Tire Pressure Sensor Fault – What It Means, Symptoms & How To Fix It

tire pressure sensor fault

No doubt, you’ve seen a tire pressure sensor fault at some point while driving.

But what does it mean and how do you fix it? Are there any symptoms that would have given you some sort of indication that the tire sensor fault was going to light up?

Keep reading if you want to learn all there is about a tire pressure sensor fault and how to fix it.

What is a Tire Pressure Sensor Fault?

A tire pressure sensor fault means one or more of your tire pressure sensors has found a problem with one or more tires, either low tire pressure, a flat tire, or too much pressure.

A tire pressure sensor fault can also mean there’s a problem with the tire pressure sensor (TPMS sensor) or the TPMS system.

You’ll know that there’s a tire pressure sensor fault because an indicator light, called the tire pressure light, will appear on your dash. It’s usually an orange-yellow color, U shaped with an exclamation mark inside. Or sometimes, you’ll see a message on your dash that says “tire pressure sensor fault”.

This tire pressure light could mean low tire pressure, a flat tire, or too much pressure in a tire.

What Is A Tire Pressure Sensor?

A tire pressure sensor is a small electronic device located inside each tire. It’s designed to work with the TPMS to alert drivers of a tire failure (underinflated tire or overinflated tire, or flat tire).

The tire pressure light will also appear on the dash if there’s a problem with the tire pressure monitoring sensors.

The US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all cars, trucks, multipurpose passenger vehicles, and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, manufactured in 2008 or later, to have a tire pressure sensor system.

This law was created due to the high accident rate caused by vehicles with overinflated or underinflated tires. The law states that the tire pressure must be within 25% of the recommended tire pressure, otherwise the TPMS fault light must be triggered to notify the driver.

Direct TPMS VS Indirect TPMS (Tire pressure monitoring system)

There are two types of tire pressure monitoring systems, direct TPMS and indirect TPMS.

Each tire pressure system monitors the tire pressure within each of the tires and alerts the driver of low tire pressure (25 percent or more below or above recommended inflation pressure)but they do it in two different ways.

Direct TPMS gathers accurate pressure data directly from the tire valve via four dedicated sensors, reporting pressure information in near real-time. Direct TPMS is most common in the US and is preferred because the TPMS indicator alerts are automatically triggered when there’s a sensor fault.

Indirect TPMS, on the other hand, uses the ABS system to approximate tire pressure, and motorists must drive a substantial distance before an alert will be generated.

A vehicle equipped with indirect TPMS requires the device to be recalibrated by the driver after the tire pressure is changed or a tire is changed. This puts a level of control in the hands of the driver, something that is not the case with other critical safety functions in the vehicle such as airbags.

Indirect TPMS is used more often in Europe and requires resetting whenever a tire is replaced. If you’re replacing or rotating tires yourself, remember you can use an OBD 2 scanner to do a TPMS reset which will clear the sensor fault message.

4 Signs of a Tire Pressure Sensor Fault

Understanding the symptoms of a tire pressure fault will help you understand why the tire pressure light is on and assist you in better dealing with the issue. It will also help minimize how worried you get when the TPMS warning light appears on the dashboard. Here are the symptoms of a tire pressure fault:

1.TPMS Light

The TPMS system sends information to your onboard computer for analysis and then illuminates the TPMS warning light on your dashboard that indicates you have an underinflated tire, an overinflated tire, or a problem with the actual TPMS sensor. In some cases, you’ll see a TPMS malfunction indicator.

With a direct TPMS, it might be easier to figure out which tire has a problem. Regardless, the TPMS light will turn on when the computer learns of a potential problem with the tire pressure.

2.Check Engine Light

A check engine light can also come on when you have a tire pressure fault. The light often indicates that there’s another problem other than tire pressure but a problem with the tire pressure can also be the cause of the check engine light illuminating.

Some potential other problems might include a faulty sensor or even a faulty computer system or another problem with the tire pressure monitoring system. To be certain that the issue is tire pressure, use an OBD 2 scanner or a tire pressure gauge.

3.High Fuel Economy

Your vehicle tends to consume more fuel when your tires are unevenly inflated. That’s because an underinflated tire causes more drag, and tends to pull your vehicle to one side.

Due to the added drag, your vehicle will consume more fuel. Once you’ve inflated the tires correctly, your problem should resolve quickly.

4.Uneven Tire Wear

One common cause of uneven wear on tires is under or overinflated tires. Either problem causes wear on tires.

If you notice uneven wear on your tires, you don’t need to wait for the TPMS light to illuminate. You can rotate the tires or take your vehicle to a tire shop and request that they do the tire rotation. Whether you do the tire rotation yourself or the tire shop does it, remember to reset the TPMS system with an OBD scan tool, so the tire pressure warning light is removed.

5 Causes of a Tire Pressure Sensor Fault

1.Worn Out or Faulty Sensors

If a tire pressure sensor has reached its end of life, it can lead to a tire pressure sensor fault. Some tire pressure systems have batteries that last up to five years. The direct systems have longer-lasting batteries, but they can be challenging to replace.

To replace the batteries, in most cases, you might have to acquire new tire pressure sensors. Your tire pressure sensors can also fail due to corrosion in the valve stem. The issue is more common with aluminum sensors because they are prone to corrosion, unlike rubber sensors.

2.Tire Pressure Sensor Has Lost Memory

Sometimes the tire pressure control module and the tire pressure sensors lose communication with each other. If this happens, it can sometimes be fixed by reprogramming the sensors using a TPMS reset tool.

3.Low Tire Pressure

A low tire pressure telltale is the illuminated TPMS warning light and the most common cause of a tire pressure sensor fault is low tire pressure.

If the tire pressure sensor detects there isn’t enough pressure on the tires, it sends an alert to the computer system that indicates the tire pressure warning light. When the TPMS light is on, use a pressure gauge to check the inflation level for each tire.

4.Wiring Faults

A wiring fault can also lead to a tire pressure sensor fault. The issue can arise during servicing when mechanics can mix up the wires, resulting in a malfunction.

5.You Rotated Your Tires

If you rotate your tires, the tire pressure monitor system will illuminate until you reset the TPMS. The easiest way to reset the TPMS is with an OBD scanner. If your tires are after-market, the TPMS light will always be on, regardless of whether you’ve cleared the TPMS indicator light.

If your tires are before-market, and the tire pressure monitoring system light is still on after clearing it with the OBD scanner, you can reset the TPMS using a TPMS reset tool. Be sure that you’ve checked the tire inflation pressure with a pressure gauge before using the TPMS reset tool.

6 Ways To Reset the Tire Pressure Sensors

1.Reset the TPMS System

Some cars have a TPMS button that allows you to switch off the direct TPMS or reset it. If you encounter a tire pressure sensor fault, you should consider pressing the button.

Pushing and holding for a while can solve the problem. However, some cars might have a more complicated process to deal reset the TPMS. For the indirect TPMS, you should consider resetting it using a TPMS reset tool.

2.Check Tire Pressure

Use a tire pressure gauge to confirm that you have the correct tire pressure in all tires. Either inflate or deflate a tire depending on what the tire pressure gauge tells you.

3.Clear the Error Code

The OBD 2 port is important if you want to remove any warnings on your dashboard.

Fortunately, you can use it to clear the tire pressure sensor light. You need an OBD 2 scanner to achieve this, and it’s a quick and simple process.

4.Disconnect the Battery

Since the onboard computer depends on your battery to function, disconnecting and reconnecting allows you to restart the connection. The computer has to boot up again, and it can successfully clear the tire pressure sensor fault light.

Accessing the battery can be different in some vehicles. In most, you will find the battery under the hood while other cars have the battery at the back to evenly distribute weight.

5.Recalibrate the Transponders

Once your tires are rotated, the transponders in these wheels will change position. The TPMS sensor requires learning the different positions in the new tire, and this can lead to a tire pressure sensor fault light. To negate this, you should recalibrate these transponders after a wheel rotation. If the valve stems act as the pressure sensors, you should consider replacing them with new ones.

6.Replace the Faulty Tire Pressure sensor

If you have tried all the other options but the TPMS light is still on, there’s probably a TPMS problem and you likely need a new sensor.

FAQs For Tire Pressure Sensor Fault – What It Means, Symptoms & How To Fix It

Where is the tire pressure sensor located?

The tire pressure sensor (TPMS) is located in each tire.

What does tire pressure sensor fault mean?

A tire pressure sensor fault indicates low tire pressure, an over-inflated tire, a faulty sensor, or a problem with the TPMS system.

How much does it cost to replace a tire pressure sensor?

Replacing a tire pressure sensor can cost between $50 to $100, depending on your vehicle model and what tire shop you take it to for service.

Is it safe to drive with the tire pressure sensor fault?

No, it’s not safe to drive with the tire pressure sensor fault illuminated unless you know exactly why it’s on.

It could be a low tire pressure light, meaning that your tire is not at the recommended tire pressure level – the pressure could be much lower or higher and lead to a more serious problem such as a tire blowing out and causing you to lose control while driving.

Check the tire pressure level using a tire pressure gauge to determine the pressure levels. If you aren’t sure how to address the sensor fault, take your car to a tire shop.

How does a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) work?

Nowadays, you will come across two different tire pressure monitoring systems. Namely the direct and indirect TPMS.

Direct TPMS

The direct TPMS takes advantage of pressure monitoring sensors that are placed within each tire. These sensors specific pressure levels of each tire and collect wheel revolution info from the ABS. Some direct TPMS systems can also have a temperature sensor that allows you to know when the tires are too hot or cold.

The system sends the data to a control module for analysis and interpretation. In case your pressures are low, you will notice an indicator light on your dashboard. The direct TPMS will send all of its data wirelessly. To ensure that no data is compromised from each tire, the TPMS has a unique serial number.

More so, the serial number ensures that there is no confusion between the TPMS on your car and the systems on other cars. Some manufacturers will take advantage of proprietary technology to ensure that the TPMS provides all the relevant data to you. in return, it requires a professional to replace the systems.

It might be available in the spare tireExpensive
Batteries are long-lastingResynchronization might require expensive equipment
Easy resynchronization after tire replacements or rotationCan be damaged during demounting and mounting of tires
It isn’t prone to inaccuracies due to tire replacements or rotationThe battery isn’t serviceable if drained
Delivers precise readings from inside the tires

Indirect TPMS

Unlike the direct TPMS, the indirect sensors rely on the wheel speed sensors of the ABS. 

These sensors measure each wheel’s revolution rate, and the onboard computer systems compare the information to other vehicle data like the speed. 

The computer can easily determine the size of the tires on the vehicle based on each wheel’s revolution rate.

If the wheel spins faster than expected, the computer deduces that the tire is inflated and sends an alert to the dashboard. The system doesn’t directly measure the tire pressure; however, it relies on vehicle data to calculate the chances that the tires might be deflated. Unlike a tire gauge, the indirect TPMS functions by sending the tire rotation data and leaves the inboard computer to deduce the information.

Inexpensive unlike the direct TPMSMust reset after a tire rotation and inflation
Low installation and maintenance costsUnreliable on unevenly worn tires
It doesn’t require much programmingInaccurate when you install a bigger or smaller tire

Summary – Tire Pressure Sensor Fault – What It Means, Symptoms & How To Fix It

No doubt, you’ve seen a tire pressure sensor fault at some point while driving.

But what does it mean and how do you fix it? Are there any symptoms that would have given you some sort of indication that the tire sensor fault was going to light up?

I have personally had the tire pressure sensor fault light appear on my dashboard for almost every possible reason, including:

1.One or more of my tires had low pressure

2.My after-market tires were rotated or put on because of a change of season. Unfortunately, the tire pressure light never turned off while I had the after-market tires are on because they didn’t have a sensor. I chose to get the sensors installed so I didn’t need to see the light anymore but more importantly, the tire sensor fault light now tells me when there’s a tire with low or high tire pressure.

3.The TPMS was faulty and I needed to replace it.

I hope that you’ve learned all you needed about a tire pressure sensor fault and how to fix it.

References: https://www.schradertpms.com/en/driver-education/direct-tpms-versus-indirect-tpms

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