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Understanding Your Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Your vehicle's tires improve traction and gas mileage. That's why they need to be properly inflated. Your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) allows you to track tire pressure from the driver's seat and stay safe on the road. Learn more about TPMS and what you can do to ensure it's working properly.

What is the Tire Pressure Monitoring System?

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) implemented the TPMS as part of a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. It requires most vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less and manufactured after 2008 to be equipped with a TPMS.

The TPMS alerts drivers when a vehicle's tire reaches 25 percent below the recommended pressure. As an example, if your tires should be filled to 32 pounds per square inch (psi), the TPMS dash light will come on when the tire reaches 24 psi.

Tire pressure is important for safe driving. Underinflated tires can't connect properly with the road, which increases your chances of skidding, hydroplaning, losing control or having an accident. You may have full-coverage insurance, but you also want properly inflated tires to successfully brake in heavy traffic, maintain control on slippery surfaces, or navigate unexpected debris on the road. Proper inflation also prolongs the life of your tires and improves your vehicle's gas mileage.

What are the Types of TPMS?

Vehicles are equipped with either a direct or indirect tire pressure monitoring system. Both types signal the dash light to illuminate if the tire pressure decreases.

  • Direct: operates with a pressure sensor attached to the wheel inside the air chamber.

  • Indirect: uses the anti-lock braking system to compare the tires' rotational speed.

What Should you do if Your TPMS Light Comes On?

An illuminated TPMS light looks like the cross section of a tire with an exclamation point in the center. When it comes on, take action and inflate your tires to the recommended psi. You can find this information on the driver's side doorjamb or in the vehicle's owner's manual.

If you notice that the TPMS light turns on but disappears at certain times, understand that it could be caused by an ambient temperature fluctuation. Tire pressure can change by 1 or 2 psi when your vehicle undergoes temperature changes of 10 degrees or more. In these cases, your tires may not have lost enough pressure to turn the TPMS light on all the way, but they do need air as soon as possible.

How do you Maintain the TPMS System?

Your auto technician has the tools to maintain your vehicle's TPMS system. During your annual vehicle inspection or when your tires begin to show wear or uneven tread, your technician will inspect the TPMS and sensors to make sure it's operating properly. He/she can also replace the sensor batteries, the nickel-plated valve stems, or the rubber grommet and locking ring, and recommend additional maintenance during the year.

You can also contact your expert auto insurance agent for help. At Newins A Abana Auto Insurance, we will help you obtain the required insurance for your vehicle and find a qualified mechanic to repair your TPMS. We specialize in full-coverage insurance and in keeping you and your loved ones safe.