I remember the day well. It was July 3, 2009. We were headed to Flagstaff, Arizona for the 4th of July weekend, towing our Airstream travel trailer with our 2003 Ford Excursion. We were traveling on the I-17 north when I noticed the road getting unusually bumpy. The interstate was rough in these parts from all of the big rigs, so I didn’t think much about it at the time. We were approaching the Sunset Point Rest Area when all of the sudden one of the Excursion’s rear tires exploded with a loud BOOM, causing the truck and trailer to buck and fishtail violently. Fortunately, I was able to bring the bucking rig to a safe stop, but it was still nerve-wracking trying to keep both upright and in control after the massive blowout.
After pulling the rig safely to a stop on the shoulder, I hopped out to survey the damage. The rear, passenger-side tire on the Excursion had completely separated with chunks of the tire missing. What was surprising was that the tire, a BF Goodrich, was only a couple of years old with about 20,000 miles on it. The tire should’ve lasted a lot longer. The tire pressure was checked earlier in the day and everything looked good. No doubt, the triple-digit heat had played a role in the tire’s early demise, but some kind of puncture probably contributed to the blowout as well.
When it comes to your truck camper few things are more important to your safety than your tires. That’s because everything is riding on them, literally. There’s no doubt about it, a good set of tires can go a long way toward providing peace-of-mind on your travels. Yet what happens when a nail punctures one of your tires or if one of your tires starts to overheat? How can you detect anomalies like these early enough to avoid a disaster when driving at highway speeds? The obvious answer a good tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Fortunately, a good number of today’s trucks come with this important safety feature, but there are still a good number of trucks on today’s road without it including our 2013 Ram 3500. After researching the pros and cons of several tire pressure monitoring systems, we decided to go with the TST-507 system made Truck System Technologies.
The TST-507 Tire Pressure Monitoring System comes with everything you need to monitor the tires on your truck. The components include a color display measuring 4.6 inches wide and 3 inches tall, four cap sensors (one for each tire), and a signal repeater to amplify the UHF radio signal transmitted by each sensor. Additional items needed for the installation are provided as well including a 12 volt power adapter, a USB cable, a cradle mount and a suction cup mount for the TPMS display, and a propriety installation tool used to lock the sensors on each tire stem. The only tool we needed to supply was a small wrench to install the repeater’s battery leads to one of our truck’s 12 volt batteries. Overall, the installation was quick and easy and took only about two hours. The price for the TST-507 is only $432.
The purpose of any good TPMS is to warn you of issues that may create unsafe driving conditions. Most blowouts happen due to underinflated tires. Not only will the TST-507 system warn you of underinflated tires by displaying actual pressure readings, it will also warn you of any overheating within the tire cavity itself. This overheating can be caused by a number of reasons including underinflated tires, failing wheel bearings, and dragging brakes to name a few. Tire pressure and temperature readings are displayed on the TST-507 monitor. The TST-507 monitor displays all readings in real time by scrolling between the four tires constantly. In the event an anomaly is detected, the monitor locks onto that sensor emitting an audible alarm and provides a textual description of the issue (fast leak, low pressure, high temperature). The default high temperature alarm setting is 158 degrees and is what we are currently using. All alarm values can be changed based on the owner’s needs.
The TST-507 utilizes a small repeater to ensure adequate signal strength. Not only does the repeater amplify the UHF radio signals (433.92 MHZ) coming from each tire sensor, but it also helps eliminates electromagnetic “noise” from outside sources. The repeater can be connected to any 12 volt power source, meaning it can either be installed in the camper itself to a 12 volt power source or directly to a 12 volt truck battery. Engine heat can be an issue for rigs with inadequate air flow, like diesel pushers, but shouldn’t be an issue for full-size and mid-size trucks hauling truck campers. The repeater can either be installed using two small screws or using simple hook and loop tape which is what we did. We installed our repeater on the engine bay’s firewall and tied off the excess power cord with a zip-tie.
The TST-507’s power consumption is minimal. The system uses up to 100 milliamps when transmitting data packets or about 10 milliamps when the repeater is in standby. Maximum transmission power is about 10 dBm with a working voltage of 3.3 volts. Obviously, this power consumption, however small, can be an issue for boondocking, which is why we decided to install ours in our truck. How long does the individual CR2032 battery last in each sensor? According to Mike Benson, TST Product Manager, the battery can last up to 18 months, an impressive amount of time. When you change the batteries, the sensors retain the code lock so you don’t have to reprogram the sensors all over again. A very nice feature that makes the whole battery changing process quicker and easier.
TST’s tire cap sensors install quickly and easily. TST’s sensors are female threaded and screw directly onto the metal or rubber valve stem of each tire. The installation kit comes with anti-theft hardware and a special installation tool, but we opted to not use this hardware to make it quicker and easier to remove and install each sensor. With all of the off-roading we do, we wanted this process to be quick so our tires can be aired up and down quickly. The company recently made a change to the anti-theft mechanism from a rotating shell to a locking nut that installs underneath. We like the change because it makes it a lot easier to remove and install each sensor.
Truck System Technologies makes tire pressure systems of all sizes of rigs and combinations including massive systems capable of monitoring up to 115 tires and four trailers or systems small enough for motorcycles. Their systems even monitor spare tires. TST offers several sensor types—low profile cap, flow through, internal, marine and large bore. These sensors can be used in any combination to suit your needs, so you can get a tailor-made system to not only monitor your truck camper’s tires, but also the tires on the trailer hauling your boat or the four tires of your Jeep if you’re flat towing, something we’ll be doing in the near future.
What We’ve Observed
The TST-507 Tire Pressure Monitoring System is easy to use. We love how we are able to monitor the status of our four tires in real time. On pavement, we typically inflate our Cooper Discoverer AT3-XLT 10 ply tires to 65 psi front and 80 psi back. So far, at highway speed, we’ve noticed an increase in tire temperature from 70 to 110 degrees F with an increase in tire pressure of about 8 psi from a cold start. Most experts consider 195 degrees F as the high point when it comes to tire temperature. TST’s default temperature setting of 158 degrees is well below that point, which is a good thing because it provides a nice buffer for more damaging temperatures. Beyond 195 degrees, the temperature will start to impact tire life. At 250 degrees, a tire will start to lose structural strength and could experience a catastrophic blowout, similar to the one we experienced with our Excursion in 2009. Such increases in tire pressure even for fully inflated tires is of no concern because such increases are already built into the tire’s design.
The TST-507 Tire Pressure Monitoring System is a great product. We like how easy the system is to install and like how the sensors stay locked on the valve stems even after driving thousands of miles. More importantly, we like the peace of mind that the system provides during the triple-digit summer heat here in Arizona. It’s critical to have an accurate picture of summertime tire temperatures here since that’s when you typically see the biggest increase in tire blowouts. Would the TST-507 have prevented the blowout we had back in 2009? There’s no doubt about it. The tire had separated from excessive heat and the system would’ve detected that heat before the temperature got too high. This early warning would’ve allowed us to pull over and change the tire before any damage to our rig occurred. Our only regret is that we waited so long to get a TPMS installed in our truck. We should’ve done it a long time ago. What would we rate the TST-507 Tire Pressure Monitoring System? On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, we enthusiastically give this product a rating of 5 stars. It’s a great product.