Why is the Tire Pressure Light On?

November 13,2023

Driving on tires that aren’t adequately inflated can lead to a long list of consequences. Underinflated tires make driving more unstable and less safe, as well as causing premature wear, increasing the likelihood of eventual failure. 

The correlation between underinflated tires was starting to be noticed in the 1970s. Indiana State University published a study that year pointing out that 1.5% of all vehicle accidents were due to low-pressure tires. Then, in the early 2000s, the U.S. government passed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act, mandating that vehicles come with a tire pressure monitoring system in place.

Reading the Signs

So what does the tire pressure light mean? It’s your vehicle’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System in action, and such a sign should never be ignored. When it’s on, it means your tires aren’t properly inflated. 

Well, there are different kinds of monitoring systems available, depending on your vehicle. Even though they may have different features, the main purpose is always the same: to make sure your tires are up to safety and usability standards.

These systems measure tire conditions both directly and indirectly. Direct detection relies on sensors installed in all tires, feeding the system with real-time information. Indirect systems collect information from wheel speed sensors, which calculate the speed of each wheel and compare that with previous data to see if your tires are underinflated, overinflated, or just right.

You can also tell the pressure conditions by observing how your tire treads wear. The central tread will wear first if the tire is overinflated. Conversely, underinflated tires will wear on the shoulders first. Both ways lead to premature and irregular wear, so you’ll want to watch out for both signs.

Follow the Light

There are a few ways your vehicle’s computer can communicate your tires’ conditions. If the light turns on while you’re driving, it means one or more tires have lost pressure. In this case, you should stop the vehicle and determine the exact pressure of all tires with a gauge. This will help you find the cause of the issue and determine if it needs to be repaired. 

When the TPMS light is flashing, it means pressure has dropped because of changes in the temperature. This usually happens in cooler temperatures or overnight. In these cases, the pressure can go back to normal during the day. But you should still use a gauge to determine your tires’ conditions and inflate them, if necessary.

If the light turns on and stays on for 60-90 seconds right after turning your vehicle on, this might mean that your TPMS is malfunctioning. Since it’s such an indispensable feature, you should look for the right automotive service as soon as you notice it. 

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