Ask anyone who's been driving a car with large billet wheels and rubber-band tires for any length of time what happens when you get a flat while driving. They're sure to tell you that not only do you get a flat, but you get a dented wheel, too.
A downside to the great looks these wheels offer is that they are susceptible to damage. Driving with only slightly low air pressure can leave the wheels open to damage at the first pothole you encounter. Because many enthusiasts go with low-profile tires when they choose tall rollers, there isn't much sidewall to protect the wheel as it goes over the bumps in the road. Knowing this, many long-time big-wheel and low-pro tire drivers are extremely cautious while driving.
After adding a set of 18-inch Billet Specialties Eliminator wheels and 35-series Bridgestone Potenza tires to our project '63 Biscayne, we worried about the potential for damage. Then we learned of a revolutionary product from SmarTire Systems. The SmarTire air pressure monitoring system is designed to work much like the air pressure monitoring systems on high-dollar, late-model vehicles like the Corvette. The difference is that SmarTire can be added to any vehicle, including our classic Chevy.
Using four radio transmitters (one in each wheel), the system monitors both air pressure and tire temperature and sends the information to a handy receiver with an LCD display. In addition, programmable warnings activate an alert or warning when pressure or temperature irregularities are detected.
Installation is fairly simple, but will require you to take the wheels to a professional tire shop to have the tires removed and re-installed. With large-diameter billet wheels and low-profile tires, you may want to call around to find a shop that is used to dealing with these delicate components. We took our wheels to Wheel Warehouse in Anaheim, California, to have them install the SmarTire system for us. Because we already had the tires mounted, we had to dismount them before installing the sensors.
Wheel Warehouse made quick work of the installation, then moved on to balancing each wheel on their state-of-the-art balancer. With all the sensors installed and the wheels refitted to the car, the remainder of the installation was as simple as plugging in the power cord and attaching it to the display unit. The assembly can be mounted with a simple sun visor clip, or you can use the included Velcro to attach it to the dash.