Newer model vehicles are equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to warn drivers that at least one of their tires is underinflated. The dashboard light looks like an exclamation point inside of a horseshoe and, if illuminated, should be addressed immediately, says the non-profit Car Care Council.
“When the TPMS light goes on, it should not be ignored. Driving on underinflated tires can lead to an accident or cause damage to your vehicle,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “As part of a proactive auto care plan, tire pressure should be checked monthly, including the spare, as tires can lose pressure due to a number of factors, including seasonal temperature changes.”
All vehicles manufactured after September 2007 feature a tire pressure monitoring system. When the TPMS warning light comes on, it means pressure in at least one of the tires has fallen 25 percent under the recommended pressure. Low tire pressure can be due to a number of factors, including climate, road hazards and driving conditions. Once the tires are inflated to the correct pressure as outlined in the owner’s manual, the warning light should go off. However, some vehicles may require a professional service technician to reset the light.
According to the council’s free 80-page Car Care Guide, tires that are not properly inflated also add rolling resistance that makes the engine work harder to move the vehicle. This can lead to lower gas mileage and potential damage to the vehicle.
“In addition to safety concerns, underinflated tires can cost you more at the pump,” said White. “Simply inflating tires to the proper level can improve gas mileage by 3.3 percent or 10 cents per gallon.”