The Road Warrior: Lessons from the Edge

By Mike Fay, Pitmaster of Aporkalypse Now

More and more competition teams are moving into trailers and, as with anything changing from one style to another, closes one set of problems and opens up another. We have been traveling with the trailer for the last three years and over that span we have come to rely on a number of trailer-specific products. Here are reviews of two that we have found very useful (we are not, have not, never have been, or will be associated with these particular manufacturers).

TPMS (Tire Pressure Management System)

A tire pressure management system monitors the pressure and temperature in your tires. Sounds simple, right? In truth, it really is. While there are a number of systems on the market, the system that we have been using for the last three years is manufactured by Truck Systems Technologies. Not only does it monitor pressure but it also monitors temperature via sensors that screw under the valve stems and report to a small radio remote unit on your dash. This system monitors your tire pressure and temperature in real time and alerts you to over/under pressure or temperature situations before they become critical. A trailer TPMS allows you the time to pull over and stop in the case of the deflating tire before it gets to the point of shredding and ruining the second tire on the side. After using the system for three years and being alerted for things from leaky valve stems to nails in tires it has always alerted us before the situation became critical. A TPMS system costs less than the price of two tires. That’s pretty inexpensive when you’re sitting on the side of the road with a double blow out watching traffic go by at 90 miles an hour. TPMS is worth it in piece of mind if nothing else.

Here Is a more detailed description of how the system works from the TST website:

A sensor screws onto the existing valve stem of each tire monitored while the receiver remains within your view in your vehicle. Each sensor has its own individual code that is easily entered into the monitor. This way, the monitor will only recognize and report data from your sensors and no other vehicle’s system. The monitor then highlights a tire and reports tire temperature and pressure. It will rotate around the electronic diagram on the screen and it will report temperature and pressure of each tire monitored approximately every two minutes. The system will immediately focus and report data and alarms will sound and icons will flash on the screen in the event of gradual tire deflation, rapid tire deflation, or elevated tire temperature. The sensors transmit tire pressure and tire temperature to the monitor every two minutes unless a gradual tire deflation, rapid tire deflation, or elevated tire temperature event is encountered. In such a circumstance, the reporting is continuous until tire pressure or tire temperature returns to a normal range. The system reports in PSI, KPa, Fahrenheit, or Celsius at the discretion of the system owner. The system is accurate to 0.73+/- PSI. The sensor operating range of temperature is -40 through 257 degrees Fahrenheit or -40 through 125 degrees centigrade.  Our sensors are operational in heavy rains, snow, high humidity, and wet or icy road conditions. The monitor can adhere to a dashboard AC vent using the bracket provided or you can adhere the monitor to your dash board using Velcro to hold it in place. Most users prefer to Velcro the monitor in place. Also, the 507 system includes a specially designed, windshield-mountable, suction-cup mounting bracket.

SYGIC Truck navigation app

As those of us with trailers know, the common GPS apps available for our phones such as Waze, Google maps, Apple maps, Garmin, etc., are all geared for four-wheel passenger vehicles. Many roads, parkways etc. in our travels with trailers are unavailable to us. There is nothing worse than being on a road heading for a competition or catering gig and seeing a sign for a 9’6” bridge clearance ahead with your 10’5” trailer in tow. While there are a number of stand-alone GPS units available for RVs and trucks, most of these run in the $300 to $400 range. As of this year, Sygic has released an app for Android and iPhone that accommodates both RVs and trucks.

The app has all the features of the more popular navigation apps with the exception that you can toggle between truck, RV, and car. One of the nice features of the app is that it can be run offline as the maps for any particular State are downloaded as needed so you are not constantly chewing up data. The downside is, of course, it takes up a lot of space on your phone or tablet but since space is cheap it’s not a bad trade-off. Not only do you get real-time navigation but real-time traffic is also available as it’s powered by the Tom-Tom system.

To get started you download the app and then set the parameters for your truck and trailer: weight, number of axles, total length and height. The app will then navigate you based on those parameters, avoiding roads incompatible with your configuration. The nice thing about this app versus a standalone RV GPS unit is that you can toggle between having a trailer and not having a trailer.

We have used the app to navigate us up in New England and down through the eastern seaboard and so far, we haven’t ended up anywhere we shouldn’t be. The app does have its quirks; it’s obvious the voice system was not designed with English as its first language so you may find some of the grammar and pronunciations different. We have experienced a few crashes where the app has simply gone away but re-initializing it brought us right back on track.

If you drive a trailer or an RV and don’t want to spend the money for a dedicated GPS unit, this app is not a bad alternative.