Tire Pressure Warning Triggered By Cold Weather

by Don Elliott on September 24, 2012

As the cooler days of autumn approach, the tire pressure warning lights on newer cars will start coming on. The reason is that the drop in temperatures lowers the pounds per square inch (PSI) or tire pressure inside your tires. All newer cars have tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) that are sensitive to within a degree or two of the correct tire pressure recommended for your tires.

When your tire pressure monitoring system notifies the car’s computer that the tire pressure is lower than the acceptable range, the tire pressure warning symbol illuminates on the dashboard. It is usually a simple matter of adding a bit of air to the tire to raise the tire pressure to within an acceptable range to shut off the warning light.

Tire pressure monitoring systems have been around since the 1980s. However, the Ford Explorer rollover problem in the 1990’s was blamed in part on the failure of underinflated Firestone tires. In 2000, the Transportation Enactment, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act mandated the use of suitable TPMS technology in all cars built for use in the United States after September 1, 2007.

The first systems were very simple using battery powered radio transmitters attached to the wheel modules. Newer systems use wireless technology imbedded into the body of the tire stem making it possible to detect tire pressure and temperature in each tire and transmit the detail to the driver. The tire pressure monitoring systems are quickly giving way to a higher level of technology and safety improving the used car value and safety of these cars over time.

On the more sophisticated systems, the TPMS not only alerts the driver that there is a problem on one of the tires, it also will notify the driver which tire is low and the current tire pressure.

If your TPMS warning light is on and you have checked all of the tires with an accurate tire gauge that indicates that the tire pressure is correct, the next thing to suspect is a faulty sensor in the tire. Unfortunately, TPMS sensor problems have become a regular repair item in auto repair shops and tire centers. Finding the problem can be as frustrating to the automotive repair technician as it is for you to have the warning light on. Be patient. The durability of this newer technology is still catching up with the repair process.

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