Tire Pressure Monitoring System & Wheel Alignment

Tire Pressure Monitoring System & Wheel Alignment are two basic parts of your vehicle’s regular maintenance. Understand everything about them, here!

Have you ever seen the TPMS warning light appearing on your dashboard or maybe even blinking? You must have, especially, in the colder months, it’s a tire-pressure-monitoring system or TPMS alert. This is an important message from your vehicle’s tires that often gets overlooked. If you are driving a vehicle built in the year 2008 or after, it should be equipped with TPMS right inside the tire. These sensors monitor air pressure and let you know when it falls too low. Similarly, you should keep an eye on your vehicle’s proper alignment to ensure your and others safety on the road.

What is a Tire Pressure Monitoring System or TPMS?

Since 2008 every US vehicle has been equipped with a tire-pressure-monitoring system also referred to as TPMS. The TPMS alarm system gives a warning alert to the driver when there is significantly low pressure in either one or more of your tires. Most of the tire pressure monitoring systems in modern vehicles use the latest technology sensors placed inside the wheels to identify if their tires are properly or poorly inflated. If the tire pressure in any of your tires rubs a certain amount as specified by your manufacturer, an indicator light will be illuminated on your vehicle dashboard or instrument panel.

TPMS Light On the Dashboard

Types of Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Following are two different types of tire pressure monitoring systems available today:

  1. Direct TPMS.
  2. Indirect TPMS.

In the direct tire pressure monitoring system or TPMS, a sensor is used in the real to measure the air pressure in each of your tires. These sensors take direct air pressure measurements from within the tire and communicate this information back to the vehicle’s computer system, using radiofrequency.

An indirect TPMS works with your car’s anti-lock braking system in conjunction with the wheel speed sensors. Your vehicle has a real speed sensor on top of the wheel hub, if your tire pressure falls too low, your tire is going to spin at a different rate than all the other tires and your indicator light will appear.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System/TPMS Sensor Batteries

The tire pressure monitoring system TPMS is operated by a small battery with an internal seal to the wheel and gives an operational life of 7 to 10 years to your tire pressure monitoring system. Your tire pressure monitoring system has a complex structure and therefore it is nearly impossible to replace the battery separately. As a result, in case of battery failure, the complete tire pressure monitoring system needs to be replaced. It is a good idea to replace the batteries when they are near the end of your life.

Is the charging of your tire pressure monitoring system battery becomes too low, it will turn on the TPMS light on your vehicle dashboard or instrument panel. This will be an indication of the failure of your tire pressure monitoring system. In this case, you will not be able to receive any updates from your TPMS system. As a result, you will have to monitor the pressure and physical condition of your tire more frequently. These manual checks include punctures, tire cracks, tire damages, or tire wear.

Have your TPMS System Inspected

If the TPMS indicator illuminates in your vehicle, make an appointment with your automotive mechanic to have the TPMS serviced. Most of the tire workshops use a TPMS tool to determine the remaining battery life for each of the sensors. If one or more of the batteries are found to have a low charge, the technician may recommend the replacement of all four sensors to avoid multiple workshop visits. The technicians make this recommendation because if one battery has a low charge, it’s likely the other batteries are nearing the end of their operational life as well.

It’s important to always use your manufacturer’s recommended genuine parts to help ensure that your vehicle’s tire pressure monitoring system performs as designed. Your manufacturer’s genuine parts have special design and treatment to provide the same fit, function, and reliability as the parts that were installed when the vehicle was made.

tire pressure monitoring system batteries


Frequently Asked Questions About Tire Pressure Monitoring System/TPMS

What are the benefits of properly inflated tires?

Properly inflated tires encourage greater fuel economy and help promote longer tire life. They even help keep you safe by lowering the risk of hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is when your tires slide over a wet patch, a film of water builds between the road surface and the wheels of the vehicle, leading to loss of traction. This stops the vehicle from answering the control inputs. Isn’t it scary when this happens?

In fact, in 2013 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that nearly 11,000 accidents occur in the US every year due to low tire pressure. That’s serious stuff! So, it is important for your safety to know that your TPMS is working properly inside your tires.

Properly Inflated Tires


What should I do if I see the TPMS light appearing on my dashboard?

It’s important to understand the right thing to do when you see a TPMS light appear. So, if you see the solid light that means the low tire pressure is occurring in one of the tires. It will appear when the tire pressure drops 25% or more below the recommended inflation pressure. So, when you see it simply check your wheels to determine which tire or tires are below the recommended tire pressure.

What does a flashing TPMS light mean?

If you see the same TPMS light and it’s flashing that means there’s a system malfunction and a diagnostic test should be done to determine the cause. Several things can cause a flashing light warning, such as the TPMS battery has actually failed and that the sensor will need to be replaced. However, since you don’t always know the cause it’s important to address that warning light quickly and as much as you may want to service the vehicle yourself, your TPMS is one thing that needs special attention. Visit your nearest Big O Tires store for a professional TPMS service to help you diagnose the exact problem.

tire pressure monitoring system dashboard light

Why should I always service my TPMS system from professionals?

So, for your safety, you should only ger TPMS service from the professionals. That’s because the TPMS has to be reassembled and calibrated with specialized tools that guarantee a precise reading of your tire pressure and provide accurate feedback through the dashboard indicated light. Installed with scissors is a two-part process, first, they have to be activated and then relearned. Once again Big O Tires will point you in the direction of a professional service center that will help you get the job done right.

Does TPMS warning light appear more frequently in winters?

Often it is a perception that you may see the TPMS warning light a lot in the winter, that’s right! There is a good reason for that, changes in the weather can cause the air in your tires to expand or contract, triggering your TPMS light to turn on. Sometimes all it takes for the light to go off is the natural rise in temperature and pressure as you drive. However, if that happens it may mean you are right on the threshold of having under-inflated tires. So, be sure to check your tire pressure to be safe.

While avoiding flat tire is an obvious reason to care about your TPMS, there are many ways properly inflated tires help you on the road. For starters, they could save you money at the pump. Properly inflated tires save you money by encouraging greater fuel economy. Your TPMS keeps you safe such as the properly inflated tires help lower the risk of hydroplaning and allow for shorter braking distances.


Wheel Alignment

All four-wheelers after having been driven for a certain distance should undergo wheel alignment. What is wheel alignment and what will happen to your car if you don’t do it?

Let’s explore. At first glance, the wheels of a vehicle look as if they are perfectly straight and vertical and this arrangement seems logical. The surprising thing is to improve vehicle performance. Each manufacturer specifies some predefined angles to the wheels of their cars. In these exaggerated visuals, these angles are pretty clear.

Wheel Alignment Angles

There are basically three different angles of your vehicle wheels; camber, caster, and toe.

1. Camber Angle

Let’s first explore the importance of the camber angle. The camber angle is perfectly visible when viewed from the front of the car. This angle can be either positive or negative.

Negative Camber

A negative camber improves the cornering performance of the car. To understand how negative camber improves cornering performance, first, let us analyze how a car corners with a zero camber angle.  A car requires a centripetal force to corner. This centripetal force comes from the frictional force between the road and the tires. The outer wheels will have a higher frictional force compared to the inner wheels. The reason is simple, the outer tires will have the highest normal force during cornering.


wheel alignment - negative camber

Role of Frictional Force in Vehicle Turning

Now let’s see what this frictional force does to the tire? The tire usually becomes deformed because of the friction. Due to this deformation, the contact area of the wheel with the road decreases significantly. This will lead to poor frictional force. One easy way to increase this contact is to tilt the outer wheel inwards. This is exactly what negative camber is.

You might ask a question, what happens to the inner wheel when it has an inwards tilt? Obviously, there is a loss of some frictional force here due to the reduced contact area. However, as we have already discussed we want to maximize the frictional force on the outer wheels since they have the capacity to give the highest frictional force.

Positive Camber


wheel alignment - positive camber angle

2. Caster Angle

The next important angle of an automobile is the caster angle. In the steering mechanism, the wheels turn around a steering axis. This steering axis is never vertical in practice, the inclination of the steering axis is actually the caster angle. This angle is quite critical for an automobile you may have noticed that after taking a turn when you release the steering wheel it automatically goes back to its central position. The caster angle creates this steering wheel’s returnability.


wheel alignment - caster angle

3. Toe Angle

The toe angle is the most sensitive of the three angles. When you look from above this angle is perfectly clear, firstly, let’s discuss toe-out and tow-in. Ideally speaking a zero tow angle will give minimum wear to the wheels, however, as you drive the steering wheel undergoes minor unintentional movements. These minor steering wheel movements should not affect the straight-line motion of the car.


wheel alignment - toe angle

Principle of Steering of a Vehicle

To understand how the tow angle does it, let’s revisit the principle of steering. For perfect steering, the inner wheel should turn more than the outer wheel. If you look at it from a wheel alignment point of view, this is the toe-out condition.


Wheel Alignment - Toe Out Condition

This means that if you set the wheels in a toe-out manner, you can achieve a perfect steering condition with just slight movements of the steering wheel. However, such a high steering response leads to safety issues as the vehicle responds even to your unintentional steering wheel movements. Thus resulting in loss of straight-line stability. Due to this reason in passenger cars always use a toe-in arrangement. Toe-in provides the opposite effect. It reduces the steering responses and increases the straight-line stability of the car. Usually, the toe-in has a very low angle.


wheel alignment-toe-in angle


Each car will have an ideal set of wheel angles defined by the car manufacturer. These angles may undergo substantial deviations over time causing unnecessary tire wear. A routine wheel alignment process is important for your car’s good performance as well. Since these angles are quite sensitive in deciding the car’s straight-line stability, steering wheel returnability, and cornering capability.

Similarly, Proper care and maintenance of the tire pressure monitoring system are necessary to help ensure that the system will alert you in the event of a significant pressure loss in one or more tires. For more information on the TPMS system and the instrument panel indicators on your vehicle refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Also, be sure to purchase your tires per the manufacturer’s recommendations and have your TPMS sensors checked.

And when it comes time to maintain Tire Pressure Monitoring System & Wheel Alignment, look no further than the Big O Tires.


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