Dear Congress, Thank You for the TREAD Act
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Dear Congress, Thank You for the TREAD Act

By Sandy Allen, Guest Writer

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That’s right, we should thank Congress for passing the TREAD (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act. Why? For starters, the TREAD Act is meant to make our streets and highways safer by encouraging proper tire inflation. But, as a tool salesperson, I say “thank you” because it’s another opportunity to educate our customers and sell more tools.

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TREAD Act guidelines are directed toward new vehicles sold in the U.S. weighing less than 10,000 lbs. gross weight. The act directs that 20% of the 2006 model year vehicles must be equipped with TPMS (tire pressure monitoring systems), 70% of the 2007 model-year vehicles must have it, and by the time 2008 models are rolled off the assembly line, 100% of the vehicles must be compliant. This means that there are approximately 3.2 million vehicles in the 2006 model year that have TPMS systems. That number will climb dramatically for the next few years, before it levels off in the 16-18 million vehicle range. Do I have your attention? It’s a big market and it is growing!

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Recently, I visited a tire shop in Maine and we discussed the importance of being able to service tires equipped with TPMS. I was astounded when the service manager casually declared it wasn’t work that they would be doing anytime soon, because the cars were too new. I have to admit, it took all my self-control to keep my jaw from dropping and my eyes from rolling.

Instead, I quickly pointed out the various reasons people bring their tires in for service. They don’t all involve replacement. They can be for something as minor as inflation. Most tires are inflated with air. Air has water in it. Some tires are inflated with nitrogen. Nitrogen is water-free. Nitrogen molecules are larger than air molecules, consequently, tires filled with nitrogen tend to stay inflated longer, and they don’t react to hot and cold temperatures the same way as air-filled tires (less expansion and contraction). The TPMS is designed to notify the car and driver when tire pressure is 25% below the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.

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You’re probably thinking right now, this is all very interesting, but how does this help me sell tools? Sometimes, even the minimal amount of water in air-filled tires can damage the TPMS on a tire. The new tire monitors use a radio frequency to transmit data to the computer. If water gets into the monitor, it destroys it. Many vehicle repair facilities don’t have water traps or water removal systems on their air lines, so just filling a low tire with air becomes a problem waiting to happen. All shops should install water traps on all air lines to avoid the risk of water getting into air tools and now the TPMS.

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Another issue that has come about with the new TPMS is the need for correct torque when replacing the monitor or just re-inflating the tire. The valve core must be torqued at 4 in.-lbs., while the retaining nut on the vehicle must be torqued to another specific setting. (For the specific setting information, the technician should refer to the vehicle owner’s manual or the diagnostic equipment used to reset the codes for each monitor with the computer after they have been rotated.) If the TPMS codes aren’t changed to match the new tire location, the computer will think the tire is low on air, and will illuminate the dash light. Some vehicles have five monitors on them, one for each tire and, that’s right, one for the spare. So even if the spare tire gets low on air, the dash light will illuminate.

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Tools Your Customers Will Need

Air line water trap, 1/4 in.-lb. torque wrench, 1/4” deep well sockets (11 mm and 12 mm), valve core tool set at
4 in.-lb., electronic or paper manual, sensor activation tool and a code reader or scan tool.

How to Identify a TPMS Valve Stem

TPMS valve stems are made from aluminum. If the stem is not the snap-in rubber type, it could be a TPMS version. The nut that holds the TPMS stem in place is about 1/2” tall and covers most of the body of the stem. They are extremely easy to recognize.

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How to Remove a Tire with TPMS from a Wheel

• Inspect the stem to determine if it has a TPMS.

• If the stem is black rubber, it’s not a TPMS stem. The TPMS stem is made from aluminum and has a dull silver finish. The nut on the stem covers most of the stem; in fact, most nuts come to the bottom of the thread where the valve cap screws on.

• Remove the valve core and deflate the tire. Use the 11 mm or 12 mm socket and remove the nut.

• Attach the TPMS valve stem tool to the end of the stem. Using your thumb, push the sensor into the tire.

• Put the tire on the tire machine and remove the top bead. Then reach inside the tire and remove the sensor.

• Place the sensor in a safe place so it will not get damaged. (This is critical. Your technician or shop owner customer doesn’t want to replace a sensor more than once for free because it was damaged during tire demounting or mounting. They can be very expensive!)

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Installing a TPMS-Equipped Tire

• Place the rim on the tire machine. Install the bottom bead.

• Get a new service repair kit and install a rubber grommet and washer on the TPMS sensor stem.

• Using the TPMS valve stem tool, place the nut on the cable. Put the cable through the valve stem hole in the wheel. Place the sensor inside the tire and attach it to the TPMS valve stem tool. Leave the sensor loose in the tire. Install the top bead of the tire.

• Once the top bead is on, use your hand to push down on the bead by the valve stem hole and pull the valve stem through the hole. Make sure you have the body of the sensor laying flat on the wheel. Start the nut and run it down finger-tight. Use the torque wrench and torque the nut to manufacturer’s specifications.

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• Check and make sure the sensor is laying flat on the rim after it has been torqued.

• Check for a stem air leak before re-installing the wheel on the vehicle.

Finally, here’s an educational tip you can give your customers: TPMS-equipped tires will take longer to install and repair than tires without the system. Make sure your customers understand this when they quote this type of work. For example, to check sensors and make sure they’re working before removing the tire from the car will take 3-5 minutes per vehicle. When tires are re-installed, the tech will need to put the vehicle in the learn mode and re-activate the sensors. This will take 5-10 minutes. On four tires, you’re looking at 8-15 minutes more service time. Servicing the stem will take another 2-3 minutes per tire. Your customers should be looking at charging their customers another 15-20 minutes per four tires (this is the labor plus any charge for the repair kit). 

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Sandy Allen is the National Sales Manager for JS Steelman. She can be reached at [email protected]

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