As the summer driving season gets under way, many motorists find themselves staring at a dashboard warning lamp they don't recognize.
The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) icon, which looks like the cross section of a tire with an exclamation mark inside, lights up when the tire pressure in one or more of the vehicle's tires is 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended air pressure.
Unfortunately, a substantial number of drivers either don't recognize the symbol or don't know what to do when they see it. That's largely because broad use of tire pressure monitoring systems is relatively new, and consumers don't grasp that a serious safety hazard might exist.
Beginning with the 2008 model year, tire pressure monitoring systems became standard on all cars sold in the United States. Now, more than 50 million TPMS-equipped vehicles are on the road, with 15 million more coming onto the roadways every year, and it's critical that drivers recognize the icon and understand this important safety feature.
To educate motorists about TPMS and the importance of maintaining proper tire pressure, Schrader, a leading manufacturer of tire pressure monitoring systems, offers the following advice:
1) Regardless of the style of alert you have in your car, when it lights up, your tires are sending you a very important message: One or more of your tires may be at least 25 percent below recommended inflation pressure.
In other words one or more of your tires is significantly underinflated and you or an auto service technician needs to take a closer look as soon as possible.
2) When your TPMS warning light comes on, exercise caution, and find a safe place to pull out of traffic so you can stop to check your tires.
If you are driving at higher speeds (highway), immediately take firm hold of the steering wheel with both hands: If you are experiencing a blowout (rapid deflation), you'll need to be prepared to handle your vehicle. Then, slowly decelerate and move out of traffic.
3) Once you have checked to ensure you are not having a blowout, use a tire gauge to check the pressure of each tire against your manufacturer's recommended pressure level.
A tire gauge should be a standard component within your set of emergency items in your vehicle. The recommended pressure level can be found on the tire placard, a label located just inside the driver's side door.
4) If you are not comfortable checking the tire pressure on your own, have your tire pressure checked by a professional tire technician.
Fill your tires to the proper placard tire pressure, either with the help of your nearest tire service center or by using a tire air supply at a nearby filling station. If necessary, have any damaged tires, as well as the TPMS system, serviced at your nearest tire service center. The TPMS light should turn off within several minutes after re-inflating the tires to their recommended pressure.
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