Since 2008, all cars sold in the US are required to have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) installed. Different car systems might monitor tire pressure differently, but they all have the same purpose. The system constantly monitors your tires as you drive to make sure they are properly inflated. Without this system, a driver may never realize their tire is losing air until it’s too late. Now with the tire pressure monitoring system, you’ll know when one of your tires is starting to get low on air and you can go fill it up before anything bad happens.
What the tire pressure warning light means
When you first start up the engine, the TPMS light should illuminate for a few seconds as a systems check. After the engine has turned over, this light should go out. If it doesn’t, then one of your tires is likely low on pressure.
Take the car to a shop or gas station and check the tire pressures at each wheel. Some systems are sensitive and can tell the difference between a few PSI so you want the pressure to be as close to the manufacturer’s specification. Refer to the owner’s manual or the sticker in the driver door panel for the correct PSI for your tires. Once the tires are at the correct pressure, the light will usually stay illuminated until you have driven for a bit. Eventually, the computer will see that all of the tires are at the correct pressure and the light should go off.
If the light continues to stay illuminated, then there is an issue with the system that needs to be remedied. Some tire pressure sensors run on batteries and if they run out of power, they do not communicate with the car’s computer system and the light will be illuminated.
Is it safe to drive with the tire pressure warning light on?
If the light turns on while you are driving, you should pull over when you can and inspect all of your tires. If they appear to be mostly inflated still, you can continue driving, but you need to check all of the pressures with a gauge and fill up any tires low on air. An over or under inflated tire will wear out unevenly and you will need to replace it sooner than normal. Don’t ignore the light or the tire could also continue to lose air until it fails completely.
It is important to maintain your TPMS so that you can keep your car safe and in good condition. If you ever have any problems with your tire pressure monitoring system, our certified technicians are always available to assist you with diagnosing the problem.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Does the Tire Pressure Warning Light Mean? and was authored by Spencer Cates.