What does the TPMS light mean?

Simply put, TPMS stands for Tire Pressure Monitoring System and is used to indicate low or high levels of pressure in the tires. A small chip is inserted in each of the four tires of the vehicle and the TPMS senses the pressure of each tire.

If the TPMS indicator lights up, then that means the pressure in the tires is less than 25% of the recommended range or that your vehicle’s tires are overinflated.

The sensor is present on the dashboard. It has a horseshoe like shape and an exclamation point in the center.

TPMS detects under and overinflation within the tires and helps to avoid tire failure that can lead to dangerous situations.

Overinflation can reduce traction and decreases the ability to absorb road impact that can result in premature wear at the centre of the tread whereas, underinflation can result in the following:

  • Slow tire response
  • High heat production
  • Tire overload
  • Increased fuel usage
  • Premature wear on both sides of the tread

But There Are Different Types of TPMS:

Direct TPMS

In direct TPMS, a sensor system is devised involving all four tires.

Whenever the tire pressure decreases, a signal is received by the receiver.

The con of this system is that the sensors are prone to damage when the tires go over harsh bumps on the road because of the position of the sensors.

This system is available in new vehicles.

Indirect TPMS

Indirect TPMS is situated on the Anti-Lock brakes rather than on the tires.

These detect the rotation speed. If it is slow then the pressure within the tires is low and the indicator is illuminated.

The pro of these is that these are less prone to damage and are long lasting.

Because the sensor of every tire should be turned on for correct operation.

The con of this type of indicator is that it only notifies about the decrease in pressure in one tire.

And Some Various TPMS Indications:

TPMS Sensor Stays On

This means that one or more of the tires have reduced air pressure in them.

Check the pressure in each of the tires with a gauge.

If you check and see no problem within the tire pressures, then your indicator is malfunctioning.

TPMS Indicator Blinks Then Stays On

If the indicator blinks for a minute or few and then stays on after starting the engine, this signifies that it is not working properly, and you should get it fixed.

While the indicator is not working, you need to be careful and manually check your tire pressures, as of course, it wont be able to show proper readings.

TPMS Light Comes On And Goes Off

When the light does this randomly, it means that the change in the reading and the pressure in the tire is being fluctuated by the external conditions.

At night, with the decrease in temperature, the pressure also decreases within the tires. In the daytime, the opposite happens and the increase in temperature causes an increase in the pressure inside the vehicle’s tires.

Similar effects can occur in winter and summer.

There is no need to be worried when this happens.

However, it is a good idea to double check the pressure in the tires and the condition of the tires when coming out of and going into different seasons.

Still, can you fully rely on this indicator?

TPMS is not a replacement for the routine tire check-ups.

It only warns the driver when the pressure drops below 25% or so.

Keep in mind that the pressure starts to drop well before it’s light comes on in case of under-inflation.

Meanwhile, routine tire check ups help not only to detect pressure problems, but getting a mechanic’s opinion can help avoid other tire related problems as well.

Also understand that it is just a sensor and there are limitations to it, like:

  • The indicator may be set so that it lights below the pressure of the tire that is required to carry the weight in the vehicle.
  • The sensor may not be transferring the data or readings to the receiver.
  • If all the tires are losing the pressure at once, the the sensor will not be able to detect if the pressure in one or more of the tires is dropping too low.

Therefore, it is important to get the tire checked at least once a month especially at the end of the seasons and before a long road trip with added load.

So, Should you always drive with it?

The simple answer is no. It is not safe.

Without inspection, it is not possible to know how fast air is leaving the tires and for how long the tire has been over or under inflated.

This may result in a number of consequences like a flat tire or a tire blowout or even permanent tire tread damage.

Therefore, it is better not to take any kind of risk here.

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