Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS): What is it and how does it work?

All new passenger cars sold in the UK should be equipped with a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) for each wheel – an active safety technology designed to alert the driver to a change in tyre pressure.

There are many benefits to maintaining the correct tyre pressure in your vehicle:

  • Prevents accidents caused by a critical decrease in tyre pressure
  • Helps the vehicle perform predictably
  • Saves fuel
  • Reduces emissions
  • Optimises tyre wear

How does TPMS work?

Every Toyota passenger vehicle* produced for the UK market since November 2012 has been equipped with a TPMS. The majority of Toyota models use the direct method of electronic tyre pressure monitoring, while Aygo and Proace use the indirect method.

Direct: This method uses a battery-powered sensor (above) integrated into the valve assembly to physically measure absolute air pressure from within the tyre cavity itself. Data from the sensor in each wheel is transmitted wirelessly to a control module connected to the car’s central computer, which prompts a visible alert for the driver if any of the tyres lose pressure.

The control module is programmed with the unique serial numbers of the valves within the car’s system. This ensures that the TPMS assembly in each wheel only communicates with its host control module.

Indirect: This method uses the existing wheel speed sensors within the anti-lock braking system (ABS) to ‘measure’ tyre pressure by detecting differences in the rate of wheel rotation. A tyre with less air pressure will have a smaller circumference and therefore spin at a faster rate than a wheel that has not lost air pressure.

Data from the wheel speed sensors is communicated directly to the ABS control unit, which prompts a visible alert for the driver if any wheel speed abnormalities are detected.

What should I do if the TPMS light comes on?

The yellow TPMS warning light looks like the cross-section of a tyre with an exclamation mark inside. If the warning symbol illuminates, the air pressure in at least one of your tyres will have dropped below a minimum tolerance level – often a deflation of around 20-25%. This may indicate a leak, puncture, or some other kind of damage.

Dramatic changes in ambient temperature, such as driving from a snow-capped mountain to a warm and sheltered valley, can occasionally cause direct systems to prompt an alert until the temperature has stabilised. Similarly, indirect systems can occasionally mistake uneven tyre wear for a fluctuation in tyre pressure.

Irrespective of the circumstances, if the TPMS warning light comes on you should pull into a safe area and visually check the tyres. If any appear to be deflated yet undamaged you should try to re-inflate them to the correct pressure and reset the TPMS (see subheading below).

If the tyre has sustained more serious damage, it will be necessary to either continue your journey on the spare wheel, carry out a temporary repair using a tyre repair kit, or call an emergency breakdown service for a lift to a tyre centre.

How do I cancel the TPMS warning light?

Use the box below to identify the type of TPMS fitted to your car (only the latest versions of current models are listed below). You will also need to know whether the reset function is accessed via a button or sub-menu within the main display.

Once you have accessed the right sub-menu, instructions for resetting the TPMS will be shown within the main display. For those with a physical button, you simply need to turn the ignition on, then press and hold the TPMS button. The warning light will flash a couple of times and then extinguish, at which point the system has been reset.

MODEL TPMS TYPE RESET ACCESS LOCATION
Aygo Indirect Button Behind glovebox lid
Yaris Direct Button Under dashboard on driver’s side
Auris Direct Button Behind glovebox lid
C-HR Direct Software menu Vehicle Settings menu on Multi-info Display
RAV4 Direct Button Under dashboard on driver’s side
Verso Direct Button Under dashboard on driver’s side
Avensis Direct Software menu Vehicle Settings menu on Multi-info Display
GT86 Direct Button Lower dashboard on driver’s side
Prius Direct Software menu Vehicle Settings menu on Multi-info Display
Prius+ Direct Button Under dashboard on driver’s side
Land Cruiser Direct Button Under dashboard on driver’s side
Proace / Verso Indirect Software menu Driving Functions menu on Pro-Touch display
Mirai Direct Software menu Vehicle Settings menu on Multi-info Display

What should happen if I replace any tyres?

Direct: The condition and function of the TPMS valve and sensor assembly should be checked each time the tyres are replaced. This will involve a physical inspection and electronic diagnosis using a proprietary technology (example device in image below).

The integrated battery has a life expectancy of around ten years and cannot be replaced. Electronic diagnosis should reveal the health of the battery, which will help you decide whether to replace the entire unit at the same time as the tyre.

Although the main assembly of the valve is robust, parts exposed to the atmosphere can deteriorate over time. So if the battery level is adequate and the main unit is being retained, it would still be wise to have the grommets, washers, collars and cores (see image below) replaced as a matter of course.

Indirect: As this system is not directly related to the tyres, no further measures are needed – assuming the tyres are being replaced on a like-for-like basis. However, it is always wise to replace the valves when changing tyres.

Will changing the wheels affect the TPMS?

Not if your car features indirect TPMS measuring. In which case, you can switch to and from winter tyres with no additional system programming.

Due to the accuracy and complexity of direct measuring, the TPMS control module is designed to recognise and communicate with only one set of wheels at a time. So if you regularly switch to and from winter wheels it will be necessary for a qualified technician to reprogramme the control module through the vehicle’s OBD port.

There are occasions when it may be necessary to drive on a wheel that is not equipped with a TPMS valve, such as after a puncture when the spare wheel is fitted. Under such circumstances, the warning light will remain illuminated. The vehicle or tyre monitoring system will not be damaged but the vehicle cannot pass its annual MoT test if the warning light is on.

Do I still have to check my tyres manually?

Although TPMS is designed to deliver a safety alert in the event of a significant loss of tyre pressure, it does not replace manual inspections. Each tyre should be regularly checked to see if it is inflated to the correct air pressure and has sufficient tread depth.

*Hilux is classed as a commercial vehicle in the UK and is therefore not required to be equipped with a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.

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