How to select compatible TPMS sensors and tools

How to select compatible TPMS sensors and tools

Programmable sensors are a fantastic option for simplifying TPMS service and programming tools don’t have to be complicated.

Ever since Schrader introduced the first single SKU programmable sensor in 2012, there has been an explosion of sensor manufacturers offering various branded or white-label single SKU programmable sensors. The reason is simple: the advantages for these sensors are significant for shops. Not only do they allow technicians to cover 99% of vehicles with only one part, but they also provide numerous benefits such as sensor ID cloning, future vehicle coverage and reprogramming capabilities.

But all these great benefits come with a small “price”: Technicians need to “program” the sensor with a communication protocol (ideally prior to installation) to make the sensor communicate with a specific make, model and year of vehicle. The programming process needs to be done with a compatible TPMS programming tool. But what is a “compatible programming tool,” you might ask?

There is no sensor brand that can be programmed by all tools. And there is no tool brand that can program all sensors. Since programmable sensors need to be used in conjunction with a TPMS programming tool, shops need a cost-efficient and reliable TPMS tool and sensor programs. As shop owners continue to explore their options for programmable sensor partners, they are often offered locked programming tool and sensor bundles. Locked programming tools generally allow the buyer to get a TPMS tool for a fraction of the price, but it also limits a tool to program only one sensor brand. For example, “Brand A” tools can only program “Brand A” sensors.

What can go wrong, you might ask?

Well, imagine this: a shop is replacing a TPMS sensor on vehicle XYZ, but sensor from “Brand A” normally used by the shop doesn’t cover this specific vehicle. Then, the shop orders a sensor from “Brand B” only to realize that sensor (“Brand B”) is not compatible with tool from “Brand A”.

What can you do?

  • Before ordering a new sensor, check if your current tool is unlocked. An unlocked tool will display a list of sensor brands after you’ve selected a vehicle make, model and year in the “programming” menu. Don’t forget you might have other tools that you haven’t been using recently. Often those tools are fully functional and only require a software update.
  • If you currently have a locked TPMS tool, ask if there are any options to unlock it. You may not realize many of these locked tools can be unlocked at a fair price. Giving you sensor freedom and giving those tools purpose!
  • Do your homework and select the sensor brand that offers the coverage your shop needs.
  • Depending on the types of vehicles you service, you might need a sensor with specific coverage. Programmable sensor companies generally claim 99% coverage, but somehow, there are different methods to get to that 99%. Does it include all vehicles in operation (VIO)? Does it include vehicles with Indirect TPMS? Does it include vehicles not targeted by legislation? Do your research.
  • Once you have found your TPMS sensor partner of choice, make sure you ask about the tool compatibility. There are various “unlocked” tools on the market, they have the capability to program different sensor brands, giving you the flexibility to program other sensor brands if needed without investing in a new tool each time.

Programmable sensors are a fantastic option for simplifying TPMS service and programming tools don’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to have five different tools to program five different sensor brands. Ultimately, you just need to find a programmable TPMS sensor partner that covers the vehicles makes you generally service (preferably single SKU) and a compatible unlocked programming tool that gives you more flexibility. Any coverage gaps you might have can then be covered by OE replacement TPMS sensors that don’t require programming. And best is to find a brand that can supply both those OE replacement sensors and programmable sensors!

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