Here’s a situation that’s happened to perhaps countless campers. You’re cruising down a highway with your travel trailer in tow, then one of your camper’s tires blows. You think that it’s not a big deal because you have a spare, but when you get to your trailer you notice that you’re dealing with far more damage than a blown tire. Your camper now has cosmetic damage and if the blowout was bad enough, maybe you even have a hole in a wall or floor. Startup company Trailer Safety Technologies has what it calls the RV-De-Fender, and it seeks to keep tire blowouts contained.
This is a situation that I can relate to. Back in 2017, I was towing my parents’ Adirondack 31BH behind a Ford Expedition EL. As we neared our destination–a campground near the Indiana Beach amusement park in Monticello, Indiana–the GPS took us off of the interstate and onto some country roads. As it was around midnight, I traveled down these country roads locked at the speed limit, keeping my eyes peeled for wildlife. What I really should have been looking for was sudden changes in the road surface. The road went from a smooth pavement surface to a dirt road.
Suspecting danger up ahead, I slowed my roll from 55 mph down to a 25 mph crawl. I was right, and the smooth dirt road quickly began resembling the surface of the Moon. We quickly learned that 25 mph wasn’t slow enough when two of the trailer’s tires found a line of massive potholes in succession, producing such a crash and sound that we initially thought that something blew up. Well, I guess something did because one of the tires got absolutely obliterated. And it didn’t just take itself out, as it also put a hole in the camper’s already fragile siding while shearing off a part of the camper’s metal skirt. Some of the trailer’s underside also took damage. Thankfully, this didn’t ruin the trip. We mounted the spare tire, completed the drive, and insurance later paid for repairs. The only sign of past damage today is a miscolored plastic fender.
For Zack Patterson, Greg Bowen, and Todd Smith, this damage is just too much. A tire blowout shouldn’t sideline an RV for potentially months while you wait for parts that could cost thousands of dollars. They also believe that in the event of a particularly violent blowout, it shouldn’t ruin a family vacation with a camper that may not be usable because of the blowout. In 2021, Bowen created Trailer Safety Technologies with the goal of solving this, RVTravel reports.
Patterson, Bowen, and Smith say that they grew up in and around RVs, and all of them have experienced the frustration of dealing with RV tire blowouts. For them, tire blowouts meant not just ruining the fun of a trip, but missing out on family memories. The trio tried out existing tire blowout protection devices, but at the time they felt that none really gave an RV owner peace of mind about damage.
There are a number of products that lock a blown tire to a wheel or try to prevent a blowout in the first place. However, blowouts can still happen even with a protection device, and the blown tire can still cause damage. Trailer Safety Technologies says that the blowout below was an estimated $5,000 repair because tire debris punched through the trailer’s floor.
When the COVID-19 shutdowns occurred, Bowen decided to pull out drawings he made years prior and teamed up with Patterson and Smith to make the idea a reality. Their product wouldn’t prevent a blowout, but protect a camper from further damage caused by a blowout. But there was a problem, as it’s difficult to create a universal part. Patterson said: “We crawled under hundreds of trailers to find a way to mount a safety device that would protect the trailer after a tire blowout. We realized that there are a lot of different configurations under trailers with wiring, hydraulics, propane lines, shocks, and other obstacles, which caused problems for mounting our original design.”
Ultimately, they came up with a simple solution: a 14-gauge cold rolled steel fender that goes over each axle called the RV-De-Fender.
And since campers vary in design, the product mounts directly to the axles. Trailer Safety Technologies says the RV-De-Fender fits on the most common camper axles. It’s made to be easily installed by the RV owner, but the company wants to partner up with dealerships and RV mechanics to offer these right off of the showroom floor.
Some RV owners aren’t convinced that this is the solution that it’s touted to be. For example, RV owners on a forum question what happens if a chunk of the tire gets caught up in the device. Trailer Safety Technologies says that the RV-De-Fender has already gotten tested in the field in 24 blowout tests with multiple trailers and the product has contained blowouts to the steel fenders, keeping the rest of the trailer undamaged.
As of now, there are two versions available, one that fits 3,500-lb axles with 10-inch drum brakes and one that fits 5,000-lb to 7,000-lb axles with 12-inch drum brakes. The company has a patent on the design as of late 2022 and is working on a version for disc brakes as well as one for 8,000-lb axles. Trailer Safety Technologies says that the product will go on sale in the coming days. Targeted prices are $800 per axle. Of course, as these get out there, RV owners will get to see what they actually do. It seems like a promising idea!
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