Test & Measurement

Safety first with tyre pressure monitoring systems

13th January 2017
Anna Flockett

All new cars manufactured in Europe after the year 2014 are fitted with Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). In fact the technology has become part of the MOT test and can cause motorists to fail if they are faulty. However, TPMS is not new. The first passenger vehicle to adopt the technology was the Porche 959 in 1986, which used a hollow spoke wheel system.

Peter Tillotson, Business Development Manager at tyre pressure monitoring specialist TyrePal discusses what individuals and fleet managers should look for when choosing a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

TPMS technology has come a long way since 1986, and because of the diversity of systems available, it can be confusing for individuals and fleet managers purchasing their first TPMS. There are several considerations to be made when making that initial purchase.

Direct vs. indirect
Indirect tyre pressure monitoring systems don't use physical pressure sensors in tyres, but measure air pressures by monitoring individual wheel rotational speeds and other signals available outside the tyre.

Underinflated tyres have a slightly smaller diameter than a correctly inflated one. Indirect TPMS can measure this difference through the wheel speed sensors of Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and predict whether a tyre is underinflated.

Indirect TPMS cannot measure or display absolute pressure values. They are also subject to external influences such as road surfaces, driving speed and style. While an indirect TPMS is slightly less expensive than direct models, it isn’t as reliable. For this reason, motoring organisation Transport and Environment is calling for the systems to be abolished.

Direct systems, such as TyrePal's TPMS models, use a pressure sensor that is fitted to each wheel to measure tyre pressure. The sensors physically measure the pressure in each tyre and report it to an in-cab monitor for the driver to see.

Vehicle type
Different vehicle types have different requirements when it comes to tyre pressure monitoring. Cars and vans can run on a fairly straightforward system of a sensor on each wheel and a monitor that allows the driver to see their tyre pressure.

Unlike cars, caravans only have basic built-in suspension, so the tyres often act as the main shock absorber. This, combined with the weight of the caravan, weakens tyres and makes them prone to punctures and blowouts. When towing a caravan, tyre pressure monitoring is particularly important because drivers are not usually aware of their tyre's condition when on the road. A puncture can easily develop into a blowout if it goes unnoticed.

For heavy goods vehicles, a signal repeater is often necessary for TPMS to function correctly. For larger vehicles, where distance between the sensor and the monitor is greater than seven metres, TyrePal supplies a booster that can retransmit the signal from the tyre sensors.

In particular, vehicle fleet managers may find tyre pressure monitoring particularly helpful as it can often be difficult to manage each vehicle individually. To have full control over the entire fleet, managers can use a remote monitoring tool alongside their TPMS.

TyrePal's TeleTPMS communicates using GPRS with a cloud-based database that allows fleet managers to receive up-to-date tyre pressure information at their office. They can see an overview of their entire fleet or look at the current status of tyres on any vehicle.

A handful of tyre pressure monitoring systems continue to check vehicles when they are parked, saving time previously spent carrying out walk-around checks. It also eliminates any discrepancies caused by vehicle load. The systems that don't include this feature will usually not alert drivers of a fault until they have already started their journey, making it much more difficult to deal with the problem.

While most tyre pressure monitoring systems provide an alert when a tyre is underinflated or dropping in pressure, some systems don't specify which tyre it is. For drivers of standard cars, this is already an inconvenience. Imagine having a heavy goods vehicle with over 22 wheels. Instead, TyrePal's tyre pressure monitoring systems are able to identify the source of the problem immediately and can always alert the driver before the wrongly inflated tyre becomes a problem.

It's a common misconception that all tyre pressure monitoring systems are the same and therefore fleet managers shouldn't spend too much time deciding on a system to purchase. The reality is that a reliable direct TPMS system could save lives and drastically reduce breakdowns, so be sure to consider all of the options available and choose a knowledgeable provider that you trust.

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