KNOW YOUR PARTS: WHAT IS A BALL JOINT?
Growing up, I had a Dad who liked to remind me how important it is to change the oil in your car. He would always open the door and check the oil sticker and current mileage to be sure his words were not traveling through one ear and out the other. I never wanted to hear those dreaded words, “I told you so.” I listened and have faithfully changed my car’s oil at every 3000-mile mark.This faithful maintenance procedure is why I think my current car, a 1998 Toyota Camry, is still running with 243,000 miles on the original engine.
Have you hit a pothole recently? Run over a nail? Is it time to purchase a new set of tires? How do you know which tires are best for your automobile? In fact, what are all those numbers and letters on the sidewall? The numbers and letters are not top secret. Those numbers tell you everything you need to know about your tires! The numbers indicate size, type and performance of the tire. Let’s deconstruct the information.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT TIRES
All vehicles have several warning indicator lights that will alert you to a car maintenance issue that needs attention. One of these lights is your TPMS light. TPMS stands for tire pressure monitoring sensor. The TPMS warning light will illuminate if your vehicles tire pressure is too low or a component in the TPMS system is malfunctioning. Your TPMS light can help alert you, but a tire may drop below the recommended pressure long before the light goes off. While the sensors are there to alert you to an issue, they are not fool proof nor do they give you an idea of how severe the issue may be.
WHAT DOES A TPMS LIGHT LOOK LIKE?
The TPMS indicator light is a yellow symbol that lights up on the instrument panel. The TPMS has a horseshoe shape with exclamation point in the center. The light was added as a safety feature under the TREAD (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act of 2000.
The TREAD Act was passed by Congress due to a major recall of defective tires. These tires resulted in many fatalities and created unsafe driving conditions. One of the major issues addressed by the Act is that all vehicles from September 2007 have a system that can warn the driver of underinflated tires.
WHEN DOES THE TPMS LIGHT COME ON?
The TPMS illuminates on the instrument panel if your tire air pressure drops below 25% of the recommended amount of air pressure for your vehicle. This information can be found in your owner’s manual or on the vehicle’s placard on the door. If the TPMS light illuminates, the driver should pull over and examine the tires, and check the pressure as soon as possible.
THE TPMS LIGHT BLINKS AND THEN STAYS ON.
When the TPMS light blinks for approximately one minute and then stays solid, the sensor is indicating that one or more of the tires is operating at an unsafe pressure. At this time, it is important to check the tire pressure or take the vehicle to a repair facility so that a technician can do an inspection. If the tire pressure has been adjusted and the light stays on after, this indicates a fault with the TPMS system.
WHAT IF MY TPMS LIGHT FLASHES OFF AND ON?
If your TPMS light is flashing off and on, this means that the TPMS has malfunctioned. The sensor(s) can fail or lose communication with the ECU (engine control unit.) A sensor can fail due to wear and tear that occurs naturally, damage to the unit or the component can have a dead battery. Sensors generally last up to 7 years before failing and needing replacement.
Another reason the TPMS flashes off and on is due to temperature fluctuations. Hot weather can cause tires to overinflate and cold weather creates the opposite situation, your tires can become underinflated. Any change in temperature outside of the tire, will directly affect the amount of pressure inside the tire. Cars that remain outside during the late-night hours have increased chances of setting off the TPMS. As you drive, tires heat up due to friction which increases pressure and can give inaccurate readings.
REDUCE YOUR IMPACT ON THE EARTH.
Correct air pressure in your tires is an easy way to be proactive about your impact on the Earth. Under-inflated tires have a negative impact on our environment. Since under-inflated tires reduce your gas mileage, you can lose approximately $60 in gas a year. Burning one gallon of gas can produce nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. A small increase in fuel efficiency can reduce hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year, for each car! What an easy resolution that keeps you and your family safe, keeps money in your pocketbook and helps to ensure that future generations have the same access to resources that we now have.
Underinflated and overinflated tires are a major safety hazard. Maintaining the proper pressure can have a positive impact on gas mileage and reduce the chance of having a blowout. Even though your vehicle is equipped with this safety feature, it is ultimately your responsibility to manually have the tire pressure checked. A good rule of thumb is to check your tire pressure one or two times a month and before a long trip. The bottom line is that while the TPMS indicator can help catch an issue, it does not negate the obligation of monitoring the tire pressure on your own.
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