Reasons Why Your Tire Pressure Light Is On

October 9th, 2020 by

A closeup shows the tire pressure light on the information cluster on a car while being checked out at a tire shop near you.

You just bought a new or used car from your local dealership, and you’re feeling good. But the next time you hop inside your new car and start the engine, the light for the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) starts glowing. The first thing that runs through your mind is: What’s going on? Why is my tire pressure light on? Before searching “tire shop near me” to get your tires replaced, there are a few tips you can follow to solve the warning light issue.

The reasons for the tire pressure light coming on doesn’t always mean that there’s a huge emergency afoot. It could be the result of a number of factors that set the gauge off, even in cases where a leak may not have taken place. It most likely means that one or more of your tires have dropped below the recommended inflation level and need to be refilled.

What Is PSI?

The first thing you need to know is that tire air pressure is measured in PSI. If you type “PSI” into a search engine, you might end up with several different definitions for the acronym, ranging from air quality to paranormal activity. But if your tire gauge is going off, then the PSI you’re interested in refers to pounds per square inch and relates to the amount of force in pounds being applied to each square inch of the tire surface.

If you have a tire pressure gauge (and you should), it will likely also show the tire pressure in kPa or kilopascals. This is the metric equivalent of PSI. Because both units of measure will likely be present, make sure that you are reading the measurement in PSI so that you do not accidentally inflate your tires to the wrong pressure level.

What Should I Do When The Tire Pressure Light Is On?

When the tire pressure light comes on, there’s no need to worry. Sometimes the gauge will come on because it was cold out during the night, and the pressure in the tires dropped, maybe to just below where the light is set to go off. The first thing you need to do is to check the recommended tire pressure settings in the owner’s manual or on the driver’s side door jamb of your car. Your tires will also have a PSI number written on them, but that is the maximum safe pressure and not the pressure that you should inflate them to.

Once you find what the recommended tire pressure should be, grab a tire gauge, and measure the pressure in each tire to ensure it’s around the recommended level. If you don’t have a tire gauge, then you can always drive the car to a nearby gas station or a tire shop and use their tire pressure gauge to see what the PSI is for each tire. The PSI figure does not have to be exactly what it says in the owner’s manual, as tire pressure will change based on the weather or if you have been driving recently. However, it should be fairly close.

If the tire pressure is extremely low for all the tires, then it may have been due to a drastic drop in temperature, at which point you could simply refill each of the tires. If you refill the tires and the light is no longer on, then you’ve solved the problem, and you’re good to go. If the light is still on, then it might be that one or more tires could be suffering from a leak, and you may need to replace that tire (or multiple tires) as quickly as possible.

If the tire pressure is nominal and there are no leaks, but the TPMS warning light is still on, you could attempt driving for at least 10 minutes at over 30mph to warm the car up and wait for the warning light to turn off. You could also try resetting the TPMS warning light to disable the warning.

What To Do If The Tire Pressure Light Is Blinking

Alternatively, if the TPMS is blinking instead of having a solid light warning, then it could mean that there’s a power issue with the warning system. This might be due to a result of the battery being low, which means that you should charge up the battery as soon as possible.
Alternatively, if the TPMS light is blinking, it could be malfunctioning, and you could try resetting it to get it back on track.

Each vehicle comes with a reset button for the TPMS. Some vehicles may have an electronic system for resetting the gauge, while others may have the reset button located on the dashboard or on the steering wheel. You should refer to the owner’s manual to find out exactly where the TPMS reset button is located on your vehicle and how to properly reset the gauge.

How Does PSI Get Low?

When you gauge your tires, it doesn’t always mean that low PSI is bad PSI. Not every vehicle tire needs to read the same on a gauge. In fact, you can check with your car dealer or the car manual to see what the recommended tire pressure is for your vehicle before pumping it full of air.
Different vehicles may require different levels of tire pressure based on load, cornering, weight, or torque.

Depending on the pressure gauge that you have, there might be several labels on the dial showing what the pressure ranges should be relative to what is being inflated. You don’t need much pressure for small inflatable objects such as pool tools, sporting equipment, or beach balls. You might need more pressure for bicycles or two-wheeled vehicles. For most cars, your tire PSI will likely be between 30 and 40 PSI, depending on various factors.

These numbers may also change based on weather conditions or if there are leaks in the tires. For a leak, you’ll need to get the tire(s) repaired as quickly as possible. However, the pressure may also be low due to changes in temperature, where the drop in temperature may have caused the pressure to drop.

Tire pressure dropping caused by weather is due to air contracting under colder conditions, which also affects the air inside inflatable objects, such as tires. This is why some balloons filled with air will shrink and shrivel up when put in extremely cold conditions. A similar thing happens to tire pressures, just in a less drastic fashion.

Having The Right PSI For Your Tires

Remember that you don’t need to have your tire pressure maxed out for it to achieve optimal performance. Pressure goes up during warmer weather and when driving, while pressure goes down during colder weather or when your vehicle has been parked. This is simply because heat expands and cold contracts.

If you add too much air to your tires, then you’ll add a lot of wear and tear to the rubber and shorten their lifespan. This is because too much expansion leaves little room for the tires to flex and give during turns. However, the opposite is also possible, and too little air may result in flats, which can very easily damage your vehicle, the wheels, the axles, or the drivetrain.

You should regularly check the tire pressure in your car, especially during seasons where there are drastic shifts from warm to very cold weather. And don’t hesitate to drop by your local tire shop for regular tire maintenance, repair, or replacements to keep your car healthy while on the road. Proper inflation is just the first step in taking care of your tires.

You can also ask the mechanic at wherever you get your car serviced to have a look at your tire pressure whenever you bring it in for maintenance or care. At Blossom Chevrolet in Indianapolis, our service team is always ready and willing to help you with anything your car needs. This includes making sure your tires are at the right pressure level so you can drive away with confidence.

Posted in Tire Shop