Thanks to an act of Congress adopted on Nov. 1, 2000, all 2008 passenger cars and light trucks will come equipped with a new standard feature — a tire pressure monitoring system, or TPMS. Many higher-end models already have this feature, but it becomes mandatory for all 2008 vehicles, for a number of reasons.
One reason involves fuel efficiency. According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, fuel efficiency is reduced by 1 percent for every 3 psi (pounds per square inch) a tire is underinflated. And experts estimate that 1 in 4 vehicles on the road today are running on underinflated tires.
Another reason is safety. Uninflated tires can result in skidding, hydroplaning, and blowouts, as well as loss of control of the vehicle, according to the Alliance.
A number of factors affect tire pressure, including slow leaks, tire damage, and changes in weather and temperatures. Cooler temperatures in the fall, for instance, can result in underinflated tires.
If one or more tires on a vehicle are uninflated, the TPMS symbol (above) appears on the dashboard to alert drivers. The Alliance has also created a new website, www.checkmytires.com, to provide information about the new system and familiarize drivers with the TPMS symbols. In addition, the site includes FAQs, how-tos, and resources for drivers who want to learn more about tire safety and fuel efficiency.