Posted by: Realist | January 6, 2009

Why Are Trailer Tires Always Low on Air?

It seems I’m always hearing stories of fellow horse owners who find their trailer tires low on air and have to loop by the gas station on their way to a horse show, becoming even later than they already were, and feeling more stress than they were already feeling. For me, my trailer tires always seem low as well, but I’m really happy I invested in a $40 air compressor. That way I can top off the tires at home, usually the night before I have to trailer somewhere. (Did I ever tell you I prep the trailer the day before?)

Let me tell you, that $40 air compressor has been a major convenience tool. I use it almost every time I have to trailer. And now I’m better about keeping my commuter car tires filled up, since when I have it out for the trailer, I top off the car tires. I’ve been known to end up with tires worn all around the edges because I didn’t fill them up for, oh, two years or so.

I also finally got a decent tire gauge for about $10-$15. It has a dial with needle and a button which resets it. I used to use those cheap gauges where the pressure is read off a square white rod that sticks out the end of the gauge. I never could get consistent readings. One day I noticed that the square white rod would shoot out of the gauge beyond the actual pressure reading. If you push the white rod back in while the gauge is attached to the tire stem, you’ll feel where there is pressure and where this isn’t. I realized then that those gauges were too inconsistent to be worthwhile. I compared two side-by-side on the same tire and they were off by 5 psi.

At one time I researched these tire stem caps that would turn green or red depending on the pressure.  They sounded like a fantastic idea.  No more unscrewing the cap and checking the pressure, only to find it was fine.  I almost bought a set but found some scary reviews on epinions.  Apparently if these caps fail, they will release all the air, and you’ll have 4 flat tires.  I think I’ll pass.

A few years ago I got about 6-8 flats in a short period of time. Maybe there was construction in the area, maybe I had bad luck, maybe someone was sabotaging me, who knows. All I know was I got lots of flat, including one on the horse trailer. In fact, it got so frequent that I started worrying about getting a second flat while I was using the spare. So I got a tire repair kit (string plug) for about $10 and learned how to use it. Although not recommended by the pros as a permanent fix, I went ahead and used the string plug and it held just fine. So much for them being “temporary”. Once I pushed the string plug all the way into the tire by accident and so it’s probably rolling around in there to this day. By the way, make sure you get the T-handle for pushing in the plug. It takes quite a bit of force and if you get the cheapo handle you won’t be able to push the plug into the tire.

I also got a $40 inverter to convert from 12V DC to 120V AC to power the air compressor off the truck battery. A plug kit is no good if you can’t fill the tire after it’s been repaired. I’m pretty sure I tested this setup, but it’s been so long I can’t remember. I can just imagine that when I need this setup in the middle of nowhere at midnight, I’ll discover that the battery cables don’t have enough capacity to power the air compressor. Fortunately I’ve never had a need to repair a tire on the road, but I really should test this soon.

Oh yeah, although not related to trailering specifically, I also have quick-attach tire chains, tow strap, folding shovel, and high intensity light sticks (instead of flares) in the truck. And I’ve had a need for all of them at one time or another.

It’s funny, some people will see all the stuff I have for my tires in my truck and ask why it’s necessary and whether I’m being paranoid. I didn’t start out with all this gear. Rather, it was a response to all the various things that went wrong over the years. I guess that’s just learning from experience. So take it from me, there are a lot of things that can break on a truck or trailer and you can still limp home OK or make do with duct tape or baling twine. But if you don’t have tires, you’re not going anywhere.



  1. Ted, you are such a great writer. I like all your stories…

  2. I enjoyed reading your story on the perfect storm… However further down I noticed you had purchased an inverter in order to power your compressor in the event you had to fill it up. In my “personal” experience this didn’t work as the inverter did not have sufficient power to power the compressor I had a 400 watt one. You would probably need a heavier duty power supply to do the job and I suspect that it would need to be wired directly to your vehicle battery.

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