The nightmare prospect of suffering a tyre blowout while towing a caravan or driving a large motorhome is enough to make even the most steely-nerved grey nomad break out in a cold sweat.
The sometimes catastrophic consequences of these incidents, whether they be on a busy highway or a narrow rural road, command huge publicity. Newspaper pictures of overturned caravans or motorhomes make sobering viewing for all who dream of taking the Big Lap.
While accidents are always possible and careful driving is always necessary, there is a growing realisation that the use of tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) can play a part in reducing the carnage.
Certainly the message is getting through overseas. In Europe, all new models of passenger cars must be equipped with a TPMS and, in the US, the systems have been fitted to all vehicles since 2006.
Many experts, quoting statistics that 80% of tyre failures are due to under-inflation, think it is a matter of time before the systems become mandatory here.
Aside from the safety benefits of reduced blowout risk and optimising braking capability and road handling, the systems can help cut motoring costs … a fact which can help justify the after-market cost of several hundred dollars. Driving with under-inflated tyres means you are spending a lot more on fuel (a 20% under-inflated tyre may use up to 5% more fuel), and you will significantly reduce the life of your tyre.
So how does a tyre pressure monitor system help? Basically, it alerts drivers to the fact that their tyres are under-inflated or are becoming too hot … and before the issue becomes a major problem. They can be used to monitor pressures in individual tyres in both a towing vehicle and in caravans or camper trailers.
Direct systems directly monitor tyre pressure against pre-set values and send a pretty much instantaneous warning to drivers when pressure falls below set values. Pressure and temperature sensors can either be mounted inside the tyre, or simply screwed on the outside of the tyre in place of the normal valve cap. Internal mounting of monitors reduces the chance of damage or theft but will probably mean installation by a tyre specialist.
Messages from sensors are communicated via mini transmitter to in-car display monitors which may be plugged into a cigarette lighter socket, be wired in, or run on battery power. Sometimes an additional remote antenna kit may be required to improve the reception of the signal.
With ever greater numbers of grey nomads hitting the road, the focus on travelling safety is becoming ever more intense. In much the same way that interest in electronic stability control devices has skyrocketed, so too has the demand for information about tyre pressure monitoring systems.
Many long-term travellers have decided that the price of increased peace of mind is one well worth paying.