Does a TPMS mean Goodbye to the Gauge?

Dear Tracy,

My new car has a tire pressure monitoring system and I am not really sure how it works. I have always been in the habit of checking my tire pressure with a manual gauge. Do I no longer need to do this now that I have a TPMS?

-Sylvia P.

Dear Sylvia,

I am always glad to hear when people are in the habit of checking tire pressure! It is great that you have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in your vehicle, but I would also hang on to that gauge.

The TPMS electronic system installed within your vehicle will continuously monitor the air pressure of all four tires. The TPMS will alert you, probably through a warning light on the dashboard, when your tire pressure falls below the proper limit. There are two different TPMS types – direct and indirect. How your system works depends on the type you have.

A direct TPMS has a pressure sensor on each tire, typically located on the valve stem or band mounted. The sensors used in direct systems are powered by separate lithium batteries, which eventually die. If your new car has a direct system, your regularly scheduled maintenance will include a check to make sure those batteries are in good shape.

Indirect TPMS technology works a little differently. Its monitoring is based on a calculation of factors, starting with the fact that a tire’s over-all diameter is smaller when it is not correctly inflated. A wheel that is smaller will have to spin faster to keep up with the other three. Wheel speed sensors located at each wheel position identify an underinflated tire by comparing the rotational speed of each wheel with the average speed of all four wheels to determine if one is spinning faster than the others. Though the indirect system does not require servicing, it does have some issues, such as the problem that if all four tires are underinflated, the indirect TPMS may not detect a problem.

Now, about that manual gauge. They say that old habits die hard, but in this case, manually checking your tire pressure is a habit you should probably keep, since your TPMS may not be entirely fail-safe. While you may not have to check your tires as often, regular manual tire pressure checks will give you the added measure of assurance that your TPMS is working properly.

Summer Car Care: How to Beat the Heat

Summer is the time for fun in the sun, and not the time you’d be thinking about car trouble, right? Though summer may provide for better road conditions than winter, don’t discount the potential for hot weather perils. All of that heat can be more than a little stressful for our vehicles. Extreme temperature fluctuations can be especially rough on cars and trucks.

When temperatures rise, this compounds the high temperatures that are already happening under your hood. This means your cooling and ventilation systems have to work even harder at keeping your vehicle protected. It is easy for a vehicle to breakdown under hot summer conditions, so it is important to keep an eye on these especially vulnerable areas:

Tires – Excessive heat causes the air inside of your tires to expand. To reduce the risk of blowouts, check tire pressure regularly and keep tires properly inflated.

Radiator – An overheated engine can quickly lead to a breakdown that will leave you stranded. Make sure your radiator is filled with the fluid it needs to prevent overheating.

Regular Maintenance – Your vehicle is most likely to operate at peak performance if you keep it in peak condition. Make sure you stay up-to-date on oil changes and other routine maintenance.

Cooling System – Have your cooling system checked at the beginning of the summer to make sure you are ready for the heat. The cooling system keeps the engine cool, and allows the AC system to function properly.

Battery – Check the condition of your battery in the hot summer months. Keep it topped off with distilled water and make sure it is free from corrosion. 

The Rubber Meets the Road – Again

Image courtesy of Cass Community Social Services

In Detroit, old tires are finding new life as highly fashionable footwear, known as Detroit Treads. Made from recycled tire rubber and old seatbelt material, these sandals were created by students at the University of Michigan and the College for Creative Studies in a unique program that gives aspiring designers, engineers and business professionals the opportunity to work together to make marketable products.

Treads are becoming an actual retailed product, thanks to a Detroit non-profit that supports sustainable green industries. Cass Community Social Services, works to provide relief in areas of concentrated poverty providing programs for food, health, housing, and jobs.

Image courtesy of Cass Community Social Services

CCSS was already making good use of the over 30,000 illegally dumped tires it has collected in Detroit with its, line of indestructible mud mats.  Detroit Treads sandals adds to their list of green industries, creating revenue and jobs for the people CCSS serves.

Detroit Tread sandals were launched on June 23 2014 at the CCSS annual fundraising event, Catch the Ford Fireworks With Cass. They were reportedly very well-received, and beginning in late July, Detroit Treads will be available for purchase online at the CCSS website.

To learn more about how Detroit Treads were developed, read this article from the University of Michigan Plant Blue.