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A practical guide to TPMS

Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 07:00
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If it is indeed evident that a sensor isn’t being read correctly, one tip that may help is to try leaning the same type of tire-sensor-rim combination against the suspect wheel and seeing if the control module can read it (easier to do if you service many of the same vehicles). If the “donor” sensor registers, suspect a bad sensor and proceed from there – usually this means replacing the sensor, programming it, then performing a relearn if required but, as always, check service information and be sure.

And if the sensors are being indeed read and the system still indicates that a wheel has low pressure and you’ve tried everything and are out of ideas, from experience, try reprogramming each sensor and then resetting the system. Sometimes this needs to be done more than once but it’s been known to fix the problem. Again, always consult service information – service bulletins and tech tips in particular – but from experience, carefully following the steps exactly as directed using the correct tool (and repeating, patiently, if needed) fixes many TPMS problems. Just be sure to road test the vehicle and verify the repair before releasing the vehicle – TPMS MIL indicators often come on after a few minutes of driving, not right away at start up.

There’s no single way of programming tire pressure monitor sensors that applies to all vehicles – and there are some interesting methods out there. For example, the sticker on this Toyota’s rim is for the tire pressure monitor code. The QR code is scanned with the reprogramming tool, making programming quicker and avoiding any interference from surrounding electronics.

Depending on where in the country you work and what type of vehicles you service TPMS systems may never cause you a day of stress, or may cause so many problems that the sensors are assembled ahead of time and kept ready to install as needed. From experience, vehicles that go off road or have many aggressive drivers (like fleets of work trucks) are very hard on the TPMS systems and have many problems (in other words, they eat sensors) while pampered, sportier cars can have almost no problems at all. But in both cases, knowing a few practical tips can make TPMS service quicker and easier and keep the work problem-free.

No doubt the systems have evolved since they were introduced and can actually be simple to work on with the right tools and service information, but since there are still so many different systems on the roads (with unique methods of resetting and programming the systems and their related sensors) that it’s still important to refer to service information and be sure rather than guess and learn the hard way.

Fact is, the systems are safety-critical so they’re not going away any time soon.

TPMS systems are usually straightforward to deal with, and while you may not make a fortune servicing them you can definitely avoid costly problems and keep other work trouble-free and profitable.

With practical information and tips from hard-earned experience – plus service information and the right tools – working on TPMS systems successfully doesn’t need be a problem at all.

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