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Weigh In: Is OE TPMS Sensor Failure a Hidden Problem?

October 26, 2012
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It's discussion and sharing time, and this appears to be a pretty serious topic.

A few weeks ago, Newport, N.Y., tire dealer Joe Fiacco called me about problems he has been seeing with OE TPMS valve sensors. Specifically, "sensor nuts have split, causing the sensor to fall in the tire, which in turn causes an immediate flat and, therefore, ruins the tire," according to Fiacco, who owns Fiacco’s Tire & Batteries.

He’s seen this happen about 10 times over the past two years, primarily with some Jeep models, “all Chrysler products,” and some Mazda 3s and Toyotas. And these are OE sensors that have not otherwise been touched.

From his experience, the split sensor nuts have occurred even on unused spare tires. “Most car dealers do not take any responsibility for this and, therefore, will not warranty them,” he said. “Some of the Jeep dealers did warranty them but the Mazda did not.”

Separate from this report, WEWS-TV in Cleveland recently reported that corrosion is eating up valve-stem TPMS sensors, causing them to fail and create sudden deflation.

“One driver showed us his corroded tire pressure valve,” the report stated. “Mechanics say maintenance is to blame, but car owners think there's a safety issue.”

With winter just around the corner, drivers in the north may face a new driving issue.

In the report, a local driver was featured. “The car is only three years old, and we only have 24,000 miles on it, and it just corroded," driver Ed Friend said, pointing to the tire pressure valve on his tire.

There is no corrosion on the body of the car or on the wheels. It's hidden in the valve stem sensor. "You can see it here. It's flaking off in my hand. There, look, it's just fallen off, just fallen off," Friend said, as the valve broke apart in his hand.

His car? A Chrysler. So was his wife’s, who had a corroded senor fail while she was on a local highway.

A regional manager for a large Cleveland tire dealership was on the air, and he said the problem was one of maintenance, not the sensors. "Customers need to be looking at their air pressure at least on a monthly basis, and when you are taking off the cap and cleaning your car on a consistent basis you are not going to have those issues occur," he said.

I believe Fiacco’s tale, and suspect there is a hidden issue here that the industry may just now be discovering.

Drivers, though, never want to hear that it’s their fault. TPMS, after all, is there for that very reason; they didn’t want to take responsibility for checking the inflation pressure of their tires, so the government gave them an alarm clock to remind them to do that.

At the same time, should these sensors be corroding so quickly and completely that people’s lives are in danger?

We want to stay on this issue, so we’d love to hear what you have experienced with this situation. Send your comments to me at jsmith@babcox.com or use the comment space here.