The Lowdown on Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems

If your vehicle is a 2008 or newer (and some earlier models), it has a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). It is designed to do exactly what its name suggests – keep tabs on tire pressure and alert the driver if the pressure in one or more tires falls more than 25 percent below the manufacturer’s recommendations.

How does it work? Battery-powered sensors are located in each tire to monitor tire pressure. They are connected with the valve stems, and by way of radio frequency technology, send pressure updates to the vehicle’s onboard computer. If the pressure is too low, a warning light or warning message on the instrument panel is displayed.

What does the warning light look like? It is a yellow or orange telltale that looks like an exclamation point inside of a tire symbol. It should come on briefly when the vehicle is started, but go off with the other warning lights when the pressure isn’t below the 25 percent threshold.

What should I do if the light comes on? If the light comes on and stays on, it indicates that one or more of the tires are significantly underinflated. Properly adjusting all tire air pressures to the recommended levels and driving the vehicle will turn the light off. If the light flashes for about a minute and then stays on, it indicates a possible problem with the TPMS, and you should visit your automotive service provider for an inspection.

Does the TPMS ever need to be replaced or serviced? Yes. Over time, the batteries in the sensors will die, requiring replacement of the TPMS. Depending on the climate you live in, the batteries will generally last between 5 and 12 years, with hotter climates typically at the lower end of the estimate.

Your ACDelco-affiliated Professional Service Centre has replacement TPMS modules for GM vehicles and many other makes. If your TPMS light is on, ask your technician or service representative for an inspection.