The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) in modern vehicles is a fantastic contraption – it can signal the driver when your tires are underinflated for a safer ride.
To do that, the TPMS utilizes sensors built into the tire, which read the correct tire pressure. The thing is, these sensors will fail eventually, and you’ll need to replace them.
Here is how to replace a tire pressure sensor most straightforwardly.
I don’t recommend replacing the TPMS sensor yourself. Doing that may result in unbalanced tires, which will deteriorate the stability of your car.
The method I’ll show you below is generally considered safe in that regard, but you should still proceed with caution. You are doing this at your own risk!
Does Your Car Have a Direct or Indirect TPMS?
Two different TPMS systems are employed in vehicles – indirect tire pressure monitoring and direct pressure monitoring.
Indirect Pressure Monitoring System
The indirect pressure monitoring system uses data from the ABS (Antilock Braking System) speed sensors. This system doesn’t directly measure the pressure inside the tire. Instead, it measures the speed of any given wheel.
When a tire deflates, it gets smaller, and subsequently, it spins faster. The speed sensors can detect the slight discrepancy in speed and will report the data to the vehicle’s computer, which will then illuminate the TPMS light on the dashboard.
Indirect TPMS usually requires no maintenance. However, it is also not very precise in the measurements and can’t be utilized for accurate pressure measurements that are ubiquitous on some luxury vehicles.
Moreover, to rectify issues within the indirect system, you’ll need to connect your car to a laptop with an OBDII tool and reprogram or reset the TPMS. This is undoubtedly not something that you’ll want to do yourself.
Direct Pressure Monitoring System
The direct system, on the other hand, uses data from a sensor built into the tire. These sensors can measure the pressure much more precisely and, on some vehicles, they will show you the exact pressure within each tire.
However, there is no way to send power to the direct TPMS sensors since they are inside the tire. Instead, these sensors are powered by small batteries, which have a limited lifetime.
On average, TPMS sensor batteries last for around seven years, but they can deplete after five years, or after ten years. The bad thing about these sensors is that you can’t tell when the battery is going to die – there is no percentage reading anywhere on your dashboard.
Fortunately, you can replace the direct sensor. However, I strongly recommend rereading the disclaimer – this is not a straightforward job. If you still want to proceed, I listed the easiest and most trouble-free method down below.
What Tools do You Need to Replace Tire Pressure Sensor?
Since replacing a direct tire pressure sensor can be complicated, you’ll also need a proper toolset to finish the job. Start with making sure that you have everything you need to remove the wheel: a jack and a lug wrench.
Obviously, you’ll need a new TPMS sensor. You probably heard that you could replace the battery only, but they aren’t meant to be replaced. You might damage the sensor if you try, and even if you succeed, some pieces might end up inside your tire.
Then, make sure that you purchase the correct sensor for your car, or otherwise, it won’t work. The price of direct TPMS sensors varies between $30 and $100 depending on your vehicle, but also the quality.
Then, for removing the TPMS sensor, you’ll need a wrench and 6 mm and 11 mm sockets (though they can vary from one model to another), and pliers to remove the valve stem.
Then, in order to break the seal between the tire and rim and keep the tire opened, you’ll need a smaller and larger piece of wooden board.
Finally, you will also need a tire pressure gauge and an air pump to inflate the tire once you finish the job correctly.
How to Remove the Wheel from Your Car
Step 1. Loosen the Lug Nuts
Ensure that you loosen the lug nuts using a lug wrench before jacking up the car – it’s much easier that way.
Step 2. Jack Up Your Vehicle
Use the jack that came with your car – you should find it in the trunk. Then, make sure that you put the jack under the jacking points. If you aren’t sure about their position, check in the user’s manual.
Step 3. Remove the Wheel
Unscrew the lug nuts completely and remove the wheel.
How to Break the Seal and Replace the Sensor
Breaking the seal on a passenger car tire isn’t an easy job if you don’t have the right tools. Professional tire technicians have large tools that require space and energy. However, you should be able to break the seal if you follow the next steps carefully.
Step 4. Remove the Valve Stem
Step 5. Breaking the Seal Between the Tire and Rim
To break the seal, you will need one long and a short piece of wooden board. Put the smaller piece over the tire vertically.
Then, put the larger board horizontally over, the smaller piece of wood, and under your car on the other hand. Essentially, you’ll be using the larger board as a lever.
Ensure that you only open the tire on the area where the valve stem sits because that’s where the TPMS sensor is. If you remove the whole tire, you will need to rebalance it later.
Step 6. Unscrew the Old Valve and TPMS Sensor
Using the wrench, unscrew the nut that sits on the valve stem with an 11 mm socket. Then, remove the whole assembly from inside the tire – the sensor should come just right out.
Step 7. Screw-in the New Valve and TPMS Sensor
First, remove the nut and washer that sit on the new sensor and valve assembly. Then, put the new sensor inside the tire. The valve stem should protrude from the hole on the rim. Screw in the nut with an 11 mm socket, making sure that the sensor doesn’t move.
Then, using the 6 mm socket, screw in the bolt that connects the valve stem and sensor assembly. Make sure that they fit snugly together.
Step 8. Inflate the Tire
Before inflating, put a bit of dish soap on the rim and the tire for lubrication. Then, use an air pump to inflate the casing – it should reattach to the wheel quickly. Finally, put the whole wheel back in your car, and you should be good to go.
Step 9. Ensure that No Vibrations are Coming from the Wheels
Once you finished the job, drive your car for a few miles. If you feel no vibrations up to 70 mph, then your tires are properly balanced. However, if you feel vibrations, take your tires for rebalancing at the nearest tire service.
Replacing a tire pressure sensor can be a DIY job, but you should be very careful with this one. If something in the article isn’t clear enough, watch the videos I provided for a visual representation. Or, you can also ask further questions in the comment section down below – I’ll be happy to answer!