Under-inflated tires are a hazard to both your budget and your safety. A tire low on air can affect your gas mileage and shorten tire life due to uneven wear. More importantly, under-inflation can stress a tire to the point of failure, putting you and those on the road around you in jeopardy.
If your vehicle was produced after September of 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires that it include a Tire Pressure Monitoring System or TPMS. Some earlier models may also come equipped with TPMS. Check your owner’s manual to be sure.
Your TPMS monitors the air pressure in your tires and alerts you when one of them drops 25 percent or more below its recommended pressure. Your dashboard will display either the official TPMS symbol or a graphic indicating which tire is in need of air. When you see this light, bring your vehicle into Pep Boys for a tire pressure check.
Tire pressure sensors used in are often referred to as direct or indirect. Direct means that a tire pressure sensor has been placed in each tire, which is linked to your vehicle’s onboard computer to directly measure air pressure.
If your vehicle has an indirect tire pressure monitoring systems, it will monitor the relative speed and rotation of the vehicle’s wheels and alerts you when one wheel is significantly out of sync with the others. This can mean an underinflated tire. Be aware, this method will not alert you if all four tires are losing air at the same rate.
TPMS is not a cure-all or a replacement for proper air pressure maintenance. Remember, rubber stretches far more than fabric or steel. Most tires are combinations of these materials. A seriously underinflated tire will allow the rubber component to stretch well beyond the tolerance of the other materials.
Even if you have a tire pressure sensor, it’s important to check your air pressure regularly – as the vehicle’s age and other factors can impact the system’s readings. If you get the TPMS warning, simply check the driver’s side doorjamb or glove box of your vehicle for the recommended tire pressure and fill the tire to spec. Your car will handle better, you’ll save gas, and you’ll be safer on the road.