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What Is a Tire Pressure Monitoring System?

Published on Aug 26, 2022 by Thomas Law Offices.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Do you sometimes see a warning light flashing on your car’s dashboard, but are unclear what it’s for? If you see a warning light that looks like a horseshoe with an exclamation point right in the middle of it, then it’s not one to ignore. It can either save your life or cause a major accident if it’s ignored. 

That specific light is for the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Research shows that an estimated 42% of drivers cannot correctly identify the TPMS dashboard warning sign. 

Throughout the remainder of this article, we’ll discuss the TPMS’ origins, the value it serves, and what to do if this indicator goes off on your dashboard.   

When Did TPMS Become a Requirement in the U.S.?

European auto manufacturers were first to offer early ideations of TPMS on their luxury automobiles starting in the 1980s. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) developed the first industry standards for a tire pressure monitoring system in response to an unusually high number of accidents and injuries caused by tire failure.  

Research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggested that TPMS would save between 75 and 90 additional lives annually in this country. This statistic motivated the U.S. Congress to pass the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act in 2000 in hopes that it would reduce the number of tire-related accidents

The TREAD Act states that all 2008 model year vehicles with less than a 10,000-pound gross weight sold in the U.S. must have a TPMS installed on them. Older vehicles can be retrofitted with either a mechanical or electrical TPMS system if needed.

How Does a Tire Pressure Monitoring System Work?

A TPMS is a device that monitors the air in your tires and alerts you when it’s low. A tire pressure is considered low if it’s 25% below the recommended one for your vehicle.

Most vehicles’ TPMS relies either upon the use of sensors mounted on the wheels or the automobile itself to detect when a tire’s pressure is low. A car onboard system may notify a motorist that the air pressure is low in one or more of their tires by: 

  • Illuminating the indicator light on the dashboard
  • Sounding an alarm warning the motorist of the low tire pressure

What Are the Pros and Cons of Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems?

The benefits associated with TPMS outweigh the disadvantages. 


TPMS systems can help:

  • Improve fuel economy
  • Extend the life of your tires
  • Minimize the chances of you having a flat tire or blowout
  • Improve the handling of your vehicle


Downsides associated with TPMS include:

  • Post-production installation can be expensive
  • Retrofitting an older vehicle with this system can be challenging
  • Improperly calibrated sensors can give off false readings

What Should You Do if Your TPMS Light Comes On?

Since your TPMS light comes on to warn you that the pressure in one or more of your tires is low and you know the dangers associated with this situation, you should make a point to stop and check your tires as soon as possible once this system sends out an alert. 

It’s important to note that tire pressure can change with temperature, so you may need to add air to your tires even if they don’t look low. It’s a good idea to check your tire pressure at least once a month and before long trips.

When adding air to your tires, be sure to check the sidewall of the tire for the maximum pressure. Do not exceed how much it states, as it could cause the tire to burst.

You may want to have a mechanic take care of inspecting and filling your tires if you’re unsure how to do so yourself.

Do Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems Prevent Accidents?

A tire pressure monitoring system can help you prevent accidents by minimizing the chances of a flat tire or blowout, as referenced above. Tire failure can cause one of two scenarios to happen to your vehicle:

  1. It may become immobilized in active traffic
  2. You may lose control of it

Since a TPMS notifies you when your tires’ air pressure is low, you can potentially stave off tire failure by simply addressing the situation right away, thus minimizing your chances of becoming involved in a crash. 

Although a tire pressure monitoring system can help eliminate instances of tire failure, like blowouts and flat tires, it doesn’t ensure other motorists will have vehicles with TPMS or heed the warnings they send off. In other words, a TPMS can’t unilaterally prevent all accidents.

What To Do if You’re Involved in an Accident Attributable To Tire Failure

If you’re involved in an accident that was caused by a flat tire, there are a few things you can do:

  • File a police report: A police report documents the incident and can be used by both you and insurers to determine liability.
  • Take pictures of the damage: Any pictures of your injuries or damage can aid parties in determining liability and in justifying why you’re demanding compensation for your injuries. 
  • Get the contact information of any witnesses: Witnesses may be able to provide accounts of what they saw leading up to, during, and following an accident. This testimony may prove invaluable when proving liability.
  • See a doctor: You should have a physician examine you, even if you don’t think you’re injured, to ensure nothing is awry. You should follow your doctor’s advice on how to proceed to ensure proper recovery.

An additional step that you will want to take following an auto accident is to consult with a lawyer.

When Should You Involve an Attorney in Your Car Accident Case?

Illinois law affords you rights as someone injured in a crash due to someone else’s negligence. A lawyer can assess whether liability is clear and if so, help you build a case necessary to recover compensation for your injuries and other accident-related costs.

Accidents can happen if you don’t have a TPMS, and even if you do. They can also occur because a motorist failed to maintain their tires or vehicle in general, operated their vehicle recklessly, or for countless other reasons. If you’re involved in an accident, be sure to take the necessary steps to protect your rights.

If you were involved in an incident that was caused by tire failure, contact us at Thomas Law Offices today. We have extensive experience in helping individuals like you who have had their lives turned upside down unexpectedly because of this. Our car crash lawyers in Chicago can help you get the compensation you deserve. Fill out our contact form to initiate communication now.

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Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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