A Zero-Pressure Guide To Your Tire’s Warning Light

January 3rd, 2022 by


During the cooler months, it’s not uncommon for the fluctuating temperatures to trigger that warning light on your car’s dashboard, which may leave some drivers feeling a bit perplexed. 

This symbol will resemble a cutaway tire with an exclamation mark in between and it means that one or multiple tires aren’t aligned with the recommended pressure range. More often than not, falling temperatures can activate the system, as tire pressure decreases in this type of weather.

“In round numbers, tire pressure changes +/-1 pound per square inch for every corresponding change of +/-10° F,” says Woody Rogers, director of tire information at the retailer Tire Rack. “As an example, if you set your pressure today at 60 degrees and tomorrow morning it is 30 degrees, your tire pressure will be about 3 psi lower.”

Other than the changing seasons, other triggers simply involve the tires eventually losing air over time, as well as the probability of eventually getting a puncture, due to some pesky nail on the road.

However, not all tire-pressure systems work the same, nor provide the same type of information. Here’s a Zero-Pressure Guide To Your Tire’s Warning Light.

Your Warning Light Is On, What Now? 

As soon as you can, check your tire pressure. Some systems will provide a warning sign, while others are a bit more specific in terms of providing the actual numbers. We encourage you not to delay this task, as driving on tires that aren’t inflated properly can affect the fuel mileage, as well as how well your car is able to ride and steer.

It’s also important to know that if the warning light goes on and off, it’s likely due to the temperature change, even the heat put on the tire during driving can potentially activate the warning light.

“Just because the light went out doesn’t mean your tires are properly inflated,” Rogers says.

Performing frequent checks on the tire pressure is certainly a good idea, and that’s regardless of whether or not the monitoring system even turns on.

“You still need to check your tire pressure monthly,” says Ryan Pszczolkowski, who is head of tire testing at Consumer Reports. “And remember, TPMS is a warning system, not a maintenance tool.”

What Exactly Is Tire-Pressure Monitoring System?

As the name suggests, a tire-pressure system monitors the air pressure of each tire of your vehicle, specifically working autonomously in each wheel and activating its warning light on the instrument cluster if it senses that the pressure is too low.

Usually, the system will initiate when the pressure drops 25 percent lower than the recommended cold tire pressure of the manufacturer, which Pszczolkowski says, can be measured when the tires have been sitting for at least 3 hours. You should be able to find the recommended pressure level either by reading the sticks on the driver’s door jamb or via the owner’s manual.

Additionally, there are two central types of tire-monitoring systems: Direct and Indirect

“The vast majority of TPM systems in the U.S. are the direct type, which has a pressure sensor/transmitter mounted to the wheel,” Rogers says. “The sensor/transmitter is most often attached to the end of the valve stem on the end that is out of sight, inside the tire’s air chamber. A small number of direct systems have the sensor/transmitter separate from the valve stem.”

These are placed on the inside of the wheel with a metal strap.

Rogers also says that indirect systems gather their information by differentiating how the car’s tires are turning in tandem.

“These indirect systems use the wheel-speed sensors [part of the antilock brake system] to monitor the revolutions of all four tires as the vehicle moves,” he says. “The central processor of the indirect system uses advanced algorithms to sense small changes in tire rotation speed created by different inflation pressures among the four wheel positions.”

Do You Need New Sensors For New Tires? 

More often than not, it isn’t necessary. Tire pressure sensors aren’t permanently geared to old tires, and you can also reuse your tires if they function properly. However, Pszczolkowski says that “typically, the battery will last about 10 years and then the sensor needs to be replaced.”

How Much Does A TPMS Cost?

According to Rogers of Tire Rack, the cost of a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) is dependent on the work that’s being done to the car. For instance, if a person is already getting new tires, the sensors will be within reasonable access and take only a minute amount of time and labor to switch out.

“It becomes a lot more expensive to replace when you aren’t having a tire change done,” he says.

According to listings at Tire Rack’s website, the average price for a direct sensor ranges between $40 to $60.

Rogers also said that some “niche vehicles”, rather than the most common ones, might have sensors that cost hundreds of dollars, however, these types of sensors are very uncommon.

Driver’s Auto Mart

Whether it’s a TPMS or any other kind of car system, our vehicles at Driver’s Auto Mart are incredibly up-to-date with their interior technologies, both regarding safety and entertainment gadgets.

Don’t just take our word for it! Come see for yourself by visiting our online pre-owned inventory. There you’ll see that we carry vehicles ranging from various popular brands like Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan, and much more!

Once you find something to your liking, simply chat with a representative for further assistance.

Photo Source/Copyright: Shutterstock via photographer venusvi