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How do tire pressure sensors work?

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Maintaining proper tire pressure is one of the easiest (and most overlooked) ways to improve your driving experience. Which isn’t really surprising, since your tires are the only part of your vehicle that actually touches the ground. Not only can quick checks every month make sure your rubber cuts a long mileage, but it can also improve fuel efficiency, comfort, and even performance.

Tires 101

While the frames may seem quite large, the Contact correction Where the rubber meets the road is actually very small – about the size of a soccer ball. Properly inflated tires maximize your contact patch without risking safety at higher speeds, although this changes when you’re off-road.

  • Uninflated Tires will have a concave contact patch
  • puffy Tires will have a convex contact patch
  • properly inflated Tires will have a completely flat contact patch

Sure, some lights would argue that over-inflating a tire causes the tread to swell slightly, making the contact patch smaller; Their reasoning is that less surface area leads to less rolling resistance. While this does happen, we put the idea to the test a long time ago, and the results have resulted in incredibly small improvements in fuel efficiency—along with huge discomfort to the test editors involved. Properly inflated tires put up very similar numbers.

“Driving with incorrect tire pressures can affect the vehicle’s handling and braking, particularly in wet conditions, and can seriously jeopardize your safety,” says Russell Shepherd, Director of Technical Communications at Michelin Tires. Popular Mechanics.

How do tire pressure sensors work?

Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) are a great safety innovation, alerting you if you notice any tire pressure fluctuations – which could be telltale signs of an incoming flat tire.

There are two types of systems: direct and indirect. Direct tire pressure monitoring systems take internal pressure and temperature readings from sensors on each tire and send them, usually wirelessly via a radio signal, to a central control unit. Most of the time, the sensors are mounted inside the tire, and because they’re battery powered, they’ll need to be replaced every ten years or so—sometimes a dead TPMS battery can turn on a tire light.

By contrast, indirect tire pressure monitoring systems do not use pressure sensors at all; Instead, use the wheel speed sensor data to determine your tire size based on how fast it is spinning – for example, an underinflated tire is lower than a properly inflated tire. Not sure which system your car is using? Take a look at valve stems. If the nut is holding them in place, they likely have pressure sensors inside.

Stop and check your pressure

A woman puts air in a car tyre

Getty Images

Let’s say your frame light (that’s the one that looks like a “U” with an exclamation mark in the middle) has joined the party on your dashboard. what happened after that?

First of all: don’t panic! More often than not, the tire pressure monitoring system indicates a minor problem. However, it is important to get off the road and to a safe place, such as a gas station, as soon as you can. You probably have a slow leak, but it’s unwise to squeeze without a quick look first. “Driving on under-inflated tires can cause heat build-up and eventually premature failure,” says Shepherd.

The first step is to break out the tire pressure gauge and check all four tires to see which ones might be low. I’ve had more than a few instances where all my tires were really fine, so you never know. However, if you Do Finding a tire with lower pressure than the others, it’s time to examine the low-profile tires more closely. Not sure of the correct pressure for your tyres? Check the label on the inside panel of the driver’s side door.
If you’re not on your own, hop outside and have the driver slowly roll forward (in a safe, controlled environment), while you check the tread for any debris. With the right tools on hand—and assuming there’s no debris in the sidewall of the tire—you’ll be able to patch the tire temporarily and head home. See below for a quick list of items to keep in your car for this type of situation.

ElitePro digital tire pressure gauge

JACO ElitePro Digital Tire Pressure Gauge

Now 21% off

Credit: JACO

Tire repair kit

Tire mud treatment kit
Credit: slime

85P Portable Plug-in Compressor Set

Fire 85P Portable Plug In Compressor Kit
Credit: Fier

Beware of cold weather

Cold weather is another element that can affect tire pressure – so much so that the tire light goes out on more than a few cold mornings. However, this is usually nothing to worry about. In this scenario, checking your tire pressure will likely reveal that you haven’t lost all that much air. Once you’ve verified that there really isn’t a flat, you can continue on your fun way and your tires will reach normal temperatures and pressures over time.

Understanding PSI pressure: The method for measuring tire pressure varies depending on where you live. In US accepted units, which are based on the imperial system, the psi is the standard unit of pressure and stands for “pounds per square inch”. As the name implies, psi is the pressure produced by a force of one pound applied to an area of ​​one square inch. Under the International System of Units, which is based on the metric system used by the rest of the world, the pascal (Pa) is the standard unit for pressure; A pascal is the pressure applied by a force of one newton perpendicular to an area of ​​one square metre. One pound per square inch is approximately equal to 6895 Pascals.

So how does driving on the ground increase tire pressure? Fortunately, it’s simple physics at work. “When it’s hot outside, the air molecules expand… As the air in your tires expands, it creates pressure,” Shepherd explains. The friction of your tires against the road, along with the heat transferred from the brakes, causes this inherent increase in temperature – and pressure.

Tire light will not turn off

background, closeup, copy space

Getty Images

Now that you’ve swapped your spare tire or fixed a flat, your tire light will likely remain in your dashboard. This is not a huge deal as it just needs to be reset. Most modern cars have a function to reset the tire pressure after adding air. If your vehicle has this ability, hit the button and you’re done – every vehicle is a little different, but your owner’s manual will point you in the right direction.

However, not all vehicles have a hard reset button, and this isn’t actually a huge deal. If you can’t find any buttons, a shortcut drive will likely fix the problem. Most tire pressure monitoring systemsReset after driving 50 mph for 10 minutes. So hop on the highway for a little while, and then you’ll be golden.

A shot to the head by Matt Crisara

Matt Crisara is an Austin native with an unquenchable passion for cars and motorsports, both foreign and domestic, and as the Automotive Editor for Popular MechanicsHe writes the majority of auto coverage across digital and print. He was previously a contributing writer for Motor1 after his training at Circuit Of The Americas F1 Track and Speed ​​City, an Austin radio broadcaster focusing on the world of motor racing. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he raced mountain bikes with the university’s club team. When he’s not working, he enjoys racing sims, FPV drones, and the great outdoors.


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