So, you’re driving along the road and listening to your favorite song on the radio, when all of a sudden you notice a yellow low tire pressure warning light pop up on your dashboard.
It looks like an exclamation mark between two connected parentheses, but what in the world is it? It’s the low tire pressure warning!
However, you’ve recently checked your wheels and you’re sure that they are properly inflated. So, what should you do?
First things first, the most sensible thing to do is to stop as soon as you find a safe spot to do so, and check the pressure anyway.
Even if you’re sure that your wheels are fine, whenever a TPMS warning light comes on, it’s always better not to ignore it. Get out your tire pressure gauge and check the tire air pressure of all four wheels.
Now that you’ve checked that the pressure is normal, but the warning light indicator is still on, what could this mean? Can you still drive? Or do you need an immediate tire change and it’s time to put that spare tire to use? Or maybe you’ve just been doing a poor job on keeping up with your car’s tire rotations as of late?
In this article, we’ll take a look at all the possible reasons why you might have a low tire pressure light when your tires are fine, but first, we need to explain why proper tire inflation is so crucial.
We see it all the time, that a lot of drivers are unaware of how much it impacts a car’s overall performance!
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Why Is It so Essential to Maintain Proper Tire Pressure?
There are a variety of reasons why ensuring your tire pressure is on point is so crucial:
- Reduced tread movement.
- Less rolling resistance.
- Increased water dispersion.
Reduced Tread Movement
This means that your wheels will last longer, saving you from having to spend money on replacing worn tires as frequently.
Less Rolling Resistance
Low rolling resistance wheels decrease the loss of energy as they roll. The benefit for you is that your car will be more fuel-efficient.
Increased Water Dispersion
There is much less risk of hydroplaning, which is a very dangerous situation that could lead to losing control of your car.
Never underestimate tire pressure for your safety and that of your passengers!
What Does the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPSM) Light Mean?
The most obvious reason why you might still be seeing that lowpressure light is that at least one of your wheels is not properly inflated.
If you check the tires and find out for a fact that they all have correct pressure, you need to look at other possibilities.
There are three different ways the pressure monitoring system TPMS light flash will behave:
- The light blinks and then stays on.
- The light goes on and off.
- While driving, the TPMS light comes on and stays on.
When you start your car, if the TPMS warning starts blinking for 60–90 seconds and then stays on, this is a sign that your TPMS system is not working properly.
When faced with this scenario, you will need to service it and check the air pressure in your wheels yourself until it is fixed.
One thing’s for sure: You cannot rely on it in this case.
#2. Light Going On and Off
If the TPMS warning goes on and off, it could be caused by the difference in outside temperature. If there’s very cold weather at night, the air inside the wheels will shrink, causing the wheel sensors to alert the TPMS.
Even if–in reality–there is no change in pressure, the warning light will go on.
If the temperature rises again, or the wheels warm up while driving, the warning will go off. You should still check your wheels and add air if needed.
Try to notice if you experience this issue only in winter. If that’s the case, the difference in temperature is the most likely culprit.
It may seem strange, but there are different specifications for different seasons of the year. Be sure to read up on them, know about them and follow them to make sure your wheels are always at the optimal pressure.
#3. Light Is On When Driving
If the light is on when you’re driving and you’ve checked your air, it could be that your TPMS is not functioning properly due to an error with the TPMS sensors.
The sensors of the TPMS are located on the wheels, either on the valve or inside the rims.
If you have recently had work done on your wheels or hit a big pothole, the sensors may have been affected. In such a case, resetting the TPMS might be a good option here.
How to Rest the TPMS
- Ensure the engine is off.
- Turn the ignition on.
- Press and hold the TPMS reset button.
- The TPMS light should go off. If it’s not blinking, keep holding the reset button until it blinks three times.
- Turn the key off.
- Drive for 30 minutes to an hour at a speed of at least 19 mph.
Please be aware that the reset procedure may vary in different vehicles, and there’s no universal step by step procedure that should be followed identically for all cars out there.
So, check your car owner’s manual to be sure about what exact steps are required for you to reset the TPMS in your car.
The Dangers of Driving with the Low Tire Pressure Light On
There are some significant dangers you’ll face if you decide to still drive with your low pressure light on – ones you should do your best to avoid:
- Tire failure.
- Worsening of traction control.
- Poor impact absorption.
- Increased wear and tear.
- Slower response times.
- Excessive heat.
- Increased fuel costs.
- Cause overload.
The main risk is that one of your wheels could be under-inflated. Usually, the low tire pressure light goes on if one of your tires is more than 25% under-inflated.
If you ignore the warning and keep driving, this could result in the wheel bursting, also known as a tire blowout.
This is certainly not something to take lightly, as you’ve likely seen the devastating results a blowout can have in terms of car accidents. There’s not only a risk to you, but to other road users as well.
This is why you should never ignore the TPMS warning light, even if you’re sure (or think you’re sure) that it’s coming on while you have properly inflated tires.
Overinflated tires will not have optimal traction, will not be able to absorb road impact as they’re meant to, and will wear out faster – resulting in more costs out of your pocket in due time.
Underinflated tires will cause them to respond slower, cause excessive heat increase, waste more fuel and cause overload.
Can I Ask the Help of a Professional?
If the light remains on due to faulty sensors, as we advise above, then you should most definitely take your vehicle to a professional for a fix.
Any qualified professional will be able to take a look at this for you.
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, and depending on the labor rate of the garage that you’re taking it to, replacements costs can be $50–250 for each pressure sensor.
Tips to Avoid This From Happening in the Future
Take the following tips into consideration to avoid the low tire pressure light from coming on in unexpected scenarios.
These should be part of the regular preventative maintenance of your car:
- Check the tire pressure.
- Wheel handling.
- Changing tires.
Get in the habit of checking your tire pressure often. Make it a weekly routine or as part of the time you set aside to wash your car.
If you’re going on long journeys, the pressure should always be checked beforehand.
If you have wheels with sensors, you should only let professionals work on them. This will prevent anyone from damaging or mishandling the sensors.
When you replace your wheels, make sure to also have the sensors and TPMS checked.
Again, make sure that your wheels are changed by professionals only, ones who know exactly what they’re doing.
If you’ve made it this far, you now know all about the most common reasons why the light that indicates your tire pressure is too low might be on, while your tires are fine.
Depending on the situation and the condition of your vehicle, there are various steps you can take to rectify the situation.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the situation and think that the light will turn off on its own – this can be very dangerous, both for your vehicle and for your own safety!
Most importantly, take every attempt you possibly can to look after your tires by checking them regularly, especially after you take off for a drive.