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What the TPMS Light Means and What You Need to Do

Jun. 27, 2024

The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light is a warning indicator on the dashboard that alerts you when your tires are under-inflated. The light typically displays a symbol resembling a cross-section of a tire with an exclamation point inside, shaped like a horseshoe. In the United States, a law was enacted in 2008 mandating that all new cars and trucks must include this system, and the European Union implemented a similar requirement in 2012. It's important to note that while TPMS helps monitor tire pressure, it does not replace the need for regular manual checks of tire pressure.


TPMS Programming Tool

At what pressure does the TPMS light come on?


Under U.S. law, the TPMS is required to warn the driver of cars and light trucks when tire pressure is 25 percent above or below the recommended pressure for that vehicle. This recommended pressure value varies from vehicle to vehicle and is typically listed in the car manual or on a sticker located on the driver's door post.


How do I get the TPMS light to go off?


If you have inflated your tires to the correct pressure but the TPMS light remains on, try driving your car at 50 miles per hour for approximately 10 minutes. Afterward, stop the car, turn it off, and then restart it. This process often resets the TPMS and turns off the light. If this method doesn't work, refer to your vehicle's manual for specific instructions on resetting the TPMS system or consult with a tire professional.


Can you drive with the TPMS light on?


The TPMS is essential for safety, so when it indicates a problem, it's important to address it promptly. Check your tire pressures, including the spare if it's equipped with a TPMS sensor, when the tires are cold (after sitting for three or more hours). If all tires are at the recommended PSI and the TPMS light persists, it may indicate a malfunction. While it might be safe to drive in some cases, it's advisable to rectify the issue as soon as possible or seek assistance from a tire service professional. A properly functioning TPMS ensures you are promptly alerted if your tire pressure falls outside the correct range, enhancing overall safety.


What is the difference between TPMS and proper tire pressure?


Essentially, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) is a warning system that alerts you when your tire pressure is 25 percent above or below the recommended level. It monitors for conditions such as low tire pressure. However, your tires can be overinflated or underinflated without triggering the TPMS warning. Therefore, it's crucial to check your tire pressure monthly and before embarking on long trips. When the TPMS light illuminates on your dashboard, it indicates that your tire pressure has deviated by 25 percent from the recommended pressure.


TPMS light goes on and off


Fluctuations in temperature can affect tire pressure: warmer air expands, and colder air contracts. If one or more of your tires are near the threshold for triggering the TPMS warning, temperature changes due to seasonal or daily variations, or the heat generated while driving, can briefly activate the TPMS light. To address this, check all tires when they are cold and adjust their pressure to match the recommended values. Doing so should minimize the impact of temperature swings and prevent the TPMS from intermittently lighting up.


TPMS light flashes and then stays on


When the TPMS light flashes upon starting your vehicle and then remains illuminated, it typically indicates that one of your TPMS sensors has malfunctioned. In such cases, it's essential to promptly take your vehicle to an auto repair shop to address the issue.


Does a TPMS replace regular tire pressure checks?


While a TPMS is designed to alert you to critical issues with your tire pressure that could lead to tire damage, vehicle control issues, accidents, or premature tire wear, regular air pressure checks are still necessary. Even if the TPMS light does not illuminate, your tires could still be moderately overinflated or underinflated. Moderate deviations in tire pressure can adversely affect tire durability, impact fuel efficiency and tread life, and compromise your vehicle's braking, cornering, and handling capabilities. Thus, conducting regular tire pressure checks remains important for maintaining optimal tire performance and vehicle safety.


When I don't use the proper tire pressure?


Maintaining the recommended tire pressure specified by your vehicle manufacturer is crucial. Operating tires at incorrect pressures can lead to flexing of the sidewalls, which may damage the tire's belting structure. You will not be able to see this damage, which can increase over time. This is why you should maintain proper inflation pressure and try to avoid driving when the TPMS light is on. If you absolutely must drive a short distance on a tire with severely low pressure, drive very slowly and use extreme caution. It's imperative to inflate the tire or replace it before driving any further to avoid potential safety hazards.

TPMS Programming Tool


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