (similar to tyre dog) and can recommend that brand, I have them fitted in conjunction with ‘fobo tyre’ ‘T-Valves’.
    This is a great combination as the ‘T-valves’ replace standard valve stems allowing you to fit tpm sensor to part of tee facing into the wheel out of harms way, plus, the other big advantage of ‘T-Valves’ is that you don’t have to remove sensors to air down and up, saving heaps of time.
    I’d post pictures if I could.

  18. Christopher Wilson

    We have used the Tyredog for over 3 years including across the Simpson and 5 months touring outback WA. Would not leave home without them. The only issue is that sometimes on very rough roads you may get a false alarm with the audible alarm going off and showing a sharp drop in pressure. We discovered that if you turn the unit off and then back on it resets. Other than that they are excellent. They are also a good reminder when you have air down to not to forget to air up when you get back to the bitumen.

  19. Andrew

    For about $100 per corner, mine has already paid for itself twice over… Lets you know you have a puncture BEFORE you even feel a difference, hence time to stop safely before destroying the tyre completely.. I swap between my 4×4 and my everyday easily so it looks after both sets of tyres…

  20. Keith Andrews

    I believe this technolgy is becoming mandatory for new cars in Europe & USA for safety reasons.
    I have had an “after-market” unit on my Forester for 2 years and am very happy with performance.
    As well as safety & performance benefits it has also saved at least one tyre for me on my outback trips on unsealed rough roads.

  21. Brian Fawcett

    Can you get a system that will check duels on the caravan or boat traileras well as my 4be . Or have two systems . But will the caravan system send info to the front of a 4×4 or is the distance to far??

    Thanks guys and gals love your writings keep it up
    Cheers

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      Kalen

      G’day Brian,

      We know of customer who buy multiple systems to ensure they have a handle on their spares and van tyres too – not aware of any that do more than 4 in the one system though – bit of a gap in the market we think?

      Kal

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  22. Chris Adams

    In the past I’ve had problems with tyres (splitting the bands??) getting a bulge on the tread. this has happened with tyres correctly inflated at the start of the trip across desert temperature roads, I have fitted a TPMS and want to set the alarms, but I cant find out how much pressure and temperature increase is too much, at what point will the tyres fail?

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  23. Rog Kent

    Bought a Tyre Dog monitoring system a few years ago. Only lasted a couple of weeks into a long trip up to the Cape via Fraser, and packed it in. No time to get it replaced, which cost me an almost new Cooper STT tyre – as well as the wasted $ I spent on the system. Needless to say, I won’t be buying that brand again. I have a factory TPMS on my other car, and it’s worked a treat. On my next 4WD I’ll put a TPMS … just not a Tyre Dog.

  24. Alan Davies

    In relation to TPMS’s as a 4×4 enthusiast mucking about changing tyre pressures for various conditions is awkward with an external system could you review an internal system please?

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      Kalen

      Gday Allan,

      About $300 for the one we’re using – grab them online or your local 4×4 accessory outlet.

      Kal

  25. Dan Nebauer

    Interesting – do you need to remove each one before inflating/deflating? What cost are these kits?

    Cheers, Dan

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  26. Garry

    Regarding the fitmemt of the tyre pressure management sensor the the valve stem, would this not require a rebalance of the wheels because of the extra grams swinging off the one side of the wheel??

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      Kalen

      that’s actually a really interesting point – if they threw the wheels off balance i would expect to feel it through the wheel Garry – nothing negative at this stage.

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