It is essential that your vehicle’s tires maintain a healthy tire pressure in order to ensure that the vehicle is able to drive both safely and efficiently. While some tires that are experiencing pressure leakage will alert you by deflating completely, many tires are designed to withstand virtually anything thrown at them; thus, most tires that become damaged on the road will typically leak out air slowly.
The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) monitors your tire’s air pressure for you. With that said, it’s clear that the Tire Pressure Warning Light is associated with your vehicle’s TPMS. Continue reading in order to find out more about your vehicle’s tire pressure light and why it’s so important.
TPMS Are Mandatory
The United States Congress passed the TREAD Act in 2000 in response to Firestone, an American tire company, accusing state agencies in Arizona in 1996 of abusing their tires by not keeping them properly inflated. In addition, over 200 people died in incidents related to Firestone tire blowouts and tread separations on Ford Explorer SUVs. It was discovered that the Firestone tires in question failed as a result of intense heat building up on the tires, usually due to low tire pressure & underinflation.
The TREAD Act was enacted in September of 2007 and it mandated that every passenger vehicle sold in the United States be equipped with a TPMS. The TPMS system has been around since the 1980s but not common in the United States until the TREAD Act was enacted.
How Your TPMS Works
TPMS systems come in one of two system types: indirect or direct. Both systems determine the way the system calculates your tires total pressure & if they are properly inflated in a way different from one another.
Indirect System: This type of TPMS system utilizes the wheel speed sensors that are part of the anti-lock braking system. The computer within your vehicle is constantly analyzing the data reported by the wheel speed sensors. This data can be used to determine whether there have been changes in the vehicle’s tire size due to tire pressure loss, and if the system detects a pressure loss of 25% or more, the TPMS Light will trigger.
Direct System: This type of TPMS system is found in the majority of cars that have a TPMS, and
that’s virtually every vehicle today.
Direct systems monitor the pressure within each tire through the use of
a pressure sensor and transmitter located inside each tire or wheel
assembly. While most cars will have
these sensors attached to their valve stems, some may only have them mounted on
the wheels themselves. The direct system
will also cause the low tire pressure light to become enabled
if it detects a pressure loss of 25% or more.
Tire Pressure Is Crucial
Ensuring that your tires are filled with the appropriate amount of pressure before operating them will not only improve the safety conditions for both you and those near your vehicle, but it can also come with several perks that most of us wouldn’t want to live without:
- Your tires will stay in better condition & last longer
- Your vehicle will accelerate, corner & stop faster and more efficiently
- Your tires will absorb more bumps as you drive over them and provide a cushion for comfortable driving
- The heat that builds up in your tires will dissipate much easier
Why Is My Tire Pressure Light On?
The low tire pressure symbol will be displayed on your dashboard in the event that your vehicle’s TPMS detects either a loss of pressure in your vehicle’s tires or a malfunction within the low tire pressure sensor itself. It can also act as a flat tire light if the vehicle’s tire has gone flat completely.
There are several ways to interpret an active tire pressure monitoring system light. Knowing what exactly to do when tire pressure light comes on will depend on when and where the TPMS car light enabled.
The Light Comes on When You Start Your Car
When you first start up your car it is normal for the sensor light indicators to flash as the system boots up. However, if the tire pressure symbol remains on, refrain from driving your vehicle until you determine what the actual cause is.
There will be a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door jamb that includes what tire pressure your vehicle’s tires should measure in at. If you’re unable to locate this sticker, refer to your vehicle’s manual and/or website to find out what pressure your tires should be at.
Use a tire gauge to measure the pressure of each tire. Once you locate the tire with low pressure, try to navigate to your nearest gas station that offers air hoses for tires with low pressure. If your tire is too deflated, do not try to move the vehicle, as you can not only severely damage the vehicle, but you can also put you and your safety at risk.
You should have a spare tire, sometimes referred to as a “donut”, in the trunk of your vehicle. Some models may keep the tire located on the bottom or back of the vehicle. If your tire deflates after refilling it with air, you will need to replace the tire.
The Light Comes on While You Are Driving
If your TPMS light comes on while you’re on the road, remain calm and hold your steering wheel firmly. Do not try to continue driving, no matter how close your destination is. Slowly decelerate your vehicle and find a safe place to pull off the road or highway. Do not make sudden moves with the steering wheel, as it can potentially destroy what is left of your tire & result in a fatal accident.
Follow the instructions outlined above. If you find that your tires seem to be okay, it may be a false positive & you should have both your tires & your vehicle’s sensors examined by a certified mechanic.
The Light Comes on and Flashes
If you find the TPMS light on and flashing, this is typically the indicator that there is a malfunction in the TPMS itself. If you are driving, pull over to a safe place and consult your vehicle’s manual and/or manufacturer’s webpage for more details on how to handle a malfunctioning TPMS Warning Light.
Follow the instructions outlined above. If you find that your tires seem to be okay, you should have your TPMS and other computer sensors within your vehicle examined by a certified mechanic.
The Light Comes on in the Winter
It’s actually extremely common for many vehicles to show the tire light during the winter. We have written an entire article that goes into the specifics of why the low tire light illuminates when your car is exposed to cold weather.
Check out our check tire pressure light article for more information.