TPMS Quick Tip: NHTSA Scenarios Part 1
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TPMS Quick Tip: NHTSA Scenarios Part 1

If a motorist is made aware of an inoperative TPMS sensor and declines to purchase a new one, does the service provider knowingly make the system inoperative and violate 49 USC 30122(b) by removing the dead sensor and replacing it with a snap-in rubber valve stem?

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Title 49, U.S. Code 30122(b) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) “prohibits a manufacturer, distributor, dealer or motor vehicle repair business from knowingly making inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard.”

TPMS is, of course, a safety system and therefore falls under these guidelines. Government regulations always bring out questions, so we’ve acquired a list of scenarios from the NHTSA “make inoperative” provision in relation to TPMS. We’ll share these over the next few issues to give you a refresher on these situations that will almost certainly show up in your shop.

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Don’t forget, the best practice for your shop is to always grab a scanner and check for TPMS codes and system operation when a vehicle comes in.

Scenario 1: If a motorist is made aware of an inoperative TPMS sensor and declines to purchase a new one, does the service provider knowingly make the system inoperative and violate 49 USC 30122(b) by removing the dead sensor and replacing it with a snap-in rubber valve stem?

NHTSA’s response: For the purpose of this response, we assume that you are referring solely to TPMS sensors that are integrated with the valve stem. Moreover, we assume that the sensor was inoperative before a customer brought the vehicle to the repair business. An illuminated malfunctioning indicator lamp could be an indication of an inoperative system. We also assume that you are describing a part within the TPMS system that cannot be repaired. In that event, a motor vehicle repair business would not be violating 49 USC 30122(b) by removing an inoperative or damaged TPMS sensor and replacing it with a standard snap-in rubber valve stem. The removal of a malfunctioning TPMS sensor that is integrated with a valve stem would not violate the “make inoperative” provision because the element of the system was already inoperative. However, a motor vehicle repair business that goes on to make any other element of the TPMS system inoperative, for example, by disabling the malfunction indicator lamp, would violate the “make inoperative” provision.

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