TPMS: Is Your Car Trying to Tell You Something?

TPMS warning symbol

Do you know what this is?

According to an April 2014 article in the L.A. Times, 42% of drivers don’t recognize this symbol. Ten percent of drivers even admitted to intentionally ignoring it when it popped up on their dashboard. And that’s more than a little scary, because this symbol is alerting you to a potentially serious tire problem.

The symbol is the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) warning light. If your vehicle is model year 2008 or newer, it’s equipped with TPMS – and chances are you could see this light sooner or later.

This warning light is trying to tell you that at least one of your tires is at least 25% below its optimal pressure. That’s a problem because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us there are more than 11,000 tire-related crashes in the U.S. every year, and nearly 200 people will die from these accidents.

So if you do see you see this symbol lighting up on your dash, please don’t ignore it. If the light comes on while you’re driving, pull over as soon as you can and check to make sure you’re not experiencing a sudden loss of tire pressure. If all four tires appear to be OK, drive to the closest gas station, service station, or tire shop to check and correct the tire pressure. Then consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to reset the system, or ask your mechanic to reset it. (And by the way, any time a warning light shows up and you aren’t sure what it is, we strongly recommend pulling over in a safe place to check your owner’s manual.)

To sum up … we’ve said it before, but it’s true: Your tires are one of the most important pieces of safety equipment on your vehicle. Treat them as such, and heed the TPMS warning light!


Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker