Monday, February 6, 2017

Alaska 2017 Tire Maintenance

Current Location: Covington GA
Next Scheduled Location: SC Early March

The cleaning and waxing of truck and camper is well under way.  I am still working with my WEN power buffer and when you have little or no obstructions it works great but at times it’s better to leave it in the storage compartment and use a little elbow grease.
On the road safety is always a concern and should be taken seriously.  I am not talking about being mugged or worse that is a whole different topic I am referring to vehicle break down and tire problems. 
One of the biggest potential problems I believe is tire problems.  To reduce this potential I perform regular inspections of all the tires.  I have two types of inspections that I perform one is the pre-trip inspection and the other is a on the road inspection. 
Three things that could reduce tire problems 1) proper inflation 2) proper loading of camper don’t overload  3) maintain a speed under 65 mph, trailer tires are speed rated for 65 mph.  If you follow these three simple rules you greatly reduce potential tire problems.
The pre-trip is a visual inspection of the tires, I look at thread wear and inspect side walls for any damage or signs of potential failure, i.e. cracks, bulges, and/or damaged areas.  The lug nuts torque and tire pressure is also checked and adjusted if needed.  I perform this inspection before every trip and if I am on the road for more than a day or two I repeat the inspection from time to time.  On the pre-trip I inspect the fifth wheel hitch on the camper and in the truck bed.  Running lights are checked both pre-trip and at least once a day when on the road.
The on the road inspection is something I do at every stop this includes fuel stops, rest stops, and end of day stops.  This is a quick inspection for any potential problems.  I walk around the unit and visually inspect the exterior and all tires by placing my hand on each tire and the center of hub checking for any excessive heat or damage to tire.  If the tire pressure is low it will be warmer to the touch than the other tires.  If you have a bearing problem the center hub with be hot/warmer to the touch.  This is not a 100% fool proof inspection but if done properly most problems can be found early.
I have looked at a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) and the prices are all over the place some 4 tire systems in the $50 range but a good system that will monitor 8 tires run in excess of $400 dollars like the TireMinder Smart TPMS with 4 Transmitters for RVs, MotorHomes, 5th Wheels, Motor Coaches and Trailers.  Since 2007 all new vehicle’s under 10,000 gross weight has a system installed.  The 3500 series truck are over this weight limit.  In the end I may regret this decision not to install a system but I believe as long as I do my inspections as I described I will be okay…
Some of the items I carry with me in case of a road side problem are the following.
VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor.  This is a 12 volt compressor that is great for airing up tires.  I looked at several others including a 110 volt unit but for the size and cost this is the best air compressor for the money.  I have used it several times to top off my tires on the camper it is fast and easy to use.
I also carry a Neiko High Visibility Neon Yellow Zipper Front Safety Vest with Reflective Strips, Blazer 7500 Triple Warning Triangle. Warning Triangle, and the Slime 1034-A T-Handle Tire Plug Kit.  I have not had to use any of these items but I feel better having them with me.  Last year I was on the Denali Hwy in Alaska at Brushkana Creek Campground a BLM Campground with the closest services at Cantwell about 31 miles of gravel road away when I got a knock on the door…another camper had a flat tire and asked if I happen to have a tire repair kit.  I loaned him the kit and offered the air compressor and my help but all he needed was the kit about 30 minutes later he had his tire repaired and returned the kit.
Most of what I have covered has been tires and like I stated I believe that is the area you need to focus on to reduce the chances of roadside problems.  But you cannot overlook the maintenance on the tow vehicle.  I drive a 2012 Chevrolet 3500 Duramax and personally like to use the GM dealer in the area I am when the maintenance is due.  By using GM dealers they have the history of my vehicle any recalls or safety issues that are related to my truck.  I have used dealers in SC, GA, MI, AZ, SD, and AK and have received the same professional service and pricing at all of them.  I have found that all of the customer waiting areas are different.  I plan to start reviewing the customer waiting areas.  I have never had a bad experience but I have seen some with a coffee machine, some with nothing, and others with unlimited snacks.

I also perform additional maintenance on the camper but the tires and axles are the main ones I consider road safety items.

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