Understanding the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Most vehicles on the road today are equipped with a variety of technological systems that are designed to enhance our safety, as well as our driving experience. One such handy feature is the Tire Pressure Monitoring System, commonly referred to as the TPMS.

What is the TPMS?

Tire pressure is extremely important when it comes to your vehicle’s safety, handling, and comfort. Although you may think the tire is what supports the weight of your vehicle, it’s actually the air inside the tire. So when your tire pressure is over-inflated or under-inflated, it can affect how your car drives in a variety of ways, including how it corners and brakes. Both underinflated and overinflated tires also have reduced traction on the road, experience more rapid wear, and are more susceptible to damage from road conditions and debris.

The TPMS is a sophisticated network of sensors that notify the driver when one or more of the tires are overinflated or underinflated. However, it’s important to understand that while the TPMS is an important safety feature, it will only alert you when the pressure deviates by 25% of the recommended tire pressure on most vehicles. For most passenger vehicles, this translates to 25% above or below 30-35 psi. At this point, it’s important to put air in your tires as soon as possible.

Since the TPMS can become faulty or damaged, it’s also highly recommended to check your tire pressure manually. This extra step will ensure your tires are always properly inflated and reduce the risk of blowouts, tire damage, and other issues.

What to Do When the TPMS Light Comes On

If you’re driving and notice the TPMS light has come on and remains steady, it means one or more of your tires are below the recommended pressure level. Pull over as soon as you’re able and check the tire pressure.

Once you’ve located the low tire, re-inflate it according to the recommended psi for your vehicle. You can find this listed on a sticker on the driver’s side door or on the center door post that the door closes against. Of course, you can always check your owner’s manual for any information you are looking for regarding your vehicle. Often, this is all that’s needed, and the light should turn off. In some vehicles, you may need to manually reset the TPMS (refer to your owner’s manual for instructions). Do not use the inflation number listed on the sidewall of the tire, as this isn’t specific to your vehicle.

If the TPMS light continues to stay on after you’ve re-inflated the tire(s), you may have an air leak or a malfunctioning sensor. In this case, it’s best to schedule an inspection.

Another issue you might encounter is the TPMS light turning on and off, especially when there are fluctuations in outdoor temperatures. Large temperature changes in either direction can affect the air in tires—hot air expands and cold air condenses. Check your tire pressure mid-day if possible and continue to monitor it.

If you start your vehicle and notice that the TPMS light flashes for 60 to 90 seconds before remaining steadily illuminated, this means there’s a malfunction in the TPMS system. Schedule an appointment to have the system checked and make sure to continue checking your tire pressure manually until the issue is fixed.

Other Things to Keep In Mind

  • Don’t guess when adding air to your tires. Overinflated tires are just as bad as underinflated tires, and there’s no way to “eyeball” how much air you’re adding. Many gas station air stations have pressure gauges attached to them, but it’s always a good idea to keep a tire gauge in your vehicle. Also, you may find that guessing at the air pressure just causes your TPMS light to come on again.
  • Most TPMS sensors last for about 10 years, so if you haven’t replaced the one in your vehicle for some time, it may be worth having it inspected the next time you visit the shop.
  • Altitude can affect your tire pressure due to the air being thinner, so if you’re traveling to a high-altitude area, it’s a good idea to check your tire pressure more frequently.
  • Although the TPMS can come on due to overinflated tires, it’s much more common for it to come on due to underinflated tires.
  • The TPMS light may come on if you’ve recently had new tires installed; it should turn off after the system has had a chance to adjust to the new tires. If it doesn’t, schedule an inspection.

If you have questions about tire pressure or the TPMS, Accurate Automotive Attention is here to help!  Founded in 1969, we’re dedicated to providing honest, friendly, and reliable auto care that keeps your vehicle running smoothly.

Our ASE-certified technicians offer comprehensive inspections, repairs, and maintenance for all makes and models. Accredited by the Better Business Bureau and AAA as well as being voted Yuma’s Best Auto Repair for 20 years in a row, you can always be confident you’re receiving expert advice. Contact us today in Central Yuma or the Foothills!

Want more great advice on saving money on car repairs? Order Russell McCloud’s book Knowledge is Power by clicking here.

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