That pesky little TPMS light popping up on your dashboard can definitely cause some alarm bells. Especially when it starts blinking! Is there something seriously wrong with my tires? Do I need to pull over right now?
Relax. While a blinking TPMS symbol does indicate low tire pressure, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a flat or are in imminent danger. Most of the time, it simply means one or more of your tires have lost a few PSI of air pressure, which is totally normal.
But even though a blinking Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) light is usually not an emergency, you still shouldn’t ignore it for long. Driving on underinflated tires is unsafe and causes premature tire wear.
The good news? Fixing a blinking TPMS light is usually cheap, quick, and straightforward. This handy guide will cover:
- Common reasons your TPMS light blinks
- How to correctly fix a blinking TPMS indicator
Let’s dig in so you can breathe easy and enjoy the road trip ahead with properly inflated tires!
Table of Contents
Why Your Tire Pressure Light Blinks?
Before learning how to fix a blinking TPMS warning, it helps to understand what causes it in the first place. Here are the most common culprits:
Low Tire Pressure
The #1 reason your TPMS light flickers is simple – one or more tires are underinflated. Think about it…tires naturally lose air over time. It seeps out slowly through tiny pores in the rubber. Most tires lose 1-2 PSI per month as a rule of thumb.
Let’s say your tires haven’t been topped off in awhile. They’ve gradually deflated from 35 PSI down to 30 PSI. This triggers the TPMS sensors to warn you that pressure is low.
Or what if you recently loaded up the car for a road trip? All that extra weight pressing down can cause a rapid drop in PSI, again setting off the sensor.
The fix is obvious here – just refill the tires to the recommended pressure printed on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb or owner’s manual. This immediately turns off the TPMS light in most cases.
Tire Pressure Sensor Issues
Modern TPMS systems rely on battery-powered sensors mounted inside each wheel. These sensors constantly monitor tire pressure and transmit alerts if it drops 25% below the baseline.
If one of these sensors fails, loses connection, or runs out of battery, it will trigger the TPMS warning light even when pressure is fine. Faulty or dead sensors are a common reason the light blinks or stays on.
Replacing tires or swapping on different wheels can also mess with sensor connections and cause erratic blinking. The fix for sensor issues varies, but may require replacement or recalibration.
TPMS Reset Problems
One underrated cause of a still-blinking TPMS light is…forgetting to reset the system after refilling your tires!
Most vehicles require you to complete a sensor reset procedure so the system relearns the new higher pressures. Check the owner’s manual for specific reset instructions. If not reset, the sensors still think pressure is low.
Many tire shops will take care of the reset for you when performing a fill-up. But DIYers often overlook this crucial step, meaning the light stays on even after topping off air.
Natural Pressure Loss
As mentioned above, it’s perfectly normal for tires to gradually lose 1-2 PSI monthly as air molecules seep through the porous rubber. Small drops like this probably won’t trip the warning light.
But enough gradual leakage over several months CAN cause the TPMS to blink, reminding you to add a few pounds of air. Think of it as a handy maintenance reminder.
Extreme Temperature Changes
Cold weather and hot weather both impact tire pressure, albeit in opposite ways. When ambient temps drop way down in winter, your tire pressure decreases too. The opposite occurs when outside temps rise – pressure goes up.
Big, rapid swings in ambient temperature beyond 10°F can potentially be enough to trigger the TPMS light. The fix? Adjust to the recommended PSI when outside temperatures have stabilized.
How To Fix a Blinking TPMS Light?
Now let’s get down to business – how the heck do you make the TPMS indicator shut up and stop blinking at you already? Try these common fixes:
Refill Tire Pressure
Let’s start with the obvious. Pull out a trusty tire pressure gauge and check the PSI on all four tires, including the spare. Fill any underinflated tires to the number listed in the owner’s manual or driver’s side door jamb.
While you’re at it, give them all a top off to restore optimal pressure. It doesn’t hurt to add a couple extra pounds of air. Just don’t overfill past the maximum pressure printed on the tire sidewall. That can cause faster center treadwear.
Be sure to put the valve caps back on tightly to prevent leaks. Don’t forget the…
After refilling your tires to the proper pressures, the next crucial step is completing a TPMS reset so the system recalibrates.
The specific reset procedure varies by vehicle make and model. Consult your owner’s manual for instructions. Many cars require pressing a button in a certain sequence after filling tires. Some need the ignition cycled on and off.
If unsure how to do the reset, ask any tire shop to perform it after checking and filling your pressures. They have special tools to do it quickly. Consider it cheap insurance against an still-blinking TPMS light.
Replace Tire Pressure Sensor
If you’ve topped off your tires and done a reset, yet the TPMS warning still blinks, chances are a sensor is malfunctioning. Faulty sensors with dead batteries or bad connections will transmit erroneous pressure readings.
DIYers can replace their own sensors by unscrewing the valve stem and installing the new one. Have a shop do it if you’re not experienced with tire work. Expect to pay $50-75 per sensor, or invest in an entire TPMS rebuild kit.
Replacing sensors about every 10 years or 100k miles is good preventative maintenance anyway.
Recalibrate TPMS System
Installing different tires, wheels, or even swapping to winter tires can throw off the TPMS sensors. Why? The system relies on each sensor having a unique serial number and position to monitor pressures accurately.
Switching hardware requires you recalibrate the TPMS so it relearns the new configuration. Some vehicles auto-calibrate, while others need a manual procedure. Have the shop do this when buying new tires or wheels.
Ensure Tire & Wheel Compatibility
Are you running non-OEM sized tires or aftermarket wheels? Using the wrong tire diameter or wheel width/offset can also confuse TPMS sensors and cause glitchy operation.
Stick to the factory tire size printed on the sticker inside your driver’s door for best compatibility. Certain extreme aftermarket wheel fitments won’t play nice either. Consider going back to stock sizes.
When To Call A Mechanic?
While most TPMS blinking issues can be fixed yourself, call a repair shop immediately if:
- You struck a curb or got a flat, which caused the light to turn on
- The tire pressure warning light stays on constantly, even after refilling tires
- You see visible damage or a puncture in the tire tread or sidewall
- The vehicle is pulling to one side or vibrating excessively
In these cases, significant tire damage or a bad sensor may require a professional mechanic to inspect and diagnose the specific problem. Don’t ignore it!
Let the Journey Continue with Proper Tire Pressure!
Alright, hopefully you now understand why your Tire Pressure Monitoring System light blinks and how to finally extinguish that pesky indicator.
With tires inflated to the optimal PSI and functioning sensors monitoring pressures, you can confidently hit the open road knowing your ride is safe and secure. Bon voyage!
And remember to give those tires a quick pressure check at every other fill-up. An ounce of prevention can prevent the TPMS from blinking again anytime soon. Stay pumped!