Anytime there are blinking lights on your dashboard you should take the time to figure out what’s going on. The good news is that as far as dashboard lights go, the tire pressure light is about as mild as it gets.
But just because it’s not likely a huge deal doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to confirm and figure out exactly what’s going on with your vehicle. Because the last thing you want is to think it’s not a big deal only to realize too late that it was!
In this article we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to figure out why your vehicle’s tire pressure light is on, how much it’ll cost to fix each problem, and we’ll even break down whether you need to fix it!
The good news is that if your tire pressure light is on, there are only three different causes you need to sort through. This makes troubleshooting a bit easier, even if there is still an underlying problem you need to fix. We’ve highlighted the three most common reasons for a blinking tire pressure light for you here.
1. Low Battery
When the tire pressure light comes on your mind doesn’t naturally jump straight to the battery. But if the tire pressure light is blinking it’s most likely the battery. That’s because a blinking tire pressure light means there’s something wrong with the TPMS, and the TPMS relies on the battery for power.
If you have a dead battery or a battery that simply doesn’t have enough voltage to keep up, one of the first things your vehicle is going to cut power from is the tire pressure monitoring system.
From there the vehicle needs to tell you that there’s a problem, and the best way to do this is with a blinking tire pressure light!
2. Faulty TPMS Sensor
While a low battery is the most likely reason the tire pressure light is blinking, it’s not the only possible reason. Another possible reason is a faulty TPMS sensor. Each wheel on the vehicle has its own TPMS sensor, and if one of them starts to act up it might trip the system and cause the light to blink.
However, a faulty TPMS sensor will only cause the tire pressure light to blink some of the time. Other times a faulty TPMS will only lead to a solid tire pressure light since the system just thinks that the tire has too little tire pressure.
It really depends on the exact cause of the TPMS sensor failure if it creates a blinking light or a solid light, and this is why it’s a little less likely to have a faulty TPMS sensor with a blinking tire pressure light.
3. Low Tire Pressure
While low tire pressure is the most likely reason the tire pressure light might be on, it’s the least likely reason it might be blinking. A regular solid tire pressure light means there’s a problem with the tire pressure, but a light that blinks for 60 to 90 seconds before staying on solidly means there’s a problem with the tire pressure monitoring system.
It’s not impossible that the problem is low tire pressure and we’d rule it out first, but we also wouldn’t hold our breath hoping that it fixes it.
Do You Need To Fix a Tire Pressure Light?
While most automotive problems require an immediate fix, the tire pressure light is in a unique situation. Not every vehicle even has a tire pressure light, so does it really matter if the one on your vehicle isn’t working?
While a repair shop might try to tell you that it matters, the truth is that you don’t really need the system. We recommend double-checking that the tire pressure isn’t the issue, but then it’s up to you to decide whether you want to fix it.
If you choose not to fix the problem, just keep in mind that you’ll need to manually check the tire pressure to ensure they stay within safe driving limits since you don’t have the sensors to help you out anymore.
With just three likely reasons for a blinking tire pressure light, it’s one of the easier problems to troubleshoot. Because of that, we can walk you through everything you need to do step-by-step to help you figure out what’s going on.
Step #1. Check the tire pressure: Start by checking the tire pressure for each tire and filling it up to the correct amount. While this is the least likely reason for a blinking tire pressure light, it’s so easy to rule out that it’s where you always want to start.
Step #2. Check the voltage on the battery: Once you verify that each tire has the correct amount of pressure it’s time to check the voltage on the battery. Any voltmeter or multimeter should do the trick. You’re looking for 12.6 volts or more, any other amount means there’s not enough in the battery.
But even if there’s not enough voltage in the battery you shouldn’t run right out and get a new one. Fully charge the battery and then test it with a battery tester. Most part stores will do both for you, and they typically don’t even charge you anything! From there if the battery tests bad, it’s time to get a new one on order and replace it.
Step #3. Check the TPMS sensors: Once you rule out the battery, it’s time to move on to the TPMS sensors. Unfortunately, the only way to figure out what’s going on with a TPMS sensor is to use an automotive scan tool. But the troubleshooting process is easy if you have the correct scan tool.
However, if you don’t plan on replacing the TPMS sensor anyway, this is where you can stop troubleshooting. You know the battery is in good shape and the tire pressure is correct. At this point, the only issue is that the TPMS won’t let you know if the tire pressure gets too low.
But if you do want to troubleshoot further and replace the TPMS sensor, all you do is pull up the readings for each TPMS sensor on the automotive scan tool and compare them to the actual tire pressure. If they don’t match, there’s a problem with that sensor. Keep in mind that you’re looking for a significant difference. A few psi isn’t really anything to worry about.
From there, you should’ve found your problem since you’ve ruled out each possibility. If you haven’t found it yet, we recommend double-checking your work and then taking it to a professional repair shop for more diagnosis.
Cost to Replace a Battery
If you find out the battery is the problem with your vehicle, it’s only natural to wonder how much it’s going to cost to fix it. The truth is that there are a lot of places you can go to get a new battery, and there’s a pretty big price range on how much you can expect to spend too.
Lower-end car batteries cost about $60 to $100, but you can’t expect these batteries to last longer than 3 to 5 years. Meanwhile, higher-end batteries provide more reliable performance and can last 7 years or even longer. But to get these batteries you can expect to spend $150 to $350.
The good news is that no matter what battery you go with, most shops provide free battery installation with the purchase.
Cost to Replace a TPMS Sensor
While it’s pretty easy to head out and get a few quotes for a new car battery, especially since most places will install them for free, finding out how much it costs for a new TPMS sensor can be a little trickier. You don’t want to have someone rip you off, but you don’t want to have that flashing light forever either!
But while you might think that those little sensors would be cheap, if you’re paying someone to replace them you can expect to spend between $110 and $250 per sensor. Part of the reason for this is that to reach the sensor the technician needs to completely remove the tire from the rim and then remount it.
This alone adds about $60 to $100 in labor costs, and without a tire machine, it’s a pretty labor-intensive process to do yourself. The majority of the cost comes down to the price of the sensor itself. Depending on what you drive each sensor can cost between $50 and $150.
It’s enough to leave you thinking twice about whether you really need a tire pressure monitoring system on your vehicle.
Armed with a little more knowledge about your tire pressure monitoring system and what it could be trying to tell you, all that’s left is for you to head out and figure out what’s going on with your vehicle.
The good news is that if you don’t want to fix it after you figure out what’s going on, there’s a good chance you don’t have to. Just don’t assume you’re good to go until you know exactly why the tire pressure monitoring light is on!