Tire-pressure Warning System
The Importance of a Tire-Pressure Warning System
Tires need to be inflated at the recommended pressure level in order to remain efficient and this information is often relayed to the driver via tire-pressure warning system. Even though a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) will indeed benefit the overall efficiency of the vehicle, its main purpose is safety-related – driving on underinflated tires is very dangerous as it not only diminishes the stability of the car, but also leaves the tires prone to blowouts.
The danger is increased as the tires get older. When this happens, not only is it easier for them to lose pressure, but they also wear out their tread. In this situation, it is a lot easier for the tires to heat up thanks to friction, causing them to explode. In fact, this was a major problem for Ford during the 1990s when many of its Ford Explorers saw their tires blow out, causing the vehicles to roll over, often with severe consequences. As a result of this, the inclusion of a TPMS system became mandatory for all American vehicles in 2007.
Types of TPMS
Tire-pressure warning systems are basically grouped into two categories: direct and indirect.
A direct TPMS uses sensors that monitor each tire individually in order to ascertain their condition at all times. They measure the air pressure, as well as the temperature of the tires and this information is sent to a central control module which analyzes the numbers. If the module detects any possible issues with any of the tires, the driver is alerted through a warning light in the dash.
The sensors send the information to the central module wirelessly in most cases and this can become a problem. For starters, each sensor is powered by a battery which will need to be replaced eventually. The same thing goes if one of the sensors is damaged in an accident. There is a lot of variety in terms of tire-pressure warning systems and many of these contain proprietary technology from the manufacturers. It becomes harder for the driver to find different components compatible with each other, often being forced to change the entire system.
An indirect system uses the on-board electronics and software in order to determine whether a tire is properly inflated or not. These systems detect how fast a wheel is spinning and, from there, can determine the size of the tire and whether it is properly inflated or not. While easier to handle, this system requires a lot more micromanagement and input from the driver.