It was like any other day and then suddenly the “Tire Pressure Sensor Fault” warning light comes on at your dashboard. But what does it really mean, and how do you go about fixing it?
For modern vehicles with more sophisticated tire pressure control systems, this message is very common. Although it is an indicator that there is an issue that needs to be addressed, it is not necessarily cause for alarm. The message “Tire Pressure Sensor Fault” indicates that one or more of your tire pressure sensors are malfunctioning.
The error code can also indicate that the air pressure in the tires is too low or too high. A defective Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) control panel, faulty wiring, or a TPMS reset may also be to blame. The simplest way to find out is to use an OBD2 scanner to read the error codes from your TPMS control unit.
There are many aspects of this error that you must comprehend in order to decide the best course of action and the urgency with which you must resolve the problem. We're going to talk about it in this article.
Tire Pressure Sensor Fault: What is a Tire Pressure Sensor?
Before we dig deeper into the tire pressure sensor fault causes, let us first get to know what a tire pressure sensor is. The sensors are an essential part of the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). A tire-pressure sensor is a small programmable electronic device that continuously monitors the air pressure within the tire. It is located in the pressurized pocket formed by the wheel and tire. The sensor sends the data to the vehicle's onboard computer real time and, if it has one, to a corresponding display in the instrument cluster via low-frequency radio.
The sensor displays the pressure in pounds per square inch (psi) and illuminates an amber warning light if one or more tires are deflated. In the United States, these sensors have been a mandatory requirement for cars since 2007.
Unlike bike tires, which have an inner tube that inflates the rubber tyre when filled with air, all car tires are tubeless. The inner center of tubeless car tires is packed with pressurized air. The PSI of the tire should be filled according to the manufacturer's recommendations. This information is normally found on a sticker on the driver's door or trunk. Overinflation or underinflation of a tire may result in tire damage and/or dangerous driving conditions.
Since the 2008 model year millions of these devices have been installed in passenger cars in the US. Tire-pressure sensors are normally operated by batteries and connected to the valve-stem assembly of each tire
Tire Pressure Sensor Fault Warning Light
Again, a tire pressure sensor fault notification appears when there is an issue with the tire pressure control system. When you have a defective TPMS this error code will appear. The “tire pressure sensor fault” warning will appear on the dashboard of some cars with more sophisticated computer systems, while a lighted sign will appear in others. This sign or light is usually a bright yellow exclamation mark (!) enclosed in a U-shaped symbol. And this icon should serve as a reminder that you need to inspect your tires.
An alert message or light will also appear in the instrument cluster if the sensor senses that the air pressure in a tire has fallen to a dangerously low level, like 25% under what is recommended by the Federal Government Regulations for the air pressure. The initial inflation pressure guidelines for a car's tires are normally found on a label on the driver's door sill.
It's natural for your TPMS light to blink when you start your car, then switch off a few seconds later. On launch, most vehicles illuminate all of their dashboard warning lights. There may be an issue if the light continues to flash or starts blinking when you're driving. Here are the detailed info on different scenarios:
The TPMS light illuminates while driving
When the TPMS light illuminates – and remains illuminated – at least one of your tires is underinflated.
The TPMS light goes on and then off
Variable temperatures can cause your TPMS light to turn on and off when your tire pressure(s) are near the level that triggers a warning. This usually happens at night when pressure drops due to a drop in ambient temperature, causing the light to turn on; the light can turn off during the day when pressure rises due to increasing ambient temperature and/or heat caused by driving.
The TPMS light is flashing and stays on
When you start your engine, the light flashes for 60 to 90 seconds before remaining illuminated, which means the TPMS isn't working properly and you should take it to an automotive service center for an inspection. The TPMS is out of use until it is fixed, and it will not be able to alert you of low tire pressure.
Telling Signs of Tire Pressure Sensor Fault
A tire pressure sensor fault, like any other vehicle issue, will have various signs and symptoms that you should be aware of in case you do not receive the warning or simply miss it due to defective dashboard lights. Here are a few of the most common.
- The Check Engine Light Is On
The check engine light is often illuminated by an issue with some of your vehicle's sensors. This light may also signify a problem with the vehicle's machine, with a tire pressure sensor malfunction being one of the most common issues it can detect.
However, given the wide range of issues that may cause this light to illuminate, it is not always a reliable symptom of this problem, so you should pair it with at least one other symptom to be sure
- Tire Wear That Isn't Even
One of the most common causes of uneven tire wear is under or over-inflation of tires. As a result, if one of the tires seems to be wearing out faster than the others, this is a sign of a tire pressure sensor failure, and you do not need to wait for the dashboard light to illuminate.
- Higher Fuel Economy
If your tires are not fully inflated, or if one or more of them are under or over-inflated, your car can use more fuel than normal. Under-inflated tires cause drag, requiring the engine to use more fuel than usual to keep the car running smoothly. As a result, if you find that your fuel economy is higher than normal, you can inspect your tire pressure sensor system.
Causes of Tire Pressure Sensor Fault
Given that different vehicles will be driven in different terrains and environments, a tire pressure sensor fault, like most other vehicle problems, can be caused by a variety of factors. Here are a few of the most common examples.
- Tire Pressure Sensors That Have Been Worn Out
Tire pressure sensors that have reached the end of their useful life are another common source of tire pressure sensor fault errors. Depending on how much the car is powered, most tire pressure sensors would have batteries that should last 5 to 7 years. The service life of a vehicle varies based on how many miles it has been driven (the more it is driven, the more frequently the sensors generate a signal and drain their batteries).
When the battery dies, the sensors' service life usually comes to an end as well. Also, corrosion in the valve stem can cause the pressure sensors to malfunction, and this is especially true for aluminum sensors, which are more resistant to corrosion than rubber ones.
- Tire Pressure is Low
Since this is what the sensors are designed to sense, low tire pressure is the most common cause of the tire pressure sensor fault. The sensors are mounted on each tire, and when one senses that the pressure in the tires is low, it sends a signal to the control module that controls the tire pressure management system.
This module then informs the vehicle's computer that there is a problem with tire inflation, resulting in the display of a message or the illumination of a light on the dashboard.
- Tire Pressure Management System that Isn't Working
Even if all of your tires are properly inflated and there is no problem, you can still get the tire pressure sensor fault light. In such situations, the issue may be a malfunctioning TPMS device. The TPMS sensor, like any other system, such as the brake or transmission system, is made up of various parts and components that are susceptible to wear, corrosion, and accidental damage. You can get a warning on your dashboard if any of the system's components are malfunctioning, and this is an indicator that the system is not performing optimally.
- Wiring Faults
A wiring problem is also the only reason you have a problem with your tire pressure sensors. Wiring issues are common during tire service because novice mechanics mix up various wires and cables, resulting in malfunctions. Short-circuiting of the wires that control the TPMS may also cause it to misbehave and result in a tire pressure problem. A TPMS module may also fail due to a faulty TPMS module and keyless entry but these issues are far less common.
Can I Still Drive My Car if My Tire Pressure Sensor Fault is On?
You still can, but here are some precautions: Depending on which tire is under-inflated, driving on it will cause the vehicle to pull in one direction or the other. This will result in the driver losing control of the car, which is extremely dangerous.
Driving on a low tire can result in unbalanced tire wear and, at worst, damage to the tire's structural integrity, especially the sidewall. When the tire is re-inflated, this will potentially result in a blow out that can cause accidents while on the road. If the damage is caused by driving on a fully flat tire, that tire would need to be replaced.
If you've double-checked that all of the tires are properly inflated, the sensor has actually failed. The driver's only concern at this stage would be the light flashing at them from the dash. Since the sensor is no longer reading the actual pressure, the driver would need to be more aware of the pressure in their tires. This should be resolved as soon as possible.
Tire Pressure Sensor Fault Quick Fix
Checking the pressure of all the tires with a good air pressure gauge is the quickest and easiest fix for this issue. These gauges are available at most parts stores and even gas stations. The dash warning light will illuminate as low as 5 PSI below the manufacturer's recommended pressure. The suggested pressure by the manufacturer can be found in the owner's manual or on a sticker on the driver's side door jamb.
If testing and changing the tire pressure to the correct specifications does not solve the issue, the tire pressure sensor will need to be replaced. Depending on the model, the failed sensor may be detected using an OBD2 scanner or the vehicle's dashboard computer options. These sensors have a battery life ranging from 2 to 10 years.
Although getting an automotive scan tool would allow you to diagnose the problem yourself, you can still have a scan performed by a local tire or repair shop to quickly identify which sensor has failed.
The tire pressure sensor fault message or warning light indicates that there are problems with your tire pressure control system that need to be addressed. These problems can include anything from defective sensors to wiring issues.
The good news is that, regardless of the underlying cause, this is a reasonably simple issue to resolve. Potential solutions include correctly inflating your tires and using an OBD 2 scanner to clear the error code. Regular inspection of the tires and the TPMS system, on the other hand, is an effective way to avoid tire pressure sensor fault.