As Spring begins to arrive, many of us are ready to break out of our winter hibernation and start traveling again. The wintery landscapes and holiday décor I was so enchanted by just few weeks ago is definitely in my rear view. My thoughts keep wandering. Things like whether I need a new zero gravity lawn chair, whether I want a new set of tiki lights, or how much would a new mattress cost? Gadgets and equipment to make my rig easier and comfier seem to be all I think about!

Getting everything ready helps me stay patient. I am starting to un-winterize, stock up on supplies, plan destinations, make reservations and get my rig ready to hit the road. This makes me also focus on doing important equipment inspections and making sure everything is safe. Gas systems, brakes, electrical systems, water systems… wait, what about the one thing that keeps me moving – or not. Tires. That’s right. Flat tires won’t get me anywhere. Damaged or old tires are dangerous, costly and can really take the fun out of my Spring travel plans.

So that brings me to one item on my list for this Spring: a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). While most cars and trucks that are newer have a very basic, factory installed TPMS, most motorhomes, travel trailers and tow-behinds don’t. With all those extra tires? No Tire monitoring at all. Go figure! In truth, I’m not too jealous, because I’m really not impressed with the factory installed requirements. All they are required to do is install a tiny dashboard light (which, I contend, most people don’t even recognize) and for the light to go on when one of your tires is 25% or more low. Way too low, IMHO.

TPMS kits, especially those favored by travelers, offer so much more! Here are the main benefits to me:


To begin with, they can monitor a lot of tires. They can monitor not only all the tires on a motorhome, they can watch trailers or tows at the same time. The systems I suggest below, offer TPMS kits for 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 tires and expansion parts for up to 22 tires. And expansion is easy, because it is just a matter of buying additional transmitters to place on the tires.


These TPMS monitor each tire individually giving real-time data on the tire’s pressure and temperature. That means, if I want to adjust pressure by a single pound, I can. OK, I’m not really that picky, but I don’t want to wait until a tire is down 25%. They are too valuable and it is just too dangerous for my taste. The temperature is also important as overheating can reduce the integrity of a tire that goes unnoticed until it has degraded substantially or keeps going low. What does this have to do with safety? All of the above can result in tire damage, flat tires and blow outs. We all know what that means. Stuck on the side of the road, or worse.


Convenience is another really big plus! These systems will relay the tire information to a monitor or display that I can place on my dash or wherever I find convenient. That means the info I want is available to me at any time without having to go outside and measure each tire with a gauge. They even have a system that sends the tire status to a smartphone app!

The info from the tires is relayed by a transmitter attached to the tire on the valve stem. Transmitters are available in brass, aluminum and flow through. The new flow through transmitters have just become available and look awesome. They screw onto the tire’s valve stem and allow adding air to the tire without removing them. Another great convenience. All the transmitters are battery operated and batteries can be replaced as needed. 


I am not an RV mechanic and I have to admit I’m a little intimidated by some products. Fortunately, TPMS installation is easy and straight forward. Once done, I have the peace of mind knowing I have the information I need. It’s convenient and one less thing to worry about.

This Spring, I will only depend on luck with fishing holes and weather. And, I can go back to daydreaming about that inflatable kayak I’ve had my eye on.

Written by Connie Coates


Your rig probably has a lot of systems that need to be monitored and maintained. Without the right tools, your traveler’s life can be pretty tedious and sometimes unpleasant. For example, I’m pretty confident no one wants to use a dip stick to check the level on a black tank. There are monitors for that.

There is at least one thing every motorhome, travel trailer and fifth wheel – regardless of size, type or age – has in common. That would be tires.

But, bad tires aren’t just inconvenient like discovering a filled up black tank. Bad tires will take you off the road completely. Sometimes in a dangerous way. The question is, “Why aren’t you monitoring your tires?” Or, “How are you monitoring your tires – all your tires?

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), what they actually do or maybe don’t do, or whether they even have a TPMS. As a rig owner and traveler, you need to be aware of the significant differences and benefits gained from proper use of a TPMS.


Let’s start with what is “standard” for manufacturer TPMS requirements.

The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act went into effect as of September 1, 2007. A warning system, or Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), must be included in all passenger cars and light trucks – under 10,000 lbs. GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight).

The TREAD Act (via Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 138) requires original car manufacturers to equip all new vehicles with:

  • Monitoring of tire pressure in all four tires (but not the spare tire)
  • A TPMS system that operates when the vehicle ignition is on and warns the driver when tires are under inflated by 25% or more
  • A TPMS system that alerts the driver when there is a system malfunction
  • A TPMS warning light that stays on until the tire is inflated to the correct pressure or the malfunction is corrected
  • A “bulb check” of the warning light on the instrument panel that occurs whenever the ignition is turned on
  • Vehicle owner’s manuals with warnings about potentially incompatible replacement tires

Three serious points to be aware of:

#1. The dash light may be the first and only warning you receive from the manufacturer’s TPMS installation if or when you have a tire that is under inflated by 25% or more. Other types of warning, like alarms and sirens, are vehicle / manufacturer dependent.

#2. It is entirely possible your RV does not have this feature at all. Very few travel trailers and older motorhomes will have any sort of TPMS – unless it was installed afterwards by owners*.

#3. Not all Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems are the same. There is a significant difference between what a factory installed TPMS and a third party TPMS upgrade can do for you and your rig.

The Act only stipulates the TPMS must monitor for (very) low tire pressure and activate a dash light. Whereas, an add-on TPMS can expand the information with constant pressure readings on each tire individually, tire temperatures and even high tire pressure. With constant monitoring and feedback, you are also able to notice the speed of changes and investigate fast leaks.


Does your rig include TPMS? Age, Weight, Type

Maybe. Maybe not. The TREAD Act impacts vehicles after September 2007 weighing under 10,000 GVW (gross vehicle weight). The assumption is the vehicles impacted by the Act are drivable and have a dashboard. That means fifth wheels, travel trailers, toads or other types of tows are not covered by the Act. Although tire damage and blow-outs on these could be potentially devastating, TPMS is not mandated to be included in the equipment’s specifications. Check your owner’s information for TPMS equipment and use.

Do you watch for the TPMS dashboard light?

Do you know what the dashboard TPMS warning light looks like or where it is located? Frankly, it’s a symbol that you hope you don’t see very often. It makes sense that it might not be recognized immediately.

A national survey found that 42% of drivers could not accurately identify the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) dashboard warning symbol**. 

Is the manufacturer’s TPMS warning enough? What is “low” pressure?

We all know the recommended tire pressure varies between rigs and every tire situation has its own pressure range for optimum use and safety. Let’s simplify and focus on monitoring tires based on the following:

If your tire pressure is a little low (again, based on your equipment specifications) you are not operating at maximum potential. This information is great to know to make adjustments for the best fuel efficiency and care of your rig.

If your tire pressure is moderately low, you are putting your equipment at risk. If you have deep pockets, maybe you don’t mind replacing tires more frequently than necessary. If expenses are a consideration, you should get off the road and address the issue. Without immediate attention and proper inflation, damage could occur.

Remember, tire sidewalls heat up and flex with speed. Under inflated tires will cause additional increased heat. This can cause the rubber to weaken and crack. Under inflation should never be a reason for tire failure, however it often is.

I don’t know about you, but 25% or more deflated tires is extreme to me. This level of under-inflation is dangerous. Stop driving immediately and resolve the issue.

Just realize, EXTREMELY LOW PRESSURE may be the only time you receive a dashboard warning light from a manufacturer installed TPMS system. Make sure you read your Owner’s Manual to understand what you can expect and depend on.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports3 tires that are underinflated by more than 25 percent are three times more likely to be involved in a crash related to tire problems than a vehicle with proper inflation**.

Many RV owners add their own TPMS, either because their rig does not have one at all, or they want a system that will address all levels of tire pressure. Better systems will also monitor tire temperatures, so you can improve your fuel efficiency, operate with knowledge and comfort and get off the road before damage occurs.

What about your motorhome’s tow?

Another point to consider is the potential harm caused by under inflated tires on toads and dinghies. Even if your rig contains a manufacturer’s TPMS, it will not monitor the tow. An add-on TPMS can monitor multiple tires including tows.

What about your motorhDid your rig come with everything you needed?ome’s tow?

Most don’t. If you’ve invested in upgrading the rig to make it right for you, why skimp on TPMS?

As an owner, we make choices on what to add, or possibly remove, after taking ownership of our rigs. Some upgrades are strictly for convenience and comfort, like installing an awning screen or upgrading an exterior TV. Some are for efficiency like solar panels and self-leveling systems. While some others are for safety.

TPMS systems offer all of these: They provide convenience and comfort by monitoring tires constantly and from the comfort of the cab. They also support efficiency and safety by monitoring tires for the proper fuel-saving inflation level, signaling early pressure conditions that could result in equipment wear and tear, and warning of potentially dangerous tire conditions. These early indicators can save you time, money, and potential injury.

Even with the best of intentions, without an automatic monitoring system, keeping a number of tires properly inflated at all times can be a hassle and overlooked.

* Select toy haulers from Forest River’s XLR series released after March 2020 include TPMS. There may be others.

**National Survey: Schrader Discovers 42 Percent of Drivers Still Can’t Identify Lifesaving Dashboard Warning Symbol; April, 2014;

3 Choi, E-H. (2012, April). Tire-Related Factors in the Pre-Crash Phase. (Report No. DOT HS 811 617). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.