In 2000, a global automotive manufacturer and one of the world’s largest tire company were the subject of negative publicity concerning SUV roll-overs and tire failures defective tire separation resulted in 271 fatalities and more than 700 injuries, according to the website, vehicle-injuries.com.
The debacle led Congress to pass the Transportation Recall Enhancement Accountability Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000, which was signed by President Clinton. It mandated that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) develop a rule requiring all new motor vehicles to be equipped with a warning system to alert the operator when a tire is significantly under-inflated.
On April 8, 2005, after five years of continued debate over language of the ruling, a final rule was unanimously approved. It states that as of September 1, 2007, all 2008 model passenger vehicles, trucks and light buses are obligated to have a sensor-based tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
“The rule recognizes TPMS as an essential, underlying tire monitoring technology that helps alert drivers when one or more tires are underinflated 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure,” said OTC Product Manager Robert Kochie. “As an added safety feature, drivers are alerted by the TPMS when a low tire pressure symbol illuminates on the front console of their vehicle. Because operating a vehicle on an underinflated tire causes overheating and can lead to tire failure, the final rule sets a new motor vehicle safety standard intended to help drivers get smart about proper tire maintenance.”
Proper tire maintenance will also help improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the government of Canada, proper tire maintenance can improve car efficiency to the tune of two "free" weeks of gas a year, and because the tires will last longer, this points to a cost saving of one or two new sets of tires over the life of the vehicle. The website, fueleconomy.gov, estimates that the average person who drives 12,000 miles yearly on under-inflated tires uses about 144 extra gallons of gas, at a cost of $300 to $500 annually. And each time one of those gallons of gas is burned, an estimated 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere as the carbons in the gas are released and combined with the oxygen in the air. In other words, any vehicle running on soft tires is contributing as much as 1.5 extra tons of greenhouse gases to the environment annually.
What Auto Repair Shop Owners and Technicians Can Do Today
The Importance of TPMS Education
The gateway to safe and reliable tires fundamentally begins with TPMS education. Many studies show that the majority of cars on U.S. roads are operating on tires inflated to only 80 percent of capacity. OTC urges technicians to advise their customers to check their tire pressure monthly, if not more frequently. The correct air pressure that comes with new vehicles can be found either in the owner’s manual or inside the driver-side door. To ensure tires are properly inflated, measure the tire pressure of each tire, including the spare, with an accurate tire gauge once a month. Technicians should also remind their customers that replacement tires may carry a different pound per square inch (PSI) rating than the originals that came with the car. Most new replacement tires display their PSI rating on their sidewalls. Technicians should never mix different types of tires on the same vehicle and never apply alternative sizes that are not approved by the vehicle manufacturer.
Can You Afford To Be Left Behind?
Customers expect repair shops to stay abreast of the latest technologies to service and troubleshoot their vehicles. Turning away business because you’re not equipped with the proper tools will not make your business more profitable. OTC estimates that increasing capabilities and efficiencies in the shop while reducing liability in TPMS servicing will quickly pay for required tools.
Having a TPMS Tool is NOT an Option
TPMS diagnostic tools, such as the OTC TPMS tool and KTIp.s.t Pro, are used by technicians to quickly and easily diagnose and reset TPM systems in today’s complex vehicles, so there is no reason to delay purchase of a TPMS tool. In fact there are very compelling reasons to do it now. OTC estimates that today, tire businesses are servicing between two and 15 TPMS-equipped vehicles per week. This figure will continue to increase exponentially over the next few years because of the mandate and normal sensor failure. If you don’t have a tool, your competitor will, and bottom line, your shop will lose business.
Safeguard Your Shop against Liability
Before any service is administered in a shop, the sensors on all four tires should be checked for operation and confirmed as functioning properly. It’s a good idea to do a TPMS pre-check with the customer present. This way, a customer can easily observe that a sensor is bad and approve its replacement immediately. Otherwise, the customer could claim you broke it and your shop ends up paying for the new sensor.
You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Good Impression
This sage-like guidance absolutely applies to automotive repair and service. People will trust their first instincts about choosing your auto repair facility. If your personnel not only provide quality automotive services and good customer service, but also engage in educating customers about proper vehicle repairs and maintenance, this will surely make a lasting impression. Furthermore, properly inflated tires save gas. Consumers today are spending more on fuel, and less on everything else. So why not use this to your shop’s advantage by helping vehicle owners improve their miles/gallon, and their personal income.
A good repair establishment must have a high-level of commitment to the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) to meet today’s automotive repair challenges and those down the road. ASE-certified A4 Steering and Suspension technicians are trained specialists with extensive steering, suspension, wheel alignment, and wheel and tire diagnostic experience. Because care must be taken when dismounting the tires on TPMS-equipped vehicles in order to prevent damage to the sensor, it’s vital to the success of your business to have qualified technicians performing TPMS services.
Increasing Your Business through External Communication
Recognizing that excellent communication is key to customer education will help make your shop more profitable. OTC suggests taking a few extra action steps to maximize your TPMS business.
- Deliver a personalized mailer to your local customer base. They’re inexpensive and effective.
- Include TPMS information in your store advertising.
- Distribute fliers and leaflets around your town to educate people about proper tire pressure and TPMS. The average consumer is not aware of the benefits attributed to proper tire maintenance, let alone, the TPMS mandate that will affect all new car buyers in 2008.
- Prepare a fact sheet of frequently asked questions for your customers and include this with their receipt printout.
- Ask local businesses that share your concerns to post information in their windows.
- Hand out fliers to your local community council, car rental establishments, local high schools and community college campuses anywhere that is visible and frequented in your community.
This guidance aims to reflect the "real world" need of today’s shop owners and technicians by increasing productivity and safety in the service bay. With the expanding complexity of today’s automotive systems, including an ever-increasing range of mandatory industry standards and safety guidelines, the modern technician must stay one step ahead of the game.
For more information on the latest TPMS servicing tools and customer education pieces, contact OTC support at (800) 533-6127 or visit www.otctools.com.