Most of us are familiar with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS,) as they’re now ubiquitous on new cars, but we bet you’l learn something new about this very important safety breakthrough after you watch Discount Tire’s excellent “101” tutorial on what’s happening when the light illuminates.

The History if TPMS

According to ProTPMS, a manufacturer of TPMS systems, “Tire pressure has a significant impact on vehicle safety. TPMS was originally introduced in the European market in the 1980s.

The feature was initially only available for luxury vehicles. The first vehicle equipped with TPMS technology was the Porsche 959 in 1986.  Other manufacturers began to follow suit with Peugeot introducing TPMS in the Peugeot 607 in 1999.

Then in 2000, the Laguna II from Renault became the world’s first high volume mid-size passenger vehicle to come standard with TPMS.

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The TREAD Act

The late 1990s saw a high rate of fatal accidents for certain SUV models equipped with Firestone tires including the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. Over 250 deaths and 3,000 injuries were linked to tire failure involving tread separation, causing severe accidents.

This incident led to the enacting of the TREAD (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act in 2000 to increase consumer safety on the road. The legislation mandates all light motor vehicles under 10,000 pounds to be equipped with TPMS technology.

Implementation began in October 2005 with 20% of new vehicles and reached 100% for all 2008 model year vehicles. The European Union followed suit,requires all new passenger vehicles to be equipped with TPMS from November 1, 2014.”

Vehicle Safety

Proper tire inflation is essential for vehicle safety. One look at the numbers and it’s shocking to see the effects of inappropriate tire pressure, not just in premature wear and performance but in highway fatalities as well.

According to a  national survey by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, they found, “That only one in six U.S. regularly check their tire pressure. This is an alarming statistic given the dangers of driving with under-inflated tires. NHTSA estimates that the number of failures related to tire failure will drastically reduce for passenger vehicles equipped with TPMS. These systems are designed to alert drivers when tires are under-inflated so appropriate action can be taken.

A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is made up of sensors located at each wheel to measure air pressure. A warning indicator on the instrument panel lights up when air pressure on any one of the tires reaches below a certain amount. The importance of these systems cannot be stressed enough.

For example, under-inflated tires:
‧Affect driving performance
‧Lead to premature tire wear
‧Reduce fuel efficiency
‧Are more prone to blowing out

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 11,000 vehicle accidents occur every year as a direct result of tire failure. These systems are now required in the U.S. and in the European Union.”

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Now that you have a brief history of TPMS, what do you do when the light comes on?

If you see a solid light it means you have a tire with low pressure, a blinking light means a sensor is non-functioning.

Whether you see a blinking or a solid TPMS light, the first thing to do, is conduct a visual check of your tires. We try to do visual check on the rubber every time we fill up with gas, mostly to see if any tire looks deflated or worse, flat.

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A warning light means a more thorough inspection.  You might need to grab a friend so they can slowly roll the car and you can see if there’s a nail, puncture or damage to the tire. If there isn’t any foul play observed, head over to a local Discount Tire and have the experts take a look. They will diagnose free of charge. Good stuff.

Here’s some interesting tidbits about TPMS

  • Damaged TPMS sensors are usually the result of potholes or foreign object.
  • TPMS sensors last 6-9 years or 90-120K miles.
  • TPMS Batteries last 6-10 years and are not serviceable. You have to replace the TPMS sensor.

If you do replace the failed sensors and the light is still on, it probably means certain steps weren’t performed correctly.

In that case, drop by any Discount Tire and they’ll check the sensors to see if they are working and then reset the car’s computer.

Lastly, anytime you buy wheels or tires, have the sensors rebuilt at that time. It’s a little insurance policy that will ensure your safety next time you take the helm of the car.

For more info and a Discount Tire Location near you, check out their website.

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