It's the Little Things That Count: TPMS Sensors

The current trend is to deal with large issues only, "don't sweat the small stuff" is the modern mantra. However, I believe that from little things, big things grow and if you can catch problems before they get too big you may be able to save yourself a lot.

Many years ago my grandfather shared with me a proverb that illustrates how small actions can result in large consequences.

TPMS SensorFor the want of a nail, a shoe was lost
For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost
For the want of a horse, the rider was lost
For the want of a rider, the message was lost
For the want of the message, the battle was lost
for the want of the battle, the war was lost
...all for the want of a nail.

Now that example may seem a bit dated but remember it was my grandfather that was telling the story. Let's take a hypothetical look at a modern day application of this principle.

You and the family are on a long trip across country for the holidays, your vehicle is filled with people, luggage, gifts and a full fuel tank. Just before the trip commenced you checked all your tires for the proper air pressure and adjusted them to the recommended 30 psi. Without knowing it, early into the trip, you hit that nail that the horse lost and one of your tires starts to lose air. Four hours into your eight-hour trip your leaky tire, that started the trip at 30 psi, is now rolling down the highway at 20 psi. That same tire that was perfectly up to the task 10 psi ago has now lost about 300 lbs. of its load capacity. The #1 job of any tire is to support the load of the vehicle to which it is attached. At this point, our tire is rapidly losing that unique capability due to the air pressure loss, and the load it is attempting to carry is causing the tire to overheat rapidly. Tires are assembled from many types of materials and components that are bonded together by high heat and pressure in a process called vulcanization. The heat generated by our now overloaded tire is rapidly causing the vulcanization process to reverse itself and our tire is beginning to fail. Soon, our terribly overloaded and overheated tire blows out at highway speed and, well you can probably guess the rest.

This scenario is probably repeated more times every day on our streets and highways than we are aware of, or care to admit. Fortunately, in our hypothetical scenario, our driver (you) had received instruction on driving through a blowout, and the final outcome was not nearly as bad as it could have been.

TPMS Warning IndicatorSo how could this whole scenario have been avoided? The short answer is: TPMS which stands for Tire Pressure Monitor System. Enacted in the year 2000, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) that requires the installation of a TPMS system to warn the driver when a tire is significantly underinflated. The standard applies to passenger cars, trucks, multipurpose passenger vehicles and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, except those vehicles with dual wheels on an axle. All passenger class vehicles built since 2008 are required to have the system and now 4 out of 50 states require the system be 100% functional year-round to pass state vehicle inspection.

TPMS sensors don't override the need for monthly pressure checks but most of these systems will warn the driver when pressures in the tire drop 20% or more from the prescribed pressure for the vehicle. In addition, many systems also monitor air temperature and pressure in the tire, in real time, and some can report directly to the driver as to which tire is involved.

Tire Rack has the most complete assortment of sensors available for any vehicle at the lowest possible prices. Our sensors are the same as those used by the O.E. vehicle manufacturers and are guaranteed compatible with your application.

When ordering a Tire & Wheel Package for any season, always specify that we install TPMS sensors for the safest method of travel. We also carry a variety of trigger devices that will allow you to "turn on" or  initialize your new sensors to the vehicle without taking it to a shop.


Thursday, October 13, 2011 by Kyle Rohde

Good info here Tire Rack; while TPMS can help prevent problems, I'm glad you still make it optional to include with wheel & tire packages. Thanks for that.

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