What is a tire pressure monitoring system? And is this a sign of more to come?
A while back there were two companies, one that built an SUV and another that built tires for said SUV. Basically the two companies really didn’t put there heads together when it came to the tire pressure requirements of the SUV and the stability of the tire at a specific tire pressure. While the two companies fought and pointed fingers in and out of court what was really evident to a lot of auto professionals is just how inept our society has become at some pretty basic stuff like checking the tires on our cars. As a result we have had some very unfortunate events that caused vehicle rollover related deaths and injuries. This set of circumstances has led us to legislation and regulation that has added a new safety feature for all 2007 and newer vehicles sold in the U.S. This new system is called the tire pressure monitoring system, meant to keep you the driver informed if you have a low or flat tire. The systems can be found on some 06 models such as the Subaru Tribeca. There is a sensor at each wheel that emits an “rf” type frequency to a control module that interprets that signal into a pressure reading that is displayed on the dash board. Anytime the tires are rotated the module must be informed or calibrated to the new position of the wheels. Reason being that as the tire is moved closer or further from the module, the strength of frequency changes and that is the key to how the system works as the tire becomes low the signal emitted from the sensor is weaker. It used to be that part of owning a vehicle included some maintenance done by the vehicle owner such as checking tire pressure, engine oil levels, lights etc. If the owner of the vehicle didn’t want to deal with the maintenance themselves they took the vehicle to the corner service station. Well the corner service station went out of business years ago; replaced by quick lubes filled with kids that don’t take your car as serious as they should or just don’t have the proper knowledge or the time and tire pressure often goes unchecked. Add to that, our current hectic pace of life doesn’t always lend itself to having enough energy to go out and look the car over. Maybe we just don’t know where to start and don’t have the time or interest to learn.. It used to be, in high school there was an auto shop program that taught the basics and in other places such as most of Europe this is still the case prior to obtaining a drivers license. We don’t teach how to maintain a car anymore so no one knows. Ask your self if you think the average 16 year old obtaining a drivers license today is well equipped to change a flat tire out on the road or even inflate tires to the proper pressure. While I do think it is very important to keep vehicles safe I am also very concerned with our ever seeming rush to add systems to cars that won’t really resolve the real issues we have facing us on the road. Here is the reality; the tire pressure monitoring systems is only useful if it isn’t ignored. A lot of vehicle owners still think the check engine light comes on at a predetermined mileage rather than indicate a problem, even though the owner’s manual states otherwise. A tire pressure monitoring system that would also govern the vehicle speed to less than 50 mph if the car has a low tire would really add safety not just create the illusion of it. What I hope is that with a little increased education we can create better informed drivers, and create more safety on the road, rather than add expensive systems. Some vehicles have a low oil level sensor in the oil pan meant to inform the customer that the engine is very low on oil. Now if this also didn’t allow the vehicle to start until the level was corrected we would replace less engines as a result of running them out of oil. But that’s not how most warning systems work as it could greatly inconvenience the driver. We have invested in the proper tools and training at our shop to deal with the tire pressure monitoring systems as we are committed to servicing our customers cars properly. But we think that additional steps need to be taken to keep drivers informed. Or our cars are going to look like airplane cockpits with all the new systems we may add in the future. And lets face it the more there is to look at on the dash the less our eyes are on the road.