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What does TPMS mean

By Joe Ballard
Published on June 17th, 2024

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The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) monitors precisely what the name implies: the air pressure in the tires on your vehicle. The system monitors tire pressure by using small sensors integrated into the tire valve stem (the connector used to add air to the tire).


These sensors send information to the appropriate electronic module that monitors your vehicle and delivers warnings if a system problem is encountered. In 2007, the TPMS was mandated to be standard equipment in all vehicles.

In this article, I will explain what the TPMS does, why it is important, and the warning signs of issues with your vehicle’s tires.

What Does the TPMS Do

The primary purpose of the TPMS is to track the air pressure inside each tire. Some systems also include a spare tire with a sensor, but you need to check your owner’s manual to be sure. When the air pressure in any of your tires drops below a given threshold, it indicates that your tire is underinflated. Driving with an underinflated tire could cause the following:

  • Excessive tire wear
  • Poor traction
  • Decreased load-carrying capability
  • A flat tire or blowout

Maintaining proper tire inflation will help to ensure that your tires do not wear out prematurely and that you are protected from a potential accident due to tire failure. Many vehicle manufacturers include an integrated tire monitoring display that enables you to check each tire's pressure periodically. In this way, you can add air to your tires at your convenience rather than being surprised when the warning light comes on and then scrambling to add air to the tires that need it.

Why Is the TPMS Important

The TPMS will also monitor overinflated tires. Although not as common as underinflated tires, this condition can still happen. Both overinflation and underinflation are bad for the tires, so it is important to maintain the proper tire inflation for your safety and the safety of your passengers. A properly inflated tire will provide the following benefits:

  • Reduce tread movement, resulting in an increase in tire life
  • Reduce rolling resistance, resulting in an increase in fuel efficiency
  • Increase water dispersion, resulting in a decrease in hydroplaning
  • Decrease the likelihood of a catastrophic tire failure (blowout)
  • Improve the chances of your tires surviving the potholes and other hazards on today's roadways

To determine the proper inflation level for your vehicle's tires, refer to the sticker posted on the driver's door jamb or the owner's manual. Maintaining the proper tire pressure is a safety precaution that will save you money and reduce stress in the long run.

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What Will Cause the TPMS Warning Light to Come On

Even if you diligently monitor tire pressure, outside forces can still negatively affect your tires. If the TPMS identifies an issue with your tires, it will generate a code for the appropriate module to turn on the warning light. If the light comes on, the first thing to do is check the pressure in each tire using the display or manually with a tire pressure gauge. Again, to identify the correct air pressure, refer to the sticker on the driver's side door jamb or the owner's manual. Do not use the tire pressure printed on the tire sidewall, as this indicates maximum air pressure, which is not the proper air pressure for your vehicle. Here are a few warning light scenarios that could happen and what you can do to resolve the issue:

  • The TPMS warning light comes on steadily while you are moving the most common issue is that the tire pressure in one or more tires is too low. This could be due to a slow leak or even air temperature (colder temperatures can impact tire pressure). The solution is to identify the tire and adjust the air pressure to the appropriate level.
  • The TPMS warning light is flashing this means that the sensor battery is low or that something is wrong with the sensor.
  • The TPMS warning light turns on and off - this is usually due to fluctuating temperatures. At night, the ambient temperature triggers the TPMS light to come on, but it may turn off in the morning when the ambient temperature rises, or the tire heats up from driving. The solution is to make sure all tires are properly inflated.
  • The TPMS light flashes and then stays on – if the light flashes for about 60–90 seconds and then stays on steady every time you start your vehicle, it means there is something wrong with the TPMS. If you are a DIYer and have an OBD2 scanner with TPMS functions, you may be able to identify the malfunction. If you cannot identify the issue, you should take it to an automotive service center for inspection and repair. Ignoring this situation is not a good idea, as the TPMS is designed to protect you. If the system is malfunctioning, your safety is in jeopardy.

Some Innova OBD2 scanners have the functionality to identify the tire sensor that has the issue. Once the issue has been corrected, the OBD2 scanner can reset the TPMS light by erasing the trouble code stored on the onboard computer.


The TPMS is an important system, but it should not replace regular tire pressure checks, which will proactively identify issues that could jeopardize your safety. Depending on the situation, the TPMS may be limited in its ability to provide accurate information about what is happening with your tires. These situations include but are not limited to:

  • The TPMS warning light may be set to come on at a tire pressure lower than what is safe to carry the vehicle's load. This could happen if the tires were replaced with the incorrect size, or the system was not recalibrated after the tires were replaced.
  • The tire sensor(s) may not accurately transmit tire pressure data to the appropriate module. This could be due to a failed sensor or a low sensor battery.
  • The system may not accurately determine if a tire is too low if other tires are losing pressure at the same rate.

So, even with TPMS, you should be proactive and check the pressure in your tires regularly (monthly if possible), especially if you plan to take a trip where you may add extra weight to your vehicle. Doing this will ensure that you keep on rolling smoothly and safely.

Innova's mission is to simplify diagnostics for DIYers and mechanics alike. We encourage you to visit our community page or contact us if you have questions. We are always looking for ways to improve your experience.

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