What does TPMS mean and what do if TPMS light comes on?
June 15th, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
For a light that is so widely recognizable, it’s interesting that so many drivers have no idea what purpose the TPMS light serves or what these unsuspecting drivers did to get its attention.
This blog-post will address some of the common questions about TPMS, including what does TPMS mean, how to reset TPMS sensor, and how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad. We will also touch on why driving with tire pressure light on may increase your risk of having a tire blow out and getting into a car accident.
What does TPMS mean?
If you have a modern car, then you have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. The manufacturer installed a sensor in the chamber of each tire that monitors the air pressure and warns you when the pressure in any tire deviates from the normal range. When your air pressure drops below the recommended level, creating unsafe driving conditions, your car’s computer system is notified and turns on the TPMS light.
And, if you’re like most drivers, you ignore it, which, by the way, doesn’t make it disappear: the TPMS light stays on (or flashes) until the problem has been resolved.
Maintaining proper air pressure in your tires at all times is vitally important. Underinflated tires accelerate tire wear, make your car run inefficiently, pose a risk of tire failure or blow out, and make your car and our roads more dangerous.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cars with tires that are underinflated by more than 25 percent are three times more likely to be in a crash than cars with properly maintained tires. The NHTSA also reports that nearly 200,000 accidents are caused each year by tire-related problems, and that underinflated tires are responsible for 660 highway fatalities and 33,000 injuries annually. Properly maintained tires are also good for your pocketbook, because you spend less on gas, and also good for the environment.
What should you do if your TPMS light comes on?
When your TPMS light comes on, take it seriously. Your car’s sensors have detected a deviation in air pressure in your tires, and it is strongly recommended that you take immediate steps to normalize the air pressure.
If the TPMS signal light comes on, you must check your tires manually for any damage or leak.
It helps to have an air pressure gauge in your glove compartment, so you can ensure that the tire pressure is in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. If you are fortunate to also have a canned tire inflator, you can quickly inflate your tire, a quick-fix solution that will give you enough time to drive at low speed to a gas station or auto shop, where you can have your tire checked out and inflated or repaired, depending on the cause.
How to tell which TPMS sensor is bad
How to tell which TPMS sensor is bad can be tricky. Tire pressure monitoring systems vary quite a bit depending on the year, make, and model of the vehicle. The sensor that is located in the tire’s chamber may not transmit data unless the car is moving. And, since the vast majority of drivers do not have a transmitter detector or scan tool in their garage, they are faced with having to manually diagnose the tires, essentially through trial and error.
This requires properly inflating all four tires, releasing the air in one tire, and then taking the car out for a short drive until the TPMS light turns on. We do not recommend that you try this, as driving around with an under-inflated tire is a dangerous task. If you are interested in finding out how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad take your car to your local Fix Auto, and let the professionals take a look.
Driving with tire pressure light on
If you ignore your TPMS and insist on driving with tire pressure light on, that story doesn’t end well. It could result in poor traction and reduce your gas mileage, which means you will spend more of your paycheck filling up at the gas station. Best case scenario, you shorten the lifespan of your tires and have to spend more money replacing them. Worst case, your tire could blow out and potentially cause an accident.
If the light doesn’t go away even after you have filled your tires to the proper tire pressure, it could indicate that your TPMS is not properly recalibrated. In this case, you can try resetting the sensor or letting an auto shop do it for you.
How to reset TPMS sensor
How to reset TPMS sensor differs from car to car but there are some general strategies for recalibrating the system that are not that difficult to pull off.
Press the reset button.
Start by finding your reset button. Most cars have a reset button located under the steering wheel. Put the key in the ignition and turn on the battery without starting the car. Push the reset button for about 3 seconds. Start your car and drive for approximately 25 minutes, if you have solved the tire pressure issue, your light should stay off.
Reconnect your battery.
Not all cars come with a reset button. Another option is to disconnect your battery, since the TPMS system run on your car battery. Wait for a few minutes before reconnecting your battery and check to see if the TPMS light has faded.
Drive at 50 mph.
This method requires the least technical expertise. Simply drive your car at 50 mph for about ten miles, and the sensors will automatically calibrate themselves. If that doesn’t work, try again at 55 mph and use cruise control to maintain a constant speed.
Remember, your TPMS light performs an important and under-appreciated role by making your car more safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly.
Next time your TPMS light comes on, don’t ignore it or pretend that it doesn’t exist. It is there for a good reason. Treat it with the respect it deserves by pulling your car over and inspecting your tire pressure without delay.
This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto Castro Valley, a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing the Alameda County.
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