Was your car built after 2007? If so, it most likely has a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) built in. You may be more familiar with the TPMS as that orange horseshoe light (which is actually supposed to look like a flattened tread and the sidewall of a tire) that goes on on your dashboard once in awhile when your tire pressure is low.
The tire pressure monitoring system is an electronic system that keeps an eye on the pressure in all of your tires. Before the TPMS existed, you had to check your tire pressure manually, which required using this device seen below.
While a lot of people check their tire pressure regularly, there are also many who don’t. Tires with low air pressure wear more quickly, but more importantly, they present a safety hazard for you and other drivers. Not only can low tire pressure reduce the handling abilities of your car, but dangerously low pressure can result in a blowout and an almost certain accident.
This is actually the reason the TPMS exists. You may remember the incident with Firestone tires in the late ’90s when it was discovered that Firestone tires that had lost their tread as a result of low pressure would consistently blow out. This caused many traffic accidents, and unfortunately, fatalities. This led the government to mandate the inclusion of tire pressure monitoring systems on all vehicles manufactured in the United States.
Indirect vs. Direct TPMS
There are two kinds of TPMS: indirect and direct.
Indirect TMPS don’t actually measure your tire pressure. They measure how fast your wheels are revolving. The idea is that if your wheels are revolving faster than they should be for the speed you’re going, the pressure is probably low.
Direct TMPS on the other hand monitor your tire pressure directly, hence the name. With both systems, if the computer detects that the pressure is low, it will send a signal to turn on that light in your dashboard, which alerts you that you need to put air in your tires.
So, if you see that orange light go on, don’t take any chances. Pull over at the nearest gas station and put air in your tires! While you’re doing this, it’s also a good idea to give them a once over and make sure they still have enough tread and aren’t otherwise damaged.
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