TPMS problems are commonly referred to as “tire pressure sensor fault” messages. If the tire is not properly inflated or if the correct pressure is not applied, it may start to become damaged or worn out.
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System or TPMS monitors the tire pressure of your tires and provides real-time tire pressure readings on your dash display for many cars. In some, the TPMS system will only indicate if one or more tires are underinflated.
A warning light will illuminate on the dash if one of the tires is low. Drivers should always check their tires immediately if the TPMS warning light illuminates. Many vehicles become more difficult to control at highway speeds.
There is also the risk of the tire going completely flat. The warning light will be the first indication that one of your tires is losing air pressure.
What is a tire pressure sensor?
Tire pressure sensors monitor the tire pressure in your vehicle’s wheels and display the result on the dash of your car. The features vary by manufacturer. However, most will provide the exact pressure of each tire and sound an alarm if the pressure declines below a safe level.
What does tire pressure sensor fault mean?
When you see a yellow U-shaped symbol with an (!) inside it, the tire pressure monitoring system is indicating that there is a fault with the tires. In most cases, one of the tires has low pressure or has run flat.
TPMS systems that provide individual readings of tire pressure will indicate which tire is running low on pressure.
Symptoms of a Bad TPMS Sensor
Occasionally one of the sensors will become defective, and normally that should trigger a message on your dashboard and/or turn on the check engine light. This light means that the tire pressure in one or more tires is low.
In some cases, drivers either ignore the fault messages or perhaps the warning TPMS lights are not working properly. Other sensor symptoms could indicate a bad TPMS sensor signal.
1. Really bad fuel economy
Tires that are underinflated tend to have increased drag, which causes more fuel consumption than normal. If a tire is overinflated, a vehicle will also consume more fuel than normal.
There can be many reasons for the overconsumption of fuel. However, an easy thing to check is the tire pressure, especially if the TPMS is not operating properly.
2. Need to reset check engine light
The TPMS system will report an error message to the engine’s computer, which causes the check engine light to illuminate. There are many reasons the check engine light can illuminate.
An ECM monitor can report the error code, which will provide further indication of what the problem is, including a faulty TPMS sensor.
3. Need constant tire change
Tires should wear evenly. Uneven wear could be caused by either overinflation or under-inflation. Tires that wear faster than the other tires could have incorrect inflation levels. If your TPMS system is not reporting the inflation, there is a good chance the sensor is faulty.
4. Low tire pressure light comes on
TPMS sensors are designed to measure the tire pressure and trigger an alarm if the tire pressure is low. This is what they are designed to do.
On some vehicles, you may need to check all of your tires since the alert does not indicate which tire is low. Newer vehicles will indicate which tire has low pressure when the alert is triggered.
Common Causes of Faulty Tire Pressure Sensors Message
Like any other component or system in your car, TPMS systems can become defective over time and must be replaced.
In most cases, it is the sensor that is faulty and not the TPMS system, which is more expensive to replace. Corrosion, accidental damage, and wear and tear can cause these components to require replacement.
Faulty Tire Pressure Sensor
The sensors are designed to last 5 to 10 years, depending on how the car is driven. Batteries inside the sensors can also be depleted, requiring the sensor to be replaced. Corrosion of the valve stem or damage to the valve stems after collision with a curb can also cause the sensor to malfunction.
The Tire pressure sensor lost memory
Occasionally the TPMS sensors will lose connection with the TPMS system due to loose wiring, corrosion, or damage. When this occurs, you may have to reprogram the sensors, check the wiring, or restart the TPMS module using a TPMS reset tool.
You need to replace your wheels
Every rim must have a TPMS sensor installed in it for the system to work properly. In colder climates, drivers often install snow tires on their vehicles with steel rims with or without sensors.
If there are no sensors, the system reports a fault. If you change the rims with new or different sensors, you may need to program the sensors to the car’s system.
Low Tire Pressure reading
A low tire pressure reading should cause the fault light to illuminate, indicating low tire pressure.
Check all of your tires with a tire pressure gauge, inflate them to the correct pressure and check if your TPMS fault light goes off. You may need to drive your vehicle for a few miles for the system to reset. If they do not reset, the TPMS sensor is likely faulty.
How does a TPMS system work?
Sensors are located in each wheel of your tires. These sensors measure the tire pressure in each tire and send the information to the TPMS control unit.
The control unit will display the tire pressure of each tire on the dash in your display area. A fault light will also be displayed if the tire pressure is too low.
Drivers should adjust the tire pressure immediately if there is an indication of low pressure. The vehicle can be unsafe to drive due to poor stability and control.
With the vehicle running, top up the air pressure in the tire. If equipped, the TPMS system will monitor the pressure and cause the horn to beep once the proper pressure has been reached.
How to Fix Tire Pressure Sensor Fault Message
The first step when a tire pressure sensor fault message is received is to check all tires and inflate them to the proper tire pressure.
However, if the system is faulty or one of the sensors is at fault, the check engine light may remain on. Drivers may need to reset the TPMS system or read the error codes generated by the car’s control system. You may also need to reset the TPMS system.
Check your tire pressures
Before resetting the TPMS system, drivers should check the inflation levels of each tire and inflate them to the proper level as per the manufactures specifications. With the proper inflation levels, the TPMS system can recalibrate properly and provide correct readings.
Reset the tire pressure monitoring system
Check your car’s manual for the proper method to reset the TPMS system. For some systems, it is as simple as pressing a reset button on the dash.
There may be a menu to follow in the owner’s manual. Some systems will require a magnet or a scanning tool. Others have a reset button inside the glove box.
Determine the trouble codes with TPMS tools
A TPMS diagnostic tool can be used to read the vehicle’s sensor information. Operators must confirm the tool is working properly on a car before using it on the car to be repaired.
Enter the vehicle information. For example, vehicle make and model and year must be entered or scan the VIN to view the trouble codes.
Check the battery or any wiring faults
A weak or dead battery or wiring fault can cause the tire pressure system to malfunction. The sensor’s battery will last 5 to 10 years, depending on how much the car is used. The sensors will need to be replaced if the onboard battery is weak or has failed.
Recalibrate the faulty tire pressure sensor
Whenever tires are changed or rotated, the system may need to be recalibrated. The TPMS must relearn the new locations, and the process is different for each manufacturer. Check the vehicle’s manual or download it online to find out the exact process for your vehicle.
Use the magnet method
With the engine off and the key on, press both the unlock and lock buttons on the fob. There should be an initial chirp. Place a magnet over each valve stem until the horn chips.
Do this in the following order: left front, right front, right rear, and left rear. Check that the tire pressure readings are displayed on the driver information center car display.
Is it safe to drive with a faulty tire pressure sensor?
If you are aware that one of the sensors is faulty, most drivers will have it replaced. However, until you do, there is no information being fed to the TPMS system about the status of the tire pressure. While this is not an immediate safety issue, one of your tires could be operating with insufficient air pressure.
Underinflated tires cause a vehicle to handle poorly on the road, especially at high speeds and in cornering situations. Until the sensor is repaired, drivers should make it a habit to regularly check the pressure of their tires to avoid tire blowouts, flat tires, and accidents.
How much does tire pressure sensor replacement costs to fix?
The cost to replace a faulty sensor consists of the sensor and the labor to install it. Tire sensors for many cars range from $50 to several hundred for a single sensor depending on the vehicle, e.g., your local Ford Dealer. Luxury brand vehicles usually cost quite a bit more.
The labor to install a sensor is approximately one-half hour for one sensor at the going rate of the tire shop where the work is completed. Labor cost per hour varies a great deal between repair shops. Overall replacing the sensors is not expensive at all.
What happens when a tire sensor goes bad?
Whenever a tire pressure sensor registers low pressure or if the sensor goes bad, a warning light illuminates on the dash. The light looks like a U with a (!) inside it. If your tire has low air pressure, you may notice that the handling of your car at high speeds or cornering is not as good as it should be.
Drivers should immediately check the tire’s air pressure. If the tire pressure is a bit low, you will want to top up the air pressure. A tire that is going flat because of a nail will need to be changed.
A nail puncture is a common cause of the tire losing air pressure. Pullover immediately if you are driving on the highway if the light illuminates to avoid a full flat while driving at highway speeds.
Where is the tire pressure sensor located?
In North America, the tire pressure sensor is located inside the tire attached to the valve. It is a small cylinder attached to the air pressure inlet valve and easily replaced by removing the tire and the valve.
Europeans use a different approach to assess air pressure in tires involving the ABS system, which measures tire speed and slippage.
Tire pressure sensors last about 5 to 10 years, depending on the amount of driving. They can be damaged during tire changes or from impacts to the rim during accidents. Replacement takes about 30 minutes, and the cost of the sensor varies from $50 and up for luxury car brands.
Can you reset the tire pressure warning light by disconnecting the car battery?
While some vehicles have a reset button, which you can locate by checking the car’s manual, most drivers just need to drive their cars at 50 miles per hour for up to 10 minutes to reset the TPMS warning light pressure.
If the above does not work, drivers can also disconnect the car’s battery to cause it to reboot itself. Drivers should take care to avoid accidentally shorting the terminals of the battery.
Simply loosen the negative terminal cable and remove it. Wait for several minutes and then reattach the cable and tightened the connectors.
How to find the recommended pressure for your tires?
There a three ways to find the recommended tire pressure for your tires. Drivers can always check the manual for the tire pressure in the specifications section. A second location is a plate on the driver’s side doorpost.
The tire pressure is noted on this plate. Some vehicles may locate the metal plate on the inside side of the engine hood. Many drivers will rely on their local garage or car tire dealer to verify that the tire pressure is set at recommended levels.
Normally the garage will check the tire pressure when the engine oil is being changed. However, if your TPMS reports low tire pressure, you may have to top up the pressure and will need to know what your recommended pressure should be.
Tire pressure monitoring systems are an excellent tool to monitor your tire’s pressure and provide an early warning about low pressure in your tires. A slowly leaking tire can trigger an alert providing a warning before the tire fully deflates.
Check your repair manual for proper tire pressures, the process to reset the TPMS system, and replacement procedures. Don’t forget to check the tire pressure in your spare tire as well.
There are some commercial air compressors at gas stations that can tell you the actual pressure of your tires. I always check if the tire pressure dash light is on before I drive my car. This helps me avoid driving with runflat tires that could potentially hurt expensive car parts like the wheel bearing.