By Colin Bird on August 4, 2010
Do you recognize the symbol above? It lights up in your instrument panel and looks like a U-shaped pictograph with treads and an exclamation point in the middle.
Do you understand what it means now?
If you guessed a low tire-pressure warning, you are right. If you didn’t recognize the symbol, that’s also understandable because one out of three drivers do not, according to Schrader, a company that makes tire pressure monitoring systems.
The warning for the TPMS lights up when one or more of your vehicle’s tires is 25% below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. The system is now required on all vehicles starting with the 2008 model year.
The issue here seems to be that the public hasn’t been properly educated on the warning symbol, which is supposed to be “idiot proof” and understandable across a wide variety of cultures and languages. Yet 46% of drivers couldn’t figure out that the icon represents a tire and 14% thought the symbol represented another problem with the vehicle entirely, according to Schrader.
As we said earlier in the week, properly inflated tires are vitally important to your safety. Low pressure will affect your braking, acceleration, stability, cornering and fuel economy.The government instituted the TPMS mandate after the Bridgestone/Firestone tire failures on the Ford Explorer in 2000, a controversy that was partly attributed to inadequately inflated tires.
The original image we posted in this story is below, and is a warning of a TPMS malfunction, not low tire pressure. They are extremely similar and can be confusing. Please note that the icon you see above will turn off once you properly inflate your tires. The icon you see below will require a service visit.