Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Your Vehicle’s Tire Pressure Monitor

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Having the right tire pressure is important for safe handling, traction, tire life, fuel economy—and for preventing accidents and blowouts. If your vehicle is a 2006 model or newer, it’s equipped with a handy monitoring system called the Tire Pressure Monitoring System, or TPMS for short. When your tires aren’t properly inflated, the TPMS will display a warning light on the dashboard that looks like a cross-section of a tire with an exclamation point in it. Some vehicles also have a digital readout that shows the pressure of each tire in pounds per square inch (psi).

Obviously, this is a very handy feature! What many people don’t realize, though, is that the TPMS isn’t a replacement for checking your tire pressure regularly.

Why the TPMS isn’t a Replacement for Checking Your Tire Pressure

The TPMS tracks tire pressure using a series of either direct or indirect sensors, depending on the model of the vehicle. When the tire reaches 25% below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, the warning light will come on. The problem is, once this light comes on, your tire is severely uninflated. The purpose of the TPMS is essentially to let you know your tire pressure is dangerously low, so it’s not a warning you should ever ignore.

Regardless of whether your vehicle is equipped with a TPMS, it’s always a good idea to have a high-quality tire pressure gauge in your roadside kit. Ideally, tire pressure should be checked at least once a month. The best time to do it is generally first thing in the morning when the tires are cold. You can find the recommended tire pressure printed somewhere on the driver’s door jam and in your owner’s manual.

Other Things to Know About the TPMS

It’s also important to know that extreme variation outside air temperature can affect the air pressure in your tires. For example, in some climates, the temperature can vary by as much as 40°F in a single day. That’s enough to change the air pressure in tires by as much as four psi, which could cause the TPMS warning light to display, depending on what the starting tire pressure was. This can cause some drivers to think there’s a problem with their tires or TPMS, but it may just be caused by the variation in the outside temperature.

The TPMS warning light will also appear if there’s something wrong with the system itself. If a sensor’s battery dies or becomes damaged, it will need to be replaced. The TPMS system also needs to be reset any time you get new tires or have your tires rotated.

In any case, if the TPMS warning light displays, make sure to check your tire pressure!

What to Do if Your TPMS Warning Light Comes On

If the TPMS light comes on while you’re driving, find a safe place to pull over and check the pressure on all tires. Even though only one of them may need air, it’s always a good idea to get into the habit of checking all four of them.

If the light flashes but doesn’t stay on, your TPMS could be malfunctioning. Driving on a spare tire can also cause the light to flash, because the sensors don’t sense the original wheel. If you think your TPMS is having a problem, have the system checked out as soon as possible.

Keep an Eye on Your Tire Pressure

An under-inflated tire can fail and endanger your safety. When a tire doesn’t have enough air pressure, it causes the tire to flex more, which generates friction that can cause the components in the tire to overheat and break down. In addition, low tire pressure can add stress to your vehicle and cause it to lose fuel efficiency—plus, underinflated tires wear out sooner. Nip all those issues in the bud by keeping an eye on your tire pressure!

For assistance with your tires, you can always rely on the pros at EuroCar Service! We specialize in all European makes, including BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini-Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Smart Car, and Fiat. Call us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.