You may know that all 2008 model year and newer cars, mini-vans and light trucks come with a tire pressure monitoring system. Many slightly older vehicles have these systems as well. A tire pressure monitoring system – called TPMS – consists of sensors on each wheel that measure tire pressure.
If tire pressure drops 25% below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, the sensor sends a signal to a monitoring unit that causes a warning to light up on the dashboard. When you see the warning light, you know it’s time to put some air in your tires.
There are many benefits to driving with properly inflated tires. First is cost savings. Running at the correct air pressure improves fuel economy. Driving on under-inflated tires is like driving through sand – it drags down your fuel economy. You’ll also see longer, more even tread wear so your tires’ll last longer.
Another important benefit of properly inflated tires is increased safety. Under-inflated tires become hotter and that heat can actually lead to tire failure – possibly resulting in an accident. Your car and the tires themselves will just perform better and more safely with properly inflated tires.
Consumer groups, law-makers and vehicle manufacturers advocate TPMS systems hoping that they will save lives, property damage and inconvenience. While you can’t put a value on saving a life, we keep in mind that TPMS systems will carry a cost.
The systems themselves are added into the price of the car. The batteries in the sensors will have to be replaced from time to time. Parts will break and need to be replaced. In colder climates, ice and salt are frequent causes of failure.
In addition, there are other behind-the-scenes costs to be aware of. Every time a tire is replaced, repaired, rotated or balanced, the tire technician has to deal with the TPMS system.
Your service center must purchase equipment used to scan and reactivate the TPMS system after every tire service. Because older tire change equipment can damage TPMS sensors, your service center may need to buy expensive, new tire changers.
Since there is no uniformity among manufacturers, technicians need to be trained on several TPMS systems. These behind-the-scenes costs are very real to your service center.
That’s why they are anxious for you to understand the financial impact of TPMS systems. In the past, they’ve been able to quickly and cheaply provide tire services, and then pass the low cost on to you as an expression of their good will. But now even these simple jobs will take much longer.
Sensors will need to be removed and reinstalled. Even a tire rotation will require that the monitor be reprogrammed to the new location of each tire. When a car battery is disconnected, the TPMS system will need to be reprogrammed.
So when you start so see the cost of tire changes, flat repairs and rotations going up, please keep in mind that it’s because of this new safety equipment. Your service center just wants to keep you safely on the road – and it’s committed to do so at a fair price.
It’s important to remember that the TPMS warning only comes on when a tire is severely under-inflated. You’ll still want to check your tire pressure on a regular basis. At every fill-up is best, but you should check pressure at least once a month. Here’s wishing you safe travels.