Looking for ways to pump up winter tire and wheel sales? How about selling tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS)? There are several designs now on the market, or about to be introduced, that offer a tremendous opportunity for dealers to make a good profit.
Whether you’re ready or not, you will have to be prepared to handle these vehicles and their specialized sensors. As of this writing, NHTSA’s TREAD Act-mandated regulations require that over the next three years all new passenger vehicles and light trucks be equipped with either a direct or indirect TPMS.
Indirect systems utilize the vehicle’s antilock braking system to let the driver know when a tire is losing air. These systems read a tire’s RPM off the vehicle’s anti-lock brake system, and are called "indirect" because there is no sensor in the wheel.
Direct systems feature sensors in each wheel that transmit inflation information to a dashboard-mounted monitor. These are considered to be better, more exacting systems, and will have to be used on new vehicles that are not ABS-equipped.
One direct TPMS on the market comes from SmarTire Systems. They offer two methods of attaching sensors. The first is a valve stem sensor. According to John Bolegoh, technical support manager, these are primarily used in OEM applications where the angle of the valve hole and its placement can be controlled through engineering. The sensor is placed on the inside of the tire and screws onto a metal valve stem that has a grommet to seal the valve to the wheel.
The next type is a strap-on sensor (see Photo A), which is attached by a band around the narrowest part of the drop center of the wheel. According to Bolegoh, the unit begins transmitting when the tire/wheel reaches 5 mph, activating a centrifugal switch.
The sensor detects tire pressure every seven seconds and reports a low pressure condition to the head unit every three to seven minutes if it detects a 3 psi loss of pressure.
"If the sensor detects a rapid change in pressure, it sends a signal to the driver within seven seconds alerting them to the potential hazard," said Bolegoh.
At present, the strap will fit tires with a bead diameter from 14 to 24.5 inches. The suggested retail price is $249.95 for a complete package including a basic LED receiver. For an additional $49.95, you can up-sell a full-function display that can be remote or integrated into the basic receiver, and can receive data from up to 20 wheel positions allowing truck tire dealers to sell this, as well.
Average dealer markup is between 25% and 30%. A trained professional must install this system to ensure proper function. Also, the receiver must be reprogrammed whenever the tires are rotated, again requiring professional assistance that can be charged for.
Another direct TPMS is offered by Advantage PressurePro (Photo B), which has taken technology used in the trucking industry and applied it to passenger vehicles and light trucks.
PressurePro’s miniaturized sensors (weighing less than a third of an ounce) simply screw onto any existing valve stem. The sensors transmit a RF signal to a small in-cab receiver. The unit can indicate which tire is low and the actual pressure reading.
According to Advantage’s Phillip Zaroor, this system requires no tools or a trained technician for installation. Advantage’s basic PressurePro package consists of four sensors and a receiver, and retails for $99 to $129. It can also handle up to 22 sensors.
The super small sensors will not cause a tire to lose air pressure if they are damaged, Zaroor said.
Another direct TPMS, TireSafe from Algonquin Scientific, has been available to the RV industry for a number of years. A passenger/light truck version was rolled out at the recent ITE/SEMA Show. While no firm pricing was announced, Algonquin President Mike Landers said TireSafe could retail for under $199.
TireSafe features sensors mounted to the drop center of each wheel. When one of the sensors detects a low-pressure condition, it sends an alert to the dashboard-mounted display that emits both audible and visual warnings. Best of all, at least for consumers, there is no reprogramming needed when tires are rotated. The system is hard-wired to the vehicle, but does not suffer from transmission interference common with some RF systems, Landers said.
How does all of this technology apply to the independent tire dealer? Well, every customer who walks into your store is a candidate for an aftermarket TPMS, and every customer with a TPMS will require special service. Selling a TPMS is as easy as selling "safety and confidence," especially for family vehicles.
How about all of those boat and utility trailers your customers may own? A seriously deflated trailer tire may not be detected until it’s too late and a costly failure occurs.
Your employees will certainly need to learn how to deal with direct systems, especially when demounting/-mounting tires, as well as for any reprogramming needed during a tire rotation.
The cost of these systems are essentially paid for the first or second time that they indicate a pressure loss and the tire and/or wheel is saved from damage. Not to mention the potential saving of lives these systems can mean.
Contact any of these companies for additional information on their systems:
Advantage Enterprises Inc.
205 W. Wall St.
Harrisonville, MO 64701
SmarTire Systems Inc.
Suite 150, 13151 Vanier Place
Richmond, BC V6V 2J1
Algonquin Scientific Inc.
25219 Dequindre Rd.
Madison Heights, MI 48071-4211