Back in 2021, I hopped behind the wheel for my first drive of the 2022 Volkswagen Taos. The compact crossover drove fine for a budget vehicle aimed at the masses, but there was one problem that has long stuck with me. Why, in this day and age of technology in vehicles, are all new cars not able to tell you about its tire pressures?
I say this after reading this COTD winner from v10omous on Thomas Hundal’s piece on the price of the 2024 Subaru Impreza:
That this is not a mandated feature is quite annoying. I own a MY2020 vehicle that cost a lot more than this Impreza that just has the idiot light, meaning on a cold morning when one tire slips 2 psi below the warning threshold I need to get out and check all of them.
There is somewhat of an explanation for this!
Automakers choose between direct tire pressure monitoring systems and indirect tire pressure monitoring systems. I’ll let Schrader, a manufacturer of such systems, explain the difference:
Direct TPMS gathers accurate pressure data directly from the tire valve via four dedicated sensors, reporting pressure information in near real time. Indirect TPMS, on the other hand, uses the ABS system to approximate tire pressure, and motorists must drive a substantial distance before an alert will be generated.
[I]n order for indirect TPMS to work effectively, all four tires must be inflated to the correct recommended pressure and be under optimum conditions. This seems like a defeating proposition for consumers, because the very reason they see the value in TPMS is to help them maintain the tire pressure to begin with. Similarly, indirect technology requires the consumer to install specific tires when replacing the originals in order to operate properly with the system. Last, if all four tires are similarly low in tire pressure from neglect (a common problem) or other reasons, an indirect system will not trigger a warning alarm.
Indeed, some systems do report pressures while others just measure rotation to guess whether the tires are correct or not. Schrader notes a research study revealed some 69 percent of drivers would rather not use indirect TPMS, which requires a driver to check all tires and hit a reset button. Such is unnecessary if the car has the ability to tell you its pressures like direct TPMS can.
Yet, some automakers continue to use indirect TPMS in vehicles sold today. None of my Volkswagens or Smarts have direct TPMS, and the last new Volkswagens that I tested didn’t have them, either. It seems that drivers want direct TPMS, so it would rock to have it!
And while we’re on the subject, it’s also baffling that cars don’t often have a diagnostic mode where you can pull codes without plugging in that $20 reader from Walmart. The last vehicle that I owned that could spit out diagnostic codes was a Suzuki motorcycle, and I still had to jumper two wires to get the codes to display.
Honorable mention goes to Jalop Gold for this suggestion in Stephen Walter Gossin’s piece about his driveway dilemma:
Hello, you write for a website that needs content and March is coming up. this clearly calls for an elimination bracket (could also do one for Mercedes, and David will probably have enough by then for his own as well). Just keep the top 4 finishers.
If it was me, I would keep the Durango, New Yorker, Park Ave, and 300. The rest are cool, but you want someone who has less cars than fingers on a hand to be caring for and hopefully using them.
I love the idea of running a March Madness car bracket, but maybe instead of choosing which vehicles we sell, we have you readers vote on your favorite Autopian staff cars?
And for an amusing comment, TomMetcalf sees Gossin and, well:
Ok Derek Zoolander
Have a great weekend, everyone!
I carry a full-size spare in the back of my 2013 MINI Coupe as well as a bicycle pump for topping things off if I can’t find a compressor. Eventually I’ll get around to buying one, but the pump works just fine in a pinch. Most of the Wawas around here seem to have the free access compressors.
My car will display the specific low tire, but won’t give the pressure. My dad’s 2020 Ford Fusion gives the pressure for each tire.
You know the quote you placed here from Schrader is somewhat biased against indirect systems since they have skin in the game. I’m pretty sure my wife’s Mk7 Golf tells you which tire needs attention and uses an indirect system. Honestly, all of my cars have been like this, as I’ve owned pretty much only VW and Audi products since TMPS became required in the US. And one major benefit that is not addressed here is never needing to swap out or replace TPMS sensors every time you change your tires out, which is twice a year in places that you need winter tires. I’ve caught many a shop trying to charge for this service on VW/Audi cars when they should know better since there is no direct TMPS sensor to deal with. This can save significant money over the life of the vehicle.
My BMW X5 from the factory does not show tire pressures. But with a scanning tool and an app on your phone you can code the TPMS module to show tire pressures on the nav screen instead of just green yellow or red colored tires. This feature is standard on vehicles across the pond so why they decided not to show pressures to Americans is beyond me. Maybe they thought the average American couldn’t be bothered with seeing their exact PSI.
I have a feeling this was an ad served up on the other site, and I have a little bit of a feeling it was either under a Mercedes story or that she recommended one, but buying a portable air compressor was one of the best auto investements I’ve made.
I check pressure more than most, so when I get a Low Pressure light I get significantly concerned. Part of that’s because, uh, I might push my tires a bit. But it’s gotten EXTREMELY hard to find a compressor at a gas station that works these days, and that doesn’t require quarters that I don’t have. I’ve spent well over an hour before just driving from station to station, with no luck finding air.
With my $25 (?) compressor I just pull over somewhere safe and I’m back on the road in maybe 8 minutes. With my small compressor and my jump pack I’m invincible
yes, I never understood what happened to air at gas stations.. used to be free, then it needed quarters, then it pretty much disappeared. What does everyone else do I wonder.
I have 2 compressors, one good Viair one at home for all the cars, one loud rattler kept in the truck for soft sand days. The truck has no sensors at all so I have to check pressure manually once a week, like an animal.
Due to how often I find them out of order, I would guess that many gas stations decided not to deal with maintaining the air compressors.