BDR Automotive

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1605 Washington St

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ask brian - tire pressure light
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BDR Automotive

Ask Brian: “What is the tire pressure light and what does it mean when it comes on?”

The tire pressure light on your dashboard is a horseshoe-shaped orange graphic with an exclamation point in the middle (!).  The light is part of the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) which is now available on most recently manufactured vehicles.  In some cars, the light tells you which tire is causing the light to go on.

What does the tire pressure light mean?

When the light comes on, it is an alert to let you know that the tire pressure is too low and can create unsafe driving conditions. Your tires may be underinflated, which can lead to excessive wear on your tire treads and possible tire failure. 

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What to do if the TPMS light comes on.

The first thing to do is to manually check your tire pressures with a gauge. If the pressure is too low, add are to reach the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation.  Look inside the driver’s door jamb (or in the driver’s manual) and you’ll see the ideal pressure number.  (Don’t look on the sidewall of the tire. That is the tire’s MAXIMUM pressure.)

You should check the tires’ pressure routinely with a manual gauge, as the tire’s pressure may drop below the proper inflation long before the TPMS warning light comes on. Remember, too, that the TPMS warning light can come on when the pressure is too high as well.

Both under-inflation and over-inflation can cause premature tread wear and possible tire failure. Over-inflation can result in decreased traction, premature wear, and the inability to absorb road impact. Over-inflated tires will show premature wear in the center of the tread. Increased air pressure can cause your ride to feel more rigid and uncomfortable. 

Increased air pressure can cause your ride to feel more rigid and uncomfortable. 

Under-inflation will cause sluggish tire response, decreased fuel economy, excessive heat buildup, and tire overload. An under-inflated tire will show premature wear on both sides of the tread edges.

Properly inflated tires have a lower rolling resistance, which means you’ll get more miles per gallon of gas.  In addition, you’ll maintain better control when driving over water, reducing the chance your tires will lose traction on the road surface.

What if my tire pressure is fine, but the tire pressure light comes on?

There are a number of situations why the light may come on even when your tires are fine. 

The temperature outside may have dropped.

When tire pressures are near the level that triggers an alert, fluctuating temperatures may cause the light to turn on and off.

If you recently had a tire change or rotation, the tire sensors may need to be reset.

Just driving around for a few minutes may allow the tire to reset. If this doesn’t work, you may need to go to your automotive service center for complete calibration. You can perform a system reset yourself. Check the owner’s handbook for resetting the TPMS warning light. 

The TPMS may not be functioning correctly.

If the light flashes for approximately 60 to 90 seconds every time you start your vehicle and then stays on, the TPMS isn’t functioning properly and you should take the car to your automotive service center for an inspection.  If the TPMS isn’t repaired, it cannot warn you of low tire pressure. If it blinks for a few minutes before going off permanently when you start the engine, this indicates that something may be wrong with it and you should have it looked at.

Some vehicles monitor the spare tire and it is often overlooked when trying to figure out why a tire pressure light is on. 

Bear in mind that all the dashboard lights come on for a few seconds when the engine starts up. This ensures that everything is working properly. If the TPMS light goes on for a few seconds each time you start your car, this doesn’t mean the tire pressure is too low. 

If the TPMS light does not come on, even when you first start the car, you should contact your automotive service center right away to have it repaired.

If you have concerns about your Tire Pressure Monitoring System, contact BDR Automotive at (508) 429-4720 or by email.  If you have a question for Ask Brian at BDR Automotive, send us an email and we’ll be sure to answer it in our blog.

Jarred McGee
Jarred is not only an amazingly competent and capable technician, he is a confident leader and source of incredible knowledge. Known for being a tireless and dedicated technician, he is always friendly and professional, always willing to go the extra mile to ensure BDR customers leave with peace of mind about their vehicle. Jarred attended Mass Bay Community College where he earned his Associates Degree in Automotive Technology. He went on to receive a Toyota T-TEN Certificate while working in Toyota’s dealership system. Jarred has also worked at an auto-body repair shop that specialized in complex high-end vehicles such as the Tesla.

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