Learner drivers hear this time and time again: check your tyres before you hit the road. Even though it only takes a few seconds, we choose to forget about this advice immediately after receiving our full driving licence. The results of this neglect can be devastating.
Due to their constant contact with the road’s surface, wheels are among the most fragile parts of a car. Potholes, sharp objects, improper alignment, or accidentally hitting the curb, can result in damage and underinflation. That, in turn, shortens the life of a tyre and negatively affects car fuel efficiency and performance, especially braking distance. Apart from decreasing the overall control of the driver, low pressure can even cause blowouts that are often followed by dangerous road accidents.
To increase the safety of road users, TPMS became obligatory for new vehicles in the EU in 2014. One year later there was new TPMS legislation, the UK introduced a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System law by which an inoperative or faulty TPMS sensor results in an immediate MOT failure, regardless of the condition of the car.
How does TPMS work?
There are two main types of Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems:
- Direct, with electronic sensors, mounted in each wheel to measure air pressure in tyres. They flash a warning light whenever the pressure drops below the set limit, which is usually 25% of the car manufacturer recommended level.
- Indirect, that works together with ABS or Anti-lock Braking System to detect a wheel that is rolling at a different speed due to underinflation.
TPMS - security but at an extra cost
Tyres equipped with direct Tyre Pressure Monitoring System are, unfortunately, more costly to maintain. For example, when changing tyres with pressure sensors, you need to consider changing those as well. Even if you don't drive your car frequently, sensors can sustain damage from potholes or wear out and need replacing. When you see a flashing TPMS light, it indicates a sensor failure, while a continuous light means that there have been potentially dangerous pressure changes.
Changing tyres with tyre pressure sensors requires technical knowledge, extra tools, parts and labour. It also takes more time than those without sensors as the system needs resetting and checking to be fully operational and safe.
Garages recommend replacing the valve core, nut, seal and cap on the valve stem each time you change tyres. TPMS valve replacement cost is significant, and can be even up to £200 per wheel, depending on the make and model of the car. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive your car is, the more you will have to pay for replacements.
However, given the increased protection of all road users, its price is very much worth paying. Safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians is of utmost importance, especially now that cars are more numerous and faster than they used to be.
TPMS sensors in the UK after Brexit
Many things will change in the UK automotive and tyre industry after 1.01.2021. TPMS legislation in the UK will no longer have to be compliant with EU regulations and will no longer be enforced by the government. However, it is difficult to imagine a step back from obligatory TPMS in new cars, just as we are unlikely to see wearing a seatbelt as an option.
There for our safety
Some people complain that TPMS is nothing more than just another electronic system in our gadget-laden cars. While it is true that modern vehicles get more complicated by the year, among innovations we could do without are those meant to increase our safety. And if your TPMS is out of service, failing an MOT could really be the least of your problems. A flat tyre means, for example, that when you brake, the vehicle will travel a longer distance before coming to a complete stop. Sometimes a metre can make the difference between a lucky escape and a serious accident.
If you have a car manufactured after 2014, it definitely is equipped with a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System. All you have to do is maintain it, so that the TPMS can look after your safety on the road. Don't miss your check-ups and don't neglect your car. Your health and your life depend on it.