What Low Tire Light?

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The device on your car that indicates a low tire is part of the Tire Pressure Monitoring System
(TPMS). This article discusses many features of the system both pro and con.

Submitted: January 02, 2016

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Submitted: January 02, 2016



Tire pressure monitoring became required equipment on all vehicles manufactured for sale in the U.S. in the 2008 model year. Since then nearly 100 million vehicles have been sold in this country and all of them have been equipped with TPMS. That’s quite an infusion of mandatory technology into the nation’s fleet.

TPMS and safety - So you would think that drivers would be familiar with the telltale symbol that tire monitoring employs to let them know that a tire has lost air pressure. After all, some industry know-it-alls estimate that annually 200,000 accidents, 660 fatalities, and 33,000 injuries are caused by underinflated tires. How about you? Can you pick out the symbol for a low tire? Try it when you turn the ignition key to the first notch to what technicians call a “bulb check”.

Needed but unrecognized -That’s right it is the icon that looks like a yellow cross-section of a tire with an exclamation point in the center. But 42 percent of the people surveyed by the tire valve company, Schrader, were not able to identify the TPMS telltale even though over nine of every ten participants believed that a system which can detect low tire pressure is an important safety feature.

Newest statistics- The results are in and since the advent of TPMS the likelihood of one or more tires being severely underinflated has decreased by 55.6 percent and an estimated $511 million has been saved in the cost of fuel. However, ten percent of drivers surveyed admitted to intentionally ignoring a TPMS light.

What to know – The correct inflation is posted on your vehicle driver’s door pillar. This pressure sets the rules under which the TPMS system plays. When tire pressure falls below these pressures (sometimes different for front and rear), the light will ignite. You should check your tire pressure by safely pulling over, if the tire is not badly under inflated proceed to the nearest air station and inflate the tire to the pressure posted on the door. If the tire is flat or nearly flat call for roadside assistance or assume that traveling any distance in this condition will ruin the tire.

The downside of TPMS – Sensors use batteries that have a projected life of 4 to 5 years. When the battery dies the sensor must be replaced. With the price of installation, a TPMS sensor replacement may cost as much as $150. It is illegal for a repair shop to replace a working safety device with one that does not comply with the safety standard governing the device during its original manufacture. Therefore, there is no legal alternative except replacing the TPMS sensor.

Some additional conclusions – TPMS sensors like 20-inch tires and rims, HID, LED, and laser lighting are some of the automotive stylings that are drastically raising the cost of new cars. For example, if a two-year-old Impala took out an alloy wheel when encountering a pothole,  it would cost about $3000 to replace the tires, wheels, and TPMS sensors on the vehicle. That’s quite an expense for just one component of a vehicle.


Source: 42% of Drivers Cannot Identify TPMS Warning Lights, tirereview.com

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