Your car is equipped with a range of safety features, but have you ever considered your tires to be among them? The rubber that meets the road can be considered a safety feature, because they impact your ability to drive safely and in control. For your tires to perform at their best, they need to be properly inflated, but knowing if your tires are ideally inflated isn’t always something that can be determined with the naked eye. Tire pressure monitoring systems help take out the guesswork.

Checking Tire Pressure

How do tire pressure monitoring systems work?

A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) constantly checks the air pressure in your tires, and provides a warning – usually a light on the dashboard – to alert the driver that one or more tires are underinflated. Some systems also detect over-inflation.

Sensors monitor the pressure in each tire to determine whether or not to illuminate the warning light on the dashboard. There are two types of TPMS sensors: direct and indirect. The former are housed in each tire to monitor pressure, the latter works by examining wheel rotations to determine pressure. While indirect sensors can only determine under-inflation, direct sensors can determine both under- and over-inflation.

When the pressure in a tire or tires is improper, an indicator light will appear on the dashboard. Often this indicator is designed to look like an exclamation mark inside a flat tire.

Is my vehicle equipped with a TPMS?

If you have a vehicle manufactured in 2008 or later, it should be equipped with a TPMS. Some older models have them as well. Canadian regulations do not require these systems to be in vehicles, and Transport Canada has stated it doesn’t intend to change that. The department cites faulty warnings, lack of warnings, the battery life of sensors, and long-term durability as reasons why the systems haven’t been made mandatory.

The dangers of improper tire inflation

The leading cause of tire failure is under-inflation. The Canada Safety Council found that 23 per cent of vehicles have at least one underinflated tire that’s underinflated by 20 percent or more. When a tire is underinflated, it’s more likely to sustain damage and can make your vehicle as a whole less fuel-efficient.

While under-inflation is what often first comes to mind when thinking of tire problems, overinflated tires can be troublesome as well. Tires with too much air in them will be stiff, less of their rubber will make contact with the road, and they’ll make your car’s handling feel very rigid.

If the TPMS light comes on, here’s what you can do

If you see the TPMS indicator illuminated on your dashboard, you can still drive safely for a short distance. But when you have the chance to pull over safely and check your tires, it’s wise to do so.

Your vehicle’s manufacturer specifies what is considered proper pressure for your tires. This information can sometimes be found printed on the edge of doors or on the fuel door. It will be listed in the owner’s manual as well. Check the pressure of each of your tires and compare the readings against the manufacturer recommendations to know whether you need to inflate or deflate a particular tire or tires.

Waterdown Collision would like to remind you to keep the proper level of air in your tires to avoid accidents.  The proper amount of air in your tires will maximize the amount of tire on the road, improving your car’s handling.  Your TPMS will do a good job of alerting you, however it is not foolproof.  We recommend keeping an eye on your tire pressure using a gauge, as well as doing a visual inspection.