Underinflated tires can cause many safety issues. Common risks include premature tire wear, decreased traction, and greater chances of blowouts. With your vehicle’s tire pressure monitoring system, you avoid problems like these. Understanding your TPMS is key. Knowing how a TPMS sensor works can help you understand how to fix common TPMS problems and keep driving safely.
Purpose of Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Your vehicle has a tire pressure monitoring system, which is mandatory on all makes and models sold in the United States since 2008. Your TPMS must keep track of the pressures in all four tires and alert you about underinflated tires. Sophisticated sensors inside each tire or wheel provide continuous air pressure monitoring. The ECU notifies you about drops in pressure by illuminating a warning light on your dashboard.
Two main types of TPMS exist. A direct TPMS uses sensors inside the tire to measure the air pressure. If a tire’s pressure drops below a predetermined level, the sensor signals your vehicle’s engine control unit. An indirect TPMS places sensors on the wheel to track the tire’s rotational speed. An underinflated tire on your vehicle typically rotates faster than the other tires. When an indirect TPMS senses this speed difference, it will activate the warning light.
Battery Life & Replacement
Many systems inside your vehicle, including TPMS sensors, rely on consumable products to work. TPMS sensors operate on lightweight lithium-ion batteries. Because each sensor’s design integrates the battery, you cannot replace the battery separately: You’ll need to replace the entire sensor.
Both TPMS sensors and their batteries have a lifespan of five to 10 years. Just like a headlight bulb replacement, switching out a failing sensor is critical to your driving safety. That’s because a faulty TPMS sensor or battery cannot send tire pressure information to the ECU. Without that sensor, you may unknowingly drive on underflated tires and risk having an accident.
In some cases, a faulty TPMS sensor will cause the ECU to illuminate the TPMS warning light on your dashboard. If you notice this light on, check your tire pressure first using a tire gauge. If your tires’ pressure falls within recommended specs, the TPMS sensors may need replacement. If your tire pressures are low but the warning light doesn’t illuminate, this can also indicate a failing sensor.
Keeping Your Tires Inflated
While your TPMS helps you avoid driving with underinflated tires, you’ll need to check tire pressures regularly. Some newer vehicles have a feature that shows tire pressures on their dashboards’ display screens. However, the best way to find this information is with a tire gauge. Check your tires’ pressures once per month or before long drives to ensure they have enough air.
Whether you need a tire gauge, a TPMS sensor battery, a CV joint, or other parts, be sure to shop for them at a trusted auto parts retailer. Choose a retailer with a track record for exceptional customer service, a wide range of high-quality components, and convenient delivery and store pickup options.