Tips for TPMS Sensor Shopping
With today's cars, old gadgets such as tire gauges are becoming obsolete thanks to modern technology. Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems or TPMS for short, are one of the latest advancements in the automotive industry that allow you to monitor your tire's pressure in real time, without the need to use conventional pressure gauges. Maintaining your car's TPMS is quite easy, and most of the time, the only part that you'll need to replace during maintenance would be the TPMS sensor. Go through our handy guide and learn what you'll need to look for in an aftermarket TPMS sensor.
How it Works
There are two types of pressure monitoring systems: direct and indirect.
A direct TPMS can measure the actual pressure from within the tires, using a pressure sensor with a built-in transmitter. The vehicle's dashboard would then have a receiver that monitors the tire's pressure in real time.
On the other hand, an indirect TPMS monitors tire pressure in conjunction with the vehicle's antilock braking system's wheel speed sensors. The system's computer compares the rotation of the tires to one another, and will alert the driver if one is rotating at a different speed. Since it is an indirect system, it may provide false alerts and is considered to be less precise compared to a direct TPMS.
Both systems perform in real time and information is usually placed on the vehicle's dashboard. Once you begin to notice that your sensors aren't working properly, then you'll need to replace them ASAP. To rule out any other malfunctioning components, you'll have to use a scan tool to properly diagnose your vehicle and determine if the TPMS sensor is at fault.
Getting the Right Sensor for your TPMS
TPMS sensors come in a wide variety of types and models, so it's important that you choose a replacement that is compatible with your car's TPMS. Never swap an indirect sensor for a direct one, or vice-versa, since they are made for two entirely different systems. We strongly advise you to check your car's manual and see what kind of TPMS you have installed. You may also check the brand of your vehicle's TPMS and get a suitable replacement sensor directly from the brand's catalog of parts.
You don't have to spend a lot on TPMS sensors, unless you have an advanced system that uses a high-end one. Standard sensors can go as low as $50 but can go up to as high as $200, depending on the component's features and manufacturer. You can't go wrong by getting a brand name sensor, especially if it's made by the same company who designed your TPMS in the first place.
TPMS Sensor Buyer's Guide
- TPMS can be classified into two types: direct and indirect.
- Direct TPMS makes use of TPMS sensors to detect your tire’s air pressure. If it falls twenty-five percent below the minimum PSI, a TPMS warning symbol will illuminate in your dashboard. Usually, this warning light resembles a horseshoe with an exclamation point in the middle.
- An indirect TPMS, on the other hand, relies on wheel speed sensors. It uses the size of the tires and its rotation to analyze tire pressure.
- Your TPMS sensors may fail due to dead or weak batteries. It may also be caused by faulty wirings or antennas or improper calibration.
- Tire blowouts may cause unwanted accidents on the road. It is important to ensure that your TPMS and TPMS sensors are in good condition at all times.
Tire blowout is one of the leading causes of road accidents all across America. But did you know that these accidents can be prevented if only your vehicle’s tire pressure is monitored correctly? Thankfully, a monitoring system was invented to help solve this problem. In 2008, all vehicles were required to be equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) by state traffic law.
What are TPMS sensors and what do they do?
TPMS sensors are part of the vehicle's TPMS. These sensors can detect whether your tires’ air pressure falls twenty-five percent below the recommended PSI. Typically, sensors transmit radio signals to a control unit. The driver is then alerted through a warning light normally located in the vehicle dash, indicating that tire pressure is low. A typical TPMS warning symbol often resembles a horseshoe with an exclamation point in the middle.
Types of TPMS
There are two types of TPMS. It is important to know which system your vehicle uses before buying TPMS sensors. The type of TPMS system installed in your vehicle will greatly depend on your vehicle’s year, make, and model.
A direct TPMS uses individual TPMS sensors for each tire. Although some aftermarket variants are mounted outside the tire, these sensors are usually mounted inside. They give out data on tire pressure and temperature to the central control module. The set of data is then analyzed and interpreted. If any issues are found, the TPMS warning symbol in your dashboard will illuminate.
An indirect TPMS, on the other hand, relies on data from wheel speed sensors in the anti-lock brake system. It interprets the size of the tire based on the speed of its rotation. If a wheel starts spinning faster than it is supposed to, then the tire is tagged as underinflated. A smaller tire would normally spin faster than a larger tire. An underinflated tire will usually be smaller than properly inflated ones. Thanks to science and the rules of physics, this system is technically reliable.
The downside of an indirect system is the fact that you will have to reset it every time you inflate your tires. If you fail to reset it, it may wrongly detect newly inflated tires as overinflated.
How long do TPMS sensors last?
Each sensor is equipped with an individual battery that will probably last a decade. In most cases, these batteries are non-serviceable. This means that when your battery runs out, you will have to replace the whole sensor and recalibrate your TPMS with your central control unit after installation.
What are the reasons why your TPMS sensor is failing?
Usually, a faulty TPMS sensor is diagnosed by a trusted mechanic. If you already addressed the tire pressure problem and the TPMS warning light remains on, have your vehicle checked right away. This is usually a clear indication that something is wrong with your sensors, requiring further diagnosis.
Dead or Weak Batteries
Your TPMS sensor can fail for a number of reasons. Most of the time, your sensors may stop functioning because of a faulty, weak, or dead battery. If this is the case, you will have to change your sensor right away since most sensor batteries are non-serviceable.
Wiring or Antenna Failure
Since the whole system operates using wirings and signals, any discrepancy may also be attributed to faulty wiring or antenna. The TPMS module might not be receiving a signal from the sensors due to this problem. Voltage supply may also play a role in this problem.
Aside from these two major reasons, your sensor can also give out inaccurate results due to improper calibration. This usually happens if your tire was serviced recently. If you suspect that your TPMS sensors are not working properly, have it checked right away. A mechanic may use a TPMS diagnostic tool to diagnose the problem correctly.
TPMS sensors and the weather
Most vehicle owners notice that their TPMS warning light frequently turns on during winter. This is because tire pressure can decrease as temperature drops. The air inside the tire condenses and takes up less space, making it seem like there is more air escaping your tires. Usually, the warning light will turn off on its own when your tire warms up and the temperature stabilizes. However, this is not something you should ignore. Have your tire pressure checked right away. Ignoring your TPMS warning light is a safety risk.
Why is replacing a faulty TPMS sensor important?
Underinflated tires may cause a number of problems like sluggish handling and a noticeable longer stopping distance. In worse cases, a tire blowout can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, which may lead to unwanted road accidents. Aside from the safety risk involved, an underinflated tire may cause your vehicle to consume more fuel. Investing in a good TPMS sensor may save you a lot of money.
How much does a TPMS sensor replacement cost?
Usually, a TPMS sensor costs around $50 to $250. It can be sold individually or in sets of two, three or four. Some also sell TPMS sensors as part of a kit. Before buying one, make sure to consult your vehicle manual and your trusted mechanic. Make sure to enter the correct year, make, and model into our search engine.
Recalibrating and Reprogramming Sensors
Most TPMS sensors can be recalibrated for new tires. All you have to do is have them serviced at your trusted tire or repair shop. They will know how to reprogram TPMS sensors or do a TPMS sensor reset.
It is important to make sure that your TPMS sensors are properly calibrated. Without it, you will not be able to detect underinflated tires. Avoid accidents on the road and invest in good TPMS sensors. There are many OE replacement and aftermarket options for you to choose from. Make sure to read up on TPMS sensors before buying one for your vehicle. This will help you avoid the hassle of buying the wrong TPMS sensors for your tires.
How to Replace a TPMS Sensor
Your car's TPMS may sound like a very complicated device, but it's quite easy to maintain it since most of the time, all you'll only need to replace its TPMS Sensor. These particular sensors need to be carefully removed and reinstalled whenever you're replacing your tires. It may seem difficult at first, but you'll get the hand of it after a couple of tries.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Tool that you'll need
- Racket and socket set
- Valve core remover
- Tire machine
Step 1: Begin by properly removing the tire that you'll be working on from your car. Make sure that you do this safely and that you keep your secure your vehicle on some jack stands.
Step 2: Next, remove the valve cover of your tire's TPMS sensor using a valve core remover tool. Let the tire deflate completely.
Step 3: Take out the TPMS sensor grommet using a ratchet and socket, make sure that you keep aside the washers from the grommet or use new ones later on.
Step 4: You'll then need to pole out the valve of the TPM sensor into the rim of the tire. This should fall into the bottom of the tire, so you'll need a tire machine to open it up.
Step 5: Break the bead of the tire properly using a tire machine and remove it from the rim. If you don't have access to one, then you might need a mechanic or tire repair shop to take it out for you instead.
Step 6: Once you've removed the tire from the rim, you'll be able to find the TPMS sensor inside and dispose of it properly.
Step 7: Place the tire back on the rim so you could fit in a new TPMS sensor. Simply push the sensor into place and tighten the grommet according to specification.
Step 8: Finally, all you'll need to do is inflate your tire, check for leaks, place it back on your vehicle and you're good to go.