CARS.COM — Do you recognize the symbol above? It’s a warning light in your instrument panel and looks like a U-shaped pictograph with treads and an exclamation point in the middle.
Any idea what it means now?
If you guessed a low tire pressure warning, you are right. If you didn’t recognize the dash warning light symbol, that’s also understandable because one out of three drivers do not, according to Schrader, a company that makes tire pressure monitoring systems for car manufacturers.
The warning for the monitoring system lights up when the tire pressure on one or more of your vehicle’s tires is 25 percent below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. The warning system is now required on every new vehicle starting with the 2008 model year, so the dashboard warning light is something you should become familiar with.
The issue here seems to be that the car-buying public hasn’t been properly educated on the dashboard warning symbol, which has a design that is supposed to be “idiot-proof” and understandable across a wide variety of cultures and languages. Yet 46 percent of drivers couldn’t figure out that the dash icon represents a wheel and tire, while 14 percent thought the symbol represented another problem with the vehicle entirely, according to Schrader.
As we have always said, properly inflated tires are vitally important to driving your vehicle safely — as important as monitoring engine fluids or tracking battery life. Underinflated tires will affect your braking, acceleration, stability, cornering and fuel economy. Keeping a tire gauge in your car to allow you to maintain proper tire pressure is a good idea, and checking tire pressure often (especially when weather temperature swings are severe) can save money on maintenance and fuel.
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 tires that were not properly inflated.
For a visual depiction of how to check for tire pressure, check out the video below.