The Lowdown on TPMS Systems

If you’ve ever had a flat tire on your Acura, you know the frustration that you experience because of it. For that matter, if you’ve even had a low tire and had to find a gas station with compressed air, you can empathize. And that’s precisely why TPMS systems were developed. You may recall at the turn of the millennium, Firestone tires were experiencing catastrophic failures that led to injuries and deaths. Legislators and carmakers began working together to implement a system that could accurately determine when your tires were low on air. It’s believed that these tire pressure monitoring systems, or TPMS systems, have led to a significant decrease in tire-related accidents.

How do TPMS Systems Work?

Since the 2008 model year, every passenger vehicle built for the North American market was required to have one of these TPMS systems. That includes Acura models, by the way. There are two types of TPMS systems in use:

Indirect TPMS systems

This type of TPMS system has a sensor in each wheel, commonly attached to the valve stem, that measures pressure and transmits the value via radio frequency identification (RFID). A computer in your Acura compares the value from the sensor against the normal value. If the pressure is outside its allowable threshold, it illuminates the tire pressure monitor warning light. Indirect TPMS systems just give you a general warning that one or more of your tires are low. They don’t specify which tire, leaving a little work for you to decipher the trouble spot.

Direct TPMS systems

The basic structure of the direct TPMS system is very similar. Sensors are mounted inside the wheels, transmitting information via RFID to the computer. The major difference is in the information displayed to the driver. Direct systems indicate which tire is low, and often give accurate tire pressure readings for each tire on the vehicle. It makes topping up the correct tire almost foolproof and enhances on-road safety. Depending on which Acura model you drive, you’ll have either the direct or indirect TPMS system in your vehicle. If you see the little amber U-shaped light come on (there an “!” in the middle), you’d better check your tires. You can avoid costly tire replacement or, more importantly, avoid an accident by properly maintaining your tires.