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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 [email protected] or use the comment space here.

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Jim Smith
With 30 years in the tire and automotive industries, Jim’s communications experience includes stints as a newspaper reporter and editor, a public relations manager and a variety of creative and management roles with a B2B marketing communications agency. The Kent State University journalism major served as editor for a number of community newspapers in Northeast Ohio before joining Modern Tire Dealer in 1984. After four years in brand and corporate public relations roles with Bridgestone Americas, Jim joined Nashville’s Stumpf Bartels Advertising in 1992. He became Tire Review‘s editor in October 1999.
  • wibble

    Some of the stems are aluminium. Aluminium corrodes so has built in failure and replacement profits for manufacturers. Don’t use alluminium for valve stems. Problem solved. Now for the hard bit…. get manufacturers to think about something other than profit

  • wobble

    Great comment wibble. From my perspective, this isn’t a maintenance issue, it’s just plain bad design, and/or materials as wibble points out.

    Just for the record, I have a Mazda 5 and two of these have failed on me. The first one was at 70 mph and destroyed the tire. The second I caught at a filling station. These cost $70 dollars each, plus the labor cost of replacing it. I’ve decided to have them removed and replaced with valve stems.

  • A Canadian

    There is no reason a aluminum valve stem should fail as all ours have done on a 2009 Grand Caravan with slightly over 60,000 km on it. One was previously replaced without our knowledge, one just suddenly failed, on close inspection the other other two are split down the valve stem sidewall from top to bottom.
    Aluminum is known to corrode in salt and when in contact with disimilar metals which I guess Chrysler forgot or failed to consider when designing these. Ours crumble in our hand when touched. A dealership or Chrysler can try to say that we must have bumped a curb, hit something or were too rough with them in some way. That doesn’t fly with me. This is simply corrosion and very poor engineering. An old style $4 valve stem design would have lasted much longer without the risks these aluminum ones possess.
    The alternative I discovered is replacing these aluminum valve stems with the new rubber variety which still includes the built in sensor. The part alone is around $70 CAN each without installation labour and sensor reprogramming costs but hopefully will last longer. These are now common on newer Chrysler products…hmm…I wonder why.
    I do plan on documenting everything including taking photo’s and video of the damaged one and the ones that are failing and having Chrysler pay the bill (or sue them if they don’t). I discovered this issue is not being covered by any kind of recall or replacement warranty as it very well should be. These could be very dangerous if the failure were to take place at high speed. Luckily ours failed without serious incident and alerted us to the problem in the remaining two. I would suggest onthers considering suing Chrysler if they fail to cover the replacement of these faulty parts.

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