It is true that Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) can quickly become a bother to off-road enthusiasts. Enjoying an off-roading session with a TPMS light glowing on the dashboard is not ideal. Especially since it is not as if the driver is not aware of the decreased tire pressure, as they likely did it themselves. It is a common practice in off-roading to lower tire pressures down 20% or more below placard pressure to increase traction and performance on the rough terrain that is associated with the sport. This decrease in pressure, however, naturally prompts the TPMS indicator light to go off, signaling that the tire is under-inflated. This is, after all, the entire purpose of TPMS.
Some manufacturers, like Jeep, are coming out with solutions catered to off-road enthusiasts and their tire pressure woes. For example, some upcoming Jeep models will contain a “selectable tire fill alert” system. A typical tire fill alert system will “chirp” when the tires are properly inflated. So, if one’s TPMS indicator illuminates due to one or more tires being 25% below or above placard pressure, they can easily increase or decrease the tire pressure (after a session) until they hear a “chirp.” The chirp will indicate that the tire is filled to its proper level, dismissing the extra step of using a gauge or the auto-location system to ensure proper pressure has been met.
However, this new “selectable” tire fill alert feature will allow the driver to indicate at which pressure they want the system to “chirp.” For example, if a vehicle’s placard pressure is set to 37 psi, but the driver likes to off-road at 25 psi, he can then set the system to chirp when the tires are decreased to 25 psi rather than 37 psi. This makes it easier for the driver to make that transition.
While this is a really neat feature that enthusiasts will find extremely convenient, it will not solve the problem of the illuminated TPMS light. Even for off-roading, it is still a mandated feature for a vehicle’s TPMS system to alert the driver when one or more tires are 25% below or above placard pressure. Removing this feature would breach that mandate.
As manufacturers continue to work to improve the off-roading experience, there may come a time when a driver can temporarily bypass the TPMS or even have a second setting for off-road. Features like “Tire Fill Alert” prove that TPMS technology will only continue to improve and adapt to the needs of the market, while continuing to follow and comply with the safety mandate.
For the time being, off-road enthusiasts should simply consider the TPMS light as a friendly reminder to re-inflate all tires back up to their recommended placard pressure when going back on the road after a session. Not doing so will decrease handling and braking distances, decrease the life of the tires and take a toll on gas mileage and efficiency on the road. Think of it as optimizing your off-road vehicle when it is on the road.
Jacki Lutz is the former head of global marketing and communications for Schrader Performance Sensors, the automotive aftermarket brand of Sensata Technologies. In addition to being a Certified TIA ATS Instructor, she is also president of the Automotive Communications Council and an active Member of the AASA Market Executive Council.
Check out the rest of the May digital edition of Tire Review here.