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Bad valve stems

I mentioned in a previous post a couple of weeks ago in Ohio that we had a valve stem go bad on us suddenly. We were driving up I-270 in Columbus in moderately heavy traffic when suddenly the Doran 360RV tire pressure monitor started beeping.

high-pressure-valve-stem.jpgAt the time I was curious why a valve stem would fail, and so I later inspected the remaining stems. It turns out that they dry-rot over time, and it really is good advice to replace them when you buy new tires. But of all the tire shops we have been forced to visit over the years, nobody has ever recommended new valve stems to us.

The only shop to replace a valve stem, to my knowledge, was the little local place in North Carolina where we had our most recent flat repaired. Instead of the all-rubber stems that came with our trailer, which are apparently best for low-pressure use, this shop put in a high-pressure valve stem (pictured at right). It’s more durable and flexes less. It’s also more appropriate for tires that run at 60-65 psi, like ours do. That was Stem #1.

When the valve stem failed in Columbus, I asked Airstream’s service center to replace it with a “metal” one. They did, but they took me literally and installed an all-metal stem. I should have asked for a “high pressure” stem instead. The metal stem is OK but it is a little longer than the others and that makes checking the tire pressure harder than it should be. That was Stem #2.

bad-valve-stem.jpg On the drive last week from Goodland KS to Aurora CO on I-70, the Doran started to beep again. Our left rear tire was running at 53 lbs. We aired it up at a truck stop and it seemed to be holding pressure, but I noticed that another tire’s valve stem looked very bad. That’s a picture of it at left. You can click on it to make it larger. Notice the extensive cracking around the base.

Now I was starting to get the picture. After some period of total neglect, our valve stems were gradually failing one by one. The shop in North Carolina noticed it and replaced one in May, then a second failed in Columbus in August, and now here was a third one needing replacement.

When we left Cherry Creek State Park yesterday, the Doran once again warned me of a low pressure tire. The same tire that had been low on I-70 was low again. It had lost 14 psi of pressure in five days. Clearly, we had a leak. I aired it up with my little 12-volt compressor and we drove down to Castle Rock (midway between Denver and Colorado Springs) and dropped in on a tire shop to have it checked. (Turned out to be a staple in the tire, fortunately patchable.) For the record, that’s our fourth incident of road debris penetrating a tire this year. While we were there, I asked them to replace the valve stem pictured above — #3.

The fourth one looks good for now — it may have been replaced in the past year by someone, I don’t know. But I’m going to replace it with a new high-pressure stem too, just to be sure. Should have done it yesterday, but for some reason the idea escaped me until we were departing.

The technician strongly recommended that we use nothing but “high pressure” valve stems in the future, and that we replace them every time we wear out the tires. Only problem with that is that we never seem to wear out tires anymore — they all get killed by road debris before they can wear out. So I’ll just make a point of having the stems replaced annually as we continue our Tour of America’s Tire Shops.

6 Responses to “Bad valve stems”

  1. Randy Says:

    Thankyou Rich for one of the most informative posts about this problem. I just received my Doran 360 and before i install it i am going to do what Dr. Luhr suggest. Hope the Doran remains silent for the trip home…..

  2. Arcing Says:

    I wrote about tire stems back in November 2007 and found some good information.

    TR413 is the low pressure one and TR600HP, the higher pressure car sized stem, ther are many others that you can google like TR800, (longer versions)

  3. Andrew Says:

    It boggles the imagination what companies will do anymore to save a few pennies. Decades ago when I used to work in tires the first thing we did prior to removing a tire for replacement was cut the old valve stem. That let the air out much faster. If we were only patching we would remove the core. I will have to be sure in the future to ensure that valve stems are always replaced. Thanks

  4. Andy Says:

    In a back-handed way, your tales of tires are describing a success story…. 100 years of research & development of tires has brought us to the point where the average car driver ignores the tires most of the time. Thanks to all those engineers …. 🙂

    But your circumstances (i.e, high-mileage) and rig seem to challenge the limits of tires. You didn’t somehow magnetize the steel belts in the trailer tires, did you? Try asking the next tire shop if they have a de-gausser they can sweep around your tires.
    But seriously, have you considered any of the goops that can be put into tires that fix slow leaks? Just curious; maybe they’re not as effective on high-pressure tires.

  5. terry Says:

    Rich, I think I replaced the two valve stems in the tires I replaced in December of 2006. If so, there may be another culprit lurking here. There has been a recall of tire valve stems made in China over the last several years. It seems they dry-rot faster than usual, and can fail.

  6. Terry & Greg Says:

    I went back and found your post about valve stems… We have joined the ranks of those who have had a rubber valve stem failure…but happily also had Pressure Pro tire pressure monitors in place to let us know something was amiss. This happened to us in city traffic in Mesa, AZ—we were lucky with respect to where it happened—as we were returning to Tucson from the Four Corners Unit Labor Day Rally in Williams, AZ… The first alarm showed the pressure had dropped to 49 lbs…and within seconds we had a 2nd level alarm showing only 14 lbs! Nothing slow about that! We changed the tire and were back on the road in reasonable time… The PPros helped us catch the problem before there was any damage to the tire itself. When we got back to Tucson the first thing we did was have the valve stems on our Bambi’s tires, including the spare, replaced with metal ones. No more of that! And long live tire pressure monitor systems!