Flashing lights on your vehicle’s dashboard, depending on who you are and what you know, can be very shocking or just annoying. A tire pressure light that’s on is fairly easy to decipher: it usually means your tire pressure is low. But what about a blinking tire pressure light? Does that mean something different?
A blinking tire pressure light typically indicates that there’s some sort of issue with the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) of your vehicle’s tires. First, the TPMS needs to be inspected. After you know it’s working fine, you can reset the tire pressure light.
That’s just the bare minimum of what you need to know about a blinking tire pressure light. In order to really understand what that tire pressure light is trying to tell you, you need to keep reading on. Let’s talk more about what blinking tire pressure lights are all about.
What a Blinking Tire Pressure Light Means
Tire pressure lights either remain solidly lit, or they can flash for around 60 seconds then remain on. When this happens, you will have to check a few things out.
To help you out, here are a few reasons why your tire pressure light is on and blinking.
A Blinking Tire Pressure Light Could Mean…
1. Low Tire Pressure or Slow Leak
Although low tire pressure or a slow leak will usually keep the tire pressure light solid on your dashboard (not blinking), it’s still worth checking all your tires’ PSI just to make sure. This is the first line of defense when diagnosing that tire pressure light!
Don’t forget to check your spare tire’s PSI, too. Sometimes there can be a TPMS sensor in the spare tire as well, telling you that the spare is getting too low.
This could be all you need to do to keep that tire pressure light from turning back on.
Slow leaks are caused by punctures in the tires and need to be patched and/or plugged, but low pressure is a little bit of an easier fix. Tires tend to lose a pound of pressure each month, just from normal use. Inflate them to normal pressure and all should be well.
You can also expect a pound of pressure to be lost for every 10 degrees that drop suddenly in the atmosphere. That means that this week’s cold snap could set off your tire pressure light.
2. Monitoring System Issues
Another reason (and the more common reason) your tire pressure light might be flashing at you could be that there’s an issue with the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).
You might think that this system is unnecessary if you keep tabs on your tire pressure yourself, but it’s actually quite a safety hazard to continue to drive without a working TPMS.
Let’s talk more about what the TPMS is and how it keeps you safe!
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Automatic tire pressure monitoring in vehicles has not always been around. Before the TPMS, car owners needed to look at their tires to see if the pressure was low. But you can’t always detect low tire pressure by just looking at the tires.
So, the most accurate way you could get good tire pressure reads manually is by getting down to each tire and checking their pressure with a pressure gauge.
Obviously, not every driver was doing this as frequently as they should have. As a result, many automobile accidents happened due to an undetected decrease in tire pressure.
Because of this, the US government passed a law that strongly encouraged vehicles after 2007 to have a TPMS installed. This is why most makes and models after that year have a TPMS.
TPMS works by either directly or indirectly measuring the pressure in each of your vehicle’s tires. The tires have sensors in them that do this, and when one of these sensors fails, the whole TPMS fails.
That is what your vehicle is trying to tell you with the blinking tire pressure light.
Can You Drive With a Blinking Tire Pressure Light?
If you’re out driving around and your tire pressure light starts blinking, it’s best to check your tire pressure right away. Driving around with low pressure in your tires is bad for your fuel economy, hard on your tires, and could cause blowouts and accidents.
There is no set safe distance or speed to drive a vehicle with low tire pressure. It’s just best to be avoided.
If you find that your tire pressure is low in one or more of your tires, the best thing to do is to pull over and get towed to a shop or your residence. This avoids all possibilities of damage to your vehicle, especially the rims.
However, if you must drive your car, the minimum PSI you can drive your vehicle is 10, depending on the sIze of the tires and what kind of shape they are in. Just drive it very slowly and in as little distance as possible.
How to Fix a Blinking Tire Pressure Light
Hopefully, you’ve addressed your low tire pressure or seen to it that the Tire Pressure Monitoring System is up to snuff. But you’ve still got that pesky tire pressure light blinking away.
Sometimes this happens and you have to figure out how to reset it yourself. Luckily, we’ve got some things for you to try.
1. TPMS Reset Button
Some vehicles are equipped with a TPMS reset button. This reset button is usually located under the steering wheel.
This is the easiest way to reset the TPMS. Check your vehicle’s manual to know the process of resetting the TPMS using the reset button.
2. Deflate and Reinflate Tires
Sometimes you can adjust the tire pressure to recalibrate the TPMS in the tires.
First, make sure your tires are inflated to the correct PSI. Then, completely deflate the tires. Inflate the tires again to the correct PSI, then drive around at 15 mph.
Alternatively, you can try inflating the tires to 3 PSI over the recommended limit, then deflate the tires, then inflate them all again. Again, don’t forget that spare!
3. Remove and Reconnect the Battery
If nothing has worked so far, you may try to remove the car’s battery, then reconnect it.
Doing this is similar to restarting your phone when you have problems that you can’t figure out. Your car’s computer could be having a hiccup, and removing then reconnecting the battery could reset the TPMS to the correct settings.
4. Drive the Vehicle at a Consistent 50 MPH
Sometimes all your vehicle’s computer needs are to recognize that the TPMS sensor is there and moving.
Start your car and drive at 50 MPH for at least 10 miles. This may get your tire pressure light to stop blinking!
5. TPMS Relearn or Reset Device
At your local auto parts store or online, you could purchase a TPMS reset or relearn tool that will turn off that light for you.
Make sure that the device is compatible with your vehicle’s TPMS system before purchase.
After you get it, simply follow the instructions, and within a push of a button, it could all be resolved.
6. Take Your Vehicle to Your Dealership
If you’ve tried everything and that annoying light is still blinking, it could be time to take it back to the dealership, just to make sure everything is still in working order.
It could be that there was a mistake in installation, or the wrong kind of sensor was installed in your vehicle’s tires.
Tire pressure can be a finicky thing, but as we’ve learned, it’s an important thing to have in working order. Low tire pressure could mean unnecessary damage to your vehicle, or worse, getting into a bad accident.
Luckily, we have automatic tire pressure monitoring systems to keep us safe. If you have a blinking tire pressure light, be sure to get to the bottom of the issue before trying to reset the whole system. Otherwise, you could be masking a very serious problem.