Installing a TPMS Sensor Is a Beginner Job for Most DIYers. Here’s Everything You Need to Know to Install a TPMS Sensor at Home.
- DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Time Required: Less than 1 hour
- Tools & Materials:
What Is a TPMS Sensor?
Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) sensors do exactly what their names suggest: measure your vehicle’s tire pressures. There is a TPMS sensor inside each of your vehicle’s tires. Modern TPMS sensors communicate with a central receiving unit wirelessly to tell drivers if there is a problem with one of their tires’ pressures.
TPMS sensors usually come in two varieties: the kind that is mounted inside of the tire and the kind that come inside valve stem caps. The batteries of these sensors should last around 10 years, but the sensor may have a shortened lifespan due to impacts or unusual wear and tear.
Is It Safe to Drive with a Bad TPMS Sensor?
Generally speaking, it is safe to drive with a bad TPMS sensor. However, if you don’t realize you have an issue with one of your tires due to a faulty TPMS issue, you run the risk of causing further damage to your tire by continuing to drive on it. Working TPMS sensors can help you get ahead of larger problems such as blowouts so that you can help yourself avoid getting stranded on the side of the road.
When to Install a TPMS Sensor
There is no recommended interval for when you should change your TPMS sensors. They should only be replaced when they’re not doing their job or if you purchase wheels that don’t have TPMS sensors installed. This is a job you can take on yourself fairly easily, but if you’re not confident in your ability to change interior TPMS sensors, we suggest leaving their installation up to the professionals.
What Are Common Symptoms Indicating You Need to Install a TPMS Sensor?
Common symptoms that you might need to consider installing aftermarket TPMS sensors include:
- Your vehicle’s TPMS warning light is engaged, but the tire has the appropriate amount of pressure.
- Your vehicle’s TPMS warning light is not engaging when your tire does not have the appropriate amount of pressure.
Keep in Mind
You can find your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure level in its owner’s manual or on a sticker that’s usually placed on the driver’s side door sill on modern models.
Some TPMS kits are pre-calibrated to read only one level of tire pressure. If your kit falls into this category, make sure its sensors are calibrated to read the appropriate amount of tire pressure that your specific vehicle calls for.
How to Install Cap-Based TPMS Sensors
If you want to install TPMS sensors of the cap variety, follow these steps:
Step 1: Remove the Old Caps
Remove the air valve caps of each of the tires you’re going to install a TPMS sensor onto. Store the caps in a secure place in case you ever need to switch back to them.
Step 2: Check Your Tire Pressures
Before you install your new TPMS sensors, be sure to check your tires’ pressures. If they’re too low, you should fill them to the appropriate psi level before you move forward with the installation.
Step 3: Calibrate the TPMS Sensors
If you purchased a TPMS kit that requires you to calibrate the sensors, now is the time to do so. Follow the instruction that should have come with the kit you’re using.
Step 4: Screw on Sensors
Now all you need to do is screw the new sensors onto the valve stems of your tires. Make sure they’re firmly screwed on and not cross-threaded.
Step 5: Check Connections
Switch the central tire pressure monitor on to see if it’s picking up the signals from the sensors. Again, follow the instructions for the particular set that you bought to make sure they are working the way they are supposed to.
How to Install Interior TPMS Sensors
If you want to install interior TPMS sensors, you’re going to have to put more work into this DIY job.
Step 1: Remove Wheel and Deflate
Raise your vehicle using a car jack and remove the wheel. Once the wheel is off, unscrew the valve cap and let the air escape from the tire.
Step 2: Separate Tire Bead from the Rim
Once the tire is deflated, use a pry bar and a block of wood to break the bead (where the tire and wheel meet) on the side of the tire with the valve stem. Only break one bead, sicne the tire does not need to fully removed from the wheel to access the valve stem hole. This also means that you shouldn’t need to rebalance the wheel after installing the TPMS.
Step 3: Replace Valve Stem
Use your pliers to pull the valve stem away from the wheel from the inside. Slide the new valve stem with the TPMS sensor into the hole, pulling it through from the inside with your pliers.
Step 4: Reset Tire Bead
Apply the tire lubricant or dish soap around the bead of the tire. Push the tire bead to make contact with the wheel, and then start filling the tire up with air. As the bead sets, it will make a loud popping sound, and it’s important to keep fingers clear of the bead area as this is happening. Visually inspect the bead has been resealed, and inflate tire to proper PSI.
Step 5: Reinstall Wheel, Repeat
Reinstall the wheel back onto your vehicle. Repeat for each of the wheels until all four TPMS sensors are installed. Once you lower your vehicle, recheck the tire pressure to make sure your tires are holding air. Check the central unit to see if the TPMS sensor units are working correctly.
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Disclaimer: The guidelines in this story are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual or repair guide before attempting repairs.
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