You’ve just purchased a new vehicle and already a dashboard warning light is on, but this is one you might not have seen before. There’s a good chance it’s the new warning light tied to the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which as of 2008, is standard on all new cars and light trucks, according to the Car Care Council.
When this warning light comes on, it means pressure in at least one of the tires has fallen 25 percent under the recommended pressure. Low tire pressure can be due to a number of factors, including climate, road hazards and driving conditions. Although it varies by vehicle, the warning light will go off when tires are inflated to the correct pressure as outlined in the owner’s manual. Nearly 250,000 accidents occur in the United States per year due to low tire pressure and about 75 percent of roadside flats are preceded by a slow leak or under inflation. In addition to safety, properly inflated tires last longer, wear more evenly and can reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent and save drivers money at the pump, according to Schrader-Bridgeport International, Inc., a manufacturer of direct TPMS products.
“Although tires are a critical safety component on any vehicle, they are often neglected,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Free car care inspections, held in conjunction with National Car Care Month last year, showed that 14 percent of vehicles had improperly inflated tires and 24 percent had worn tread and were in need of replacement.”
In the fall of 2000, Congress passed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act that requires a warning system to indicate under inflated tires. Under the act, automakers had to be 70 percent compliant as of Sept. 1, 2006 and 100 percent compliant Sept. 1, 2007.
If your car is equipped with TPMS, the automotive technicians who service your vehicle should be knowledgeable about how they operate. They should test all the TPMS sensors before servicing the tires on your vehicle and notify you if any of the sensors are not working before servicing the tire/wheel assembly. It may be necessary to replace the valve sensor. It will also be necessary to reprogram your TPMS sensors after replacement and after rotating the tires, depending on whether your system is location dependent, according to Schrader-Bridgeport.