Understanding vehicle 'qualifiers' for accurate TPMS diagnostics

Understanding vehicle ‘qualifiers’ for accurate TPMS diagnostics

Some qualifiers are easy to identify by looking at the vehicle, but others can be a little more challenging.

When you use your TPMS tool to look up a vehicle, you might notice that some vehicles appear multiple times, each accompanied by additional information. These pieces of additional information are called “Qualifiers.”

You know how you always get questions when you order parts from your local parts store? Questions like: What’s the trim level, LE or SE? What’s the engine, 2.7L or 5.3L?

Make, model, and year aren’t always enough; sometimes, you need additional information to correctly identify the car and select the right replacement parts. Sure, it’s obvious why you need those details when changing a timing belt, but what about TPMS sensors? Does it matter if the car came with leather seats? Can the TPMS sensor differ even if the tires and rims are the same size?

The short answer is “yes.” Not only can the TPMS sensor be different even though the tire size is the same, but furthermore, sometimes TPMS sensors are different even though there are no significant changes to the vehicle platform. You can have two identical vehicles with different TPMS systems and the only way to tell them apart is to verify the production date. Conversely, the TPMS sensor can remain the same, even though the vehicle has been completely redesigned.

Some qualifiers are easy to identify just by looking at the vehicle, but others can be a little more challenging. Here are some examples:

Wheels (five or six lug nuts)

For example, the 2019 Ram 1500 had different versions, New or Classic, distinguishable by the number of lug nuts on their wheels, each fitted with a different TPMS sensor.

Trim level (LX or GT version)

Different trim levels might work on different TPMS communication protocols. For example, the 2018 Ford Focus and 2018 Ford Focus RS will have different TPMS sensors.

Valve type (snap-in or clamp-in)

This qualifier can be tricky as the sensor can only be identified if the valve type hasn’t been changed before. For example, the 2015 Chevy Traverse – snap-in or clamp-in. As you already know, many technicians will often recommend changing the TPMS sensor valve from metal to rubber to avoid corrosion with the rim. When that happens, the qualifier identified on the TPMS tool is no longer accurate.

Production date (before or after MM-YY)

Vehicles produced before and after a specific month might have different TPMS systems. For example: the 2021 Jeep Gladiator, before June (07) or after June (07). This type of qualifier is generally used when no visual reference like trim level or valve type can be used to easily identify the correct TPMS sensor.

TPMS display (Hi-Line or Lo-Line)

Some vehicles feature a “Pressure by Location” display, while others only show a TPMS warning light. For example, the 2018 Toyota Camry Hi-Line or Lo-Line. Although the terms; “Hi-Line” and “Lo-Line” might not be meaningful for some technicians, it is easily identifiable by looking at the vehicle’s dashboard. Hi-Line is a term used to identify vehicles with “Pressure by Location.” The “Pressure by Location” feature refers to the dashboard display representing the vehicle viewed from the top with the tire pressure next to each tire. This feature can help the driver identify which tire needs to be verified when the TPMS light comes on, whereas a vehicle with Lo-Line will only display the TPMS warning light without indicating which tires need to be verified.

Frequency (315 MHz or 433 MHz)

Some vehicles might operate on different TPMS sensor frequencies. For example, the 2016 GMC Acadia 315 MHz or 433 MHz. The frequency qualifier is one of the most challenging because there is no visual reference. But, just like any other qualifiers, technicians can test the existing sensor with both qualifiers to correctly identify the TPMS sensor.

Technicians can easily identify the TPMS sensor frequency using a TPMS diagnostic tool. Simply place the remote key entry near the tool and press the lock or unlock button. The tool will then display the frequency transmitted by the remote key entry. Since the frequency used by the TPMS sensors is the same used by the remote key entry (for most vehicles), the frequency testing allows technicians to determine the TPMS frequency.

Regardless of the qualifier you may encounter during tire service, remember that the most effective way to identify the replacement part is to check the OE part number from the TPMS sensor installed in the OE wheels. Alternatively, we always recommend testing the existing sensor with a TPMS diagnostic tool for each qualifier listed before ordering or programming replacement sensors. By doing so, you’ll validate the sensor communication protocol and be better equipped to select the correct qualifiers to program or order a replacement TPMS sensor.

Yanick Leduc has been a technical trainer for more than 20 years. Yanick started working in the automotive industry in 1992 and his career at Schrader TPMS Solutions began in 2017 when he joined the company as a technical training and support specialist. Since January 2021, he has been leading Schrader’s TPMS Training Team globally. He says his passion for digital learning has inspired Yanick to enhance Schrader’s digital training activities with the launch of www.TPMSAcademy.com and the delivery of multiple webinars.

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