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How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad: An Ultimate Guide!

How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad

Each one of your tires has a sensor. If you sense that one of them is failing, you have to know how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad. You can usually tell which one by doing a lot of trial and error such as air filling and releasing. You can also use a digital pressure gauge and a much simpler process is to have it checked in a tire store that has transmitter detectors.

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The TPMS or the Tire Pressure Monitoring System is the one that monitors the tire pressure of your vehicle. The TPMS has a sensor installed in each tire and it is the one that supplies information to the system that alerts the driver if it has detected that you have an underinflated or sometimes, an overinflated tire. If the sensors get bad, it might send the wrong data to the system and it could cause issues. It is for this reason that it is important that you always have a good set of TPMS sensors on your tires. If one gets bad or faulty, you should know how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad. 


How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad: What causes the TPMS sensor to go bad?


Your vehicle’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System has sensors that are small programmable electronic devices installed in each of your tires. These sensors constantly measure your tires’ air pressure and send the information to your car’s computer. If it has detected an underinflated or an overinflated tire it sets off an illuminating warning light to alert the driver. The TPMS sensors were and are being installed in many vehicles when the US made it mandatory in 2008. 


A tire pressure sensor is an essential part of the TPMS. Without it, the TPMS won’t be able to do its job. In fact, the leading cause of a faulty TPMS is a faulty sensor. So what causes the TPMS sensor to go bad?

  • Low or dead sensor batteries


Sensors have batteries that have a service life that ranges from five to seven years. The sensor battery’s service can vary depending on how frequent you use your vehicle. The more often you use it, the more the sensors get used and will drain its batteries faster. The conditions that you drive in can also contribute to the sensor’s life expectancy. Warmer temperatures put more strain on the TPMS sensor battery compared to colder temperatures. Driving on constant traffic with a lot of stop and go can also make a toll on your sensor batteries than driving on a highway with a constant speed. 


Low or dead sensor batteries cause TPMS sensors to become faulty or will set off a malfunction warning from the system by means of a blinking TPMS light on your dashboard. You will have to change the batteries of the sensors to fix the problem. 

  • Corrosion and other foreign matter


A corrosion on or inside the valve stem of a TPMS sensor can cause it to fail, too. If this problem is not fixed immediately, it could result in a much bigger problem. It can cause your tire to suddenly go flat when the corrosion causes your valve stem to crack or to break off. This problem can only happen to sensors that have aluminum stems and not the ones with rubber stems. Dirt build ups and other foreign matter can also cause the sensors to become faulty.

  • You recently had a tire change.


If you just had a tire change, it is possible that it is the one that caused your TPMS sensor to go bad. It is a common occurrence and you can do some things to prevent it from happening again. When you are changing a tire, there is always a risk of damaging your TPMS sensor especially when you’re breaking the bead and removing an old tire using a tool like a pry bar. To make sure that you won’t damage your TPMS sensors everytime you change a tire, follow these simple tips. 


  • When you remove the nut from the stem, it is best that you use the aluminum clamp-in stem. Wait for the sensor to fall into the tire. You can keep your TPMS sensor safe this way. 
  • If you have a rubber snap-in stem, it is advised that you keep the valve at 6:00 or 12:00 position when you are breaking the bed for your front and rear tires. Doing this will prevent the machinery from crushing your TPMS sensor. 
  • When working on a rubber snap-in stem, you should keep the valve lower than the demount head while removing the tire and starting the turntables. By doing so, the tire won’t hit the valve which protects the sensor.  


How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad: What are the symptoms of a faulty TPMS sensor? 


If you think that you have a faulty sensor, you need to know how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad so you can fix it. But how will you know that you have a faulty TPMS sensor? There are some signs or symptoms you might come across as you use your car everyday that can tell you that you have a bad TPMS sensor. Here are some of the symptoms.


  •  Illuminating TPMS warning light.


If your car’s computer or ECU detects that there is something wrong with your TPMS sensor, it will set off the TPMS light. You might also get a Tire Pressure Sensor Fault message on your dashboard. It is recommended that you visit a service shop when you see the warning light. Have a mechanic inspect and check the reason for the illuminating TPMS warning light. 

  • Tires have low air pressure.


TPMS sensors alert the driver when tires are underinflated. If you find that you have tires with low air pressure and there was no alert from the system, it must be because of a bad TPMS sensor. You can check your tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge to confirm that you really have a low tire pressure. 

  • Jerky steering wheel.


Jerky steering occurs when your front tires have low air pressure. It will be difficult to steer the wheel straight and steady when you have soft, low air pressure front tires. This happens when you don’t get an alert that your tires are underinflated because of a faulty TPMS sensor. 


  • Increased fuel consumption.


If it happens that your tire is flat when you’re driving and you didn’t know because of a faulty TPMS sensor, it could cause your car’s fuel consumption to increase. This is because when you drive with a flat tire, the friction between the tires and the road increases and it will require a higher traction to move. To make up for the needed power, the engine will have to burn more fuel. For this reason, it is always a good habit to check your tires and the air pressure with or without an illuminating warning light.      


  • Alerts or warnings are incorrect.


TPMS sensors constantly monitor the tires’ air pressure. If they are faulty, they can supply incorrect information to the car’s computer. This can lead the car’s computer to send an alert that there is a problem when there’s not. The sensor might send a report that says your tire is flat, the system will alert you but when you check your tire, it’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. You could also find a flat tire and correct it but the alert says you still have a flat tire. It is a sign that you have a faulty sensor and you just have to know how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad to fix it. 


Things like these happen and you should correct the problem as soon as possible so it won’t cause a much bigger problem. TPMS sensors should not be taken lightly since it can save you from having a blowout and other tire-related problems. 


How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad: How do you know which TPMS sensor is faulty?


If you know for sure that you have a bad sensor, knowing how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad will come in handy to know which one needs repairing or replacing. There are several ways  to spot a faulty TPMS sensor. 

  • Using a TPMS scan tool or reader.


Using a TPMS diagnostic tool or reader is an easy way to spot and identify TPMS sensor issues. It could detect a dead or drained battery, wiring problems, a weak voltage supply, and a lot more. 


  • Air filling and releasing.


This process requires time and patience. You need to check all four tires, fill each one with the recommended air pressure then gently release air from the tire and check the car display panel. A tire that doesn’t send a message means that it has a defective sensor and it needs to be checked or replaced. Make sure you mark the wheel with the defective sensor and fill the other tires with the recommended air pressure. 


  • Digital pressure gauge.


You can also spot a faulty TPMS sensor by using a digital pressure gauge to measure all the tires’ air pressure. Make sure that you take note of the readings. Compare the readings of the pressure gauge to the ones indicated on the car display panel. A difference in reading of any sensor means that it is the faulty one. 


How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad: Can you replace just one TPMS sensor?


You probably know how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad now. If you happen to find that one of your TPMS sensors is bad, can you replace just one? Yes, you can. If one of the TPMS sensors appears to be faulty and will need a replacement, you can replace that one faulty sensor. But it is recommended that if you are going to replace one faulty TPMS sensor, you should replace the other ones as well. Doing so will save you a lot of time and effort. 


If one of your TPMS sensors is faulty and has reached the end of its lifespan, the other sensors might be close behind too. That it is why it is highly recommended that you replace the other sensors too while you’re at it. The same can be said for the replacement of TPMS sensor batteries and the replacement of a corroded valve stem. 


Experts also advised that if you are going to swap your tires out for changing seasons, it is important that you reactivate and recalibrate the TPMS sensors each time. This is done to make sure that the TPMS of your vehicle operates properly. 


How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad: How much does it cost to replace a TPMS?


The estimated cost of a TPMS sensor replacement ranges from $231 and $301. The price can vary from car to car with additional costs for taxes and other fees.


If you wonder how the TPMS sensor replacement is done, it is pretty much like changing a tire but the wheel and the tire has to be separated. The tire will be removed from the wheel so the sensor will be removed inside the wheel. If the wheel is installed with a new sensor, the tire will be replaced and all four tires will be given the recommended tire air pressure.   


How to Tell Which TPMS Sensor is Bad: Final Word


The Tire Pressure Monitoring System has changed the way the drivers and car owners approach tire maintenance. The whole system and the TPMS sensors help make the car owners’ lives easier by monitoring the tire pressure and alerting them when the tires need their attention. The TPMS can also protect us since it is known that tire blowouts caused by tires with low air pressure can lead to accidents.


That is why you need to make sure that your TPMS and its sensors are operating properly. You should pay attention to the signs and symptoms of a faulty TPMS sensor. If one is faulty, knowing how to tell which TPMS sensor is bad will come in handy. Keep in mind that maintaining your TPMS and its sensors does not replace regular tire checks. You still have to check your tires and your tire pressure on a regular basis. 




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