So you’ve got a tire pressure sensor fault alert on your dashboard. Let me guess… you’re driving a Ford.
No, I’m not a psychic. “Tire Pressure Sensor Fault” is the phrase typically used by Ford when something is wrong with one (or more) of your tire pressure sensors.
Before we get into it, I want to be clear…. This article is about a tire pressure sensor fault and NOT low tire pressure. This is an important distinction.
For a tire pressure sensor fault, you’re going to see a message on your dashboard that looks like this:
If you are seeing a light that looks something like what is shown below, chances are, one (or more) of your tires is low on air and needs to be filled.
If this is what’s going on with your car, check out this article about your tire pressure light instead.
What is a Tire Pressure Monitoring System
In 2005, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated all vehicles produced after September 2007 come equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Here’s a link to the official NHTSA documentation.
That said, if your car is newer than 2007, you most certainly have a TPMS in your car.
If you have a car a few years older than 2007, there’s a chance it is equipped with a TPMS. Some cars had already been using TPMS systems before the NHTSA mandated them.
Why is Proper Tire Pressure Important?
Proper tire pressure is one of those things many people understand, but don’t pay attention to. This happens because us humans are lazy. And we generally only pay attention to the things that have an immediate impact on our lives.
Don’t deny it. You know it’s true!
So tire pressure monitoring systems help remind lazy humans like you and me to keep our tires properly inflated. This is done by annoying drivers with an annoying dashboard light when tire pressure gets too low.
Don’t be a hater! Be happy your TPMS is persuading you to take action.
So why is proper tire pressure so important? Here are the main reasons…
Under-inflated tires pose a safety hazard. They can decrease your car’s stopping distance and affect your car’s emergency handling abilities.
Under-inflated tires can also put extra stress on the sidewalls of your tires, making them susceptible to blowouts. Having a tire blowout at highway speeds generally doesn’t have a good outcome.
Under-inflated tires increase the rolling resistance of your tires. What the hell does this mean? It means that it takes more power to move your car. And more power means your car will use more gas. Not good.
Under-inflated tires put more pressure on the outer edges of your tires causing uneven and accelerated treadwear. This means you’ll need to buy new tires sooner. And tires aren’t cheap!
What is a Tire Pressure Sensor Fault?
Your Ford has four tire pressure sensors. One is installed inside of each of your tires and they monitor the amount of air pressure inside your tires.
A Ford tire pressure sensor fault generally means one of two things is wrong: a bad sensor or a bad sensor battery. That’s it.
Batteries used in Ford tire pressure sensors are integrated into the part. So you can’t just replace the battery…. You’ll have to get a whole new tire pressure sensor. Don’t worry…. Tire pressure sensors aren’t all that expensive. They generally cost around $20 each.
Tire Pressure Sensor Replacement
Your tire pressure sensors are located inside of your tires. So when it comes to tire pressure sensor replacement, your car’s tires need to come off the rims.
That said, replacing a tire pressure sensor isn’t a DIY project. I don’t know any DIY’ers who have a tire mounting machine in their garage! Hell, very few local mechanics have tire mounting machines in their shops! So replacing a tire pressure sensor isn’t an easy task.
Tire Pressure Sensor Replacement Cost
The cost to replace a tire pressure sensor will probably be somewhere between $100-$200 including the part. It’s a quick job to do, but as you’ve learned, it requires the use of a tire mounting machine.
Is it Safe to Drive With a Tire Pressure Sensor Fault?
If you have a bad tire pressure sensor, it means your tire pressure monitoring system isn’t working properly. So there’s generally no need to pull off the road or seek immediate repair.
Remember, this alert isn’t about your tire pressure. It’s telling you the system that keeps track of your tire pressure isn’t working properly. So your car is most likely fine. It just can’t tell you when it’s not fine. Understand?
Is Replacement Even Necessary?
I know what you’re thinking…. Is it even necessary to replace a tire pressure sensor?
Here’s what I’ll say… as long as you regularly monitor the level of air in the tire that is causing the tire pressure sensor fault, you likely won’t have any problems.
However, you will still have the tire pressure sensor fault light appearing on your dashboard. Because a tire pressure monitoring system is a safety feature in your car, there’s no way to disable it. The only way to get the light to turn off is to have your tire pressure sensor properly fixed.
Knowing what you know now about Ford tire pressure sensors, it’s a good idea to install new tire pressure sensors when you get new tires – even if your tire pressure sensors aren’t bad.
Because your tire pressure sensors use batteries, they are going to wear out eventually. So it makes good sense to install new sensors while the tires are off your rims.
A reputable tire dealer will likely recommend new sensors when you get new tires. Don’t think they are trying to upsell you! It’s worth it to make the extra investment and get new tire pressure sensors with fresh batteries!
Other Things to Consider
Another condition that can cause a tire pressure sensor fault is when you put on a spare tire.
There’s a chance your spare tire doesn’t have a tire pressure sensor in it. Or maybe the tire pressure sensor went into sleep mode. (Ford tire pressure sensors go into sleep mode when they’re not in use to conserve battery life.)
That said, driving with a spare tire will often trigger a tire pressure sensor fault.
When you get your original tire repaired, you may have to recalibrate your TPMS system. A reputable tire shop should do this for you.
But if you patch your tire yourself, you may need to recalibrate the system if the tire pressure sensor fault warning doesn’t go away on its own.
It’s a pretty crazy process. Check out this article from FarOutRide.com (a great website about vanlife, BTW). Isabelle and Antoine drive a Ford Transit and explain how to perform the process as well as provide links to the published Ford documentation.
A tire pressure sensor fault means you have a problem with one of your tire pressure sensors. While this doesn’t impact the driveability of your car, a tire pressure monitoring system is an important safety feature in your car that shouldn’t be ignored.
About the Author
Hi I’m Kevin and I’m a car guy. I first got the bug as a kid when I helped my dad rebuild the motor in his 1969 Mustang. I shadowed him for countless hours doing all kinds of hands-on work in the garage. As I got older, I started working on my own cars – from new transmissions to stereos to fine detailing. I started this website to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years.
Header image courtesy of Steadragna via F150forum.com