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Info On Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)

I had a class the other day for work, and it was all about the Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems coming out on newer vehicles. I found out a good amount of information. I wanted to share it with the 03-newer Explorer owners, because most newer Explorers-Mountaineers have the TPMS!

What's Covered In This Section:

1. Hard Facts (Sub-Categories: (a) Reasons Why)
2. Two Types Of TPMS (Sub-Categories: (a) Indirect, (b) Direct, (c) Old Fashion)
3. What/Who Uses What
4. How Do I Know I Have It
5. Changing Tires and Wheels
6. How Do They Relearn
7. Aftermarket Wheels and Tires

Hard Facts:

-- NHTSA - New proposed rule requires TPMS on all passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less. (excluding duallys under 10,000 pounds)

-- 100% compliance is required by January 1, 2007 subject to phase in schedule: 20% by September 2005, 70% by September 2006, and 100% by Jan 2007.

Reasons Why:

-- The National Highway Traffric Safety Administration conduced an inspection of 6,240 vehicles within a 14-day period in August of 2001. Found that out of those vehicles tested, 27 percent of the passenger cars had one or more tires substantially under inflated. They also found that 33 percent of light trucks and suVs had one or more tires that were also under inflated.

-- About 8,000 blowouts every year result in serious injury or death.

Note: some TPMS check and warn about HIGH air pressure. The NHTSA mandated systems do not require high pressure warnings.

Two Types Of TPMS:

-- One type measures the pressure in the tire directly (Direct TPMS). The other checks tire pressure indirectly (Indirect TPMS) by testing the effects on the tire from the pressure change (i.e. - through the ABS system - wheel sensors).

Indirect TPMS:

By watching the wheel speed sensors, the ABS module "knows" how fast each wheel is turning. Two modes of operation while driving: Calibration and Detection. After tires are rotated or replaced, the "reset" button must be pressed to clear the prior saved calibration from its memory.

When the vehicle reaches a predetermined speed (or speeds) for the first time after resetting the system, it enters into its calibration mode.

- In this mode, it "learns" how fast the individual wheels are spinning. It also takes a sampling of those measurments and saves those values in memory. It cannot detect a low tire in calibration mode.

The indirect method does not satisfy the NHTSA's requirements and will not longer be on new model vehicles after 2006. Diagnostics of these types of systems should not be a problem for any shop that does ABS systems. Same type systems, senosors, electrical devices, etc.

Direct TPMS:


The only method that currently satisfies the NHTSA's requirements. It works by use of a radio trasmitter located inside the tire:


The radio transmitter is actually the valve stem's base. The valve stem is part of the transmitter and serves double duty as an anchor and as an antenna. If the vehicle is equipped with a spare, the spare will have a transmitter as well. The first direct TPM sensors (like found on some older Corvettes) were a rather large sensor (approx. 3 inches long, 2 inches high, and a inch wide).

The typical modern direct TPM sensor has a 10-year lithium battery that is not replaceable. The sensor weights just over one ounce. It's accurate up to 2 PSI of its reading, and have been tested over 200 MPH. they carry price tags in the low hundreds each (higher for BMWs, Lexus, etc.).

Transmitters/sensors are not constantly on. They only send a signal about every 30 to 60 seconds at speeds of 15 to 20 mph. then, when sitting still, they transmit a pressure reading about once each hour.

Every manufacturers system is different, and diagnosing and fixing these systems vary. should the module determine pressure to be too low, or fail to recieve a signal, the TPM light will illiuminate (on top of page) or will state so in message center. This INCLUDES the spare tire!

If a tire is low, and you inflate the tire, the light should go out (if that was the problem). However, if the tires are rotated, then most of these systems require retraining the sensors/modules. The TPM system "knows" the placement of each tire (LF, RF, RR, LF, and spare), the technician must retrain the module each time the wheel assemblies are rotated. Or if the tires are replaced and the rims are not put back in the origional positions.

Old Fashion/Aftermarket TPMS:


What/Who Uses What:

Indirect TPMS:

- Ford: 2001-03 Windstar
- GM : 97-02 Park Avenue, 99-03 Century and Regal, 02-03 LeSabre, 2003 Rendezvous and Aztek, 00-03 Impala and Mone Carlo, 99-02 Alero, 99-02 Grand Am, 01-03 Aurora, 97 Grand Prix, 2000-03 Bonneville
-Toyota: Sienna Van
-Nissan: Pathfinder

Direct TPMS

-Chrysler: 02-03 300M and Town&Country, 03 Viper, 04 Pacifica
-Ford: '03 Explorer and Mountaineer
-Lincoln: 03' Navigator

-GM: 00-03 Deville, 97-03 Corvette (as well as some older Corvettes)

How Do You Know I Have TPMS:

-If it is factory equipped with Extended Mobility tires (EMT, A.K.A. "runflats"), then it will have a pressure monitoring system. Runflats are required by federal law to have a TPMS -- and any store that will sell you Runfalts on a non-TPMS, will require you to buy new wheels/Sensors.

-You can tell by a simple turn of the key or a look at the valve stem. Turn the key on the ON position and look on the dash for a light. If the vehicle is equipped with navigation, go through the menu and search for the TPMS. If you look at the valve stem and it looks to be metal/aluminum, and locked in place by a nut, more than likely you have a TPMS.

Valve stem looks similar to this:


-Be sure to inflate tires to the pressures specified on the vehicles data plate, no more going by the rating on the tire.

Changing Tires and Wheels:

If you replace new tires, it is highly recommend to get a new grommet, seal, and o-ring set. Replacing these seals are about $10 in parts per wheel. Here's a diagram:


The TPM valve stem cap is made of aluminum and the valve core is nickel-plated for resistance of corrosion. The outer end of the valve stem functions as the sensor's RF antenna. Always place both the cap and the sensor/valve assembly on a clean, dry surface when they are removed from the wheel.


- If the metal stem cap is stuck, DO NOT use plies to remove it -- it will break!
- DO NOT use a self calmping air chuck on the TPMS sensors, valve stems will break off! These things are VERY fragile!
- Valve Cores of the TMPS are not the same as regular rubber stems, do not lose them.
- DO NOT replace cap with a rubber one, it will mess up the transmitters
- DO NOT use "fix-a-flat" with a TPMS; it will clog the sensor and render it broken.

How Do They Relearn?

Different manufacturers use different ways to relearn or retrain the TPMS! Some use magnets with a certain process and some use a "reset" button. Here are some pictures of the magnets that GM Uses:



Aftermarket Wheels and Tires:

This information is still up in the air. Some aftermarkte manufacturers are trying to make wheels that'll work with the sensors, but the problem is that the sensors are made to fit on the wheel a specific way (flush against the rim). If it does not sit flush, it may break off during normal operation. Most systems will allow you to change for bigger/smaller tires. The biggest problem right now is with low-profiles and these sensors.

Of coarse, I would like to hear some feedback, corrections, and opinions about all of this stuff. I hope this will help some people out. I can probably get the "relearn" steps for a Explorer/Mountaineer/Navigator if you all think I should.


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On my 2005 XLT one valve core is broken at the top. Turned too hard to remove.
Should I order a new schrader TPMS for that tire and then use the re-learn proc
with magnet or do I need to get a TPMS scan tool and register the new unit OR
is there a way to remove a bad valve core. Note the tire still holds pressure its only
the top part that is broken...

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New sensor

Hey there, just order a new TPMS sensor (I have seen them for around $50 online), have someone remove the tire, install the sensor, remount the tire, balance the tire, and then you will get the TPMS fault on your dash. That's when you can train the sensors with a magnet. No need for any special tool. The tool is to determine which ones dead or showing a low signal.

To train:

Turn key on and off 2 times and then on once more and press the brake, let off the brake, and turn to off. Then turn on and off 2 times and then a 3rd time, but leave it on. It will display train left front sensor in the dash. Put the magnet over the sensor, horn sounds, then go to the right front, repeat, etc.

Good luck!

update, i just did this, for an '04, on a side note the TPMS module will only take 4 wheels, if on your 5th rim (spare with the TPMS sensor) and when its rotated in, it has to be reprogrammed. I got the GM magnet on fleabay for like $20. I did try the depot, make yourself one which didn't work, i don't think it was strong enough. I bought mine off fleabay, the tire shop one didn't program for some reason, so i went the used route which worked.

I don't think my spare has a sensor but am not sure. Personally I wouldn't bother buying the GM magnet. I used some magnets off my fridge and it worked fine. Others have used those telescoping screwdriver magnets. Just hold the magnet directly over the sensor and it should work.

06 rubber stems

I have an 06 XLT with stock 16" wheels with rubber valve stems. I guess this means I have the banded type TPMS sensors. Can I retrain these with a large magnet or do I need the special Ford Calibration tool?

Also, can anyone recommend an Explorer friendly OBDII software application that will work with a USB connection?


Carl III

good TPMS

thanks for your information~Recently I got my TPMS too,i bought them from Myers and they are really good. They are easy to install and 100%compatible for various cars. They really have good quality and the price just around $100

I heared that they are from Orange TPMS manufacture, have you heared about that?:)

I could be wrong but a rubber stem means no TPMS. Mine is an '04 and is metal.

For software: Diagnostic Scanner FAQ.htm

this isn't necessarily true. There are three kinds of tpms that are commonly used in cars. there's the one directly on the stem that is metal like most fords have. then there is one that is banded to the center of the rim. that one i've broken a few times because there is no way of knowing that it is there... and the people that install them don't put them opposite the valve stem like their supposed to. the third kind is based off of the speed sensors in all 4 wheels and it averages them together and then when one spins progessivly less then all the others it illuminates the tps light. and if you ever work on a gm it doesn't matter if it's a rubber stem or not, they sensor screws into the bottom of the valve stem... it's really a terrible idea because they're very hard to distinquish from a regular rubber valve stem.

Hope this helps someone in the future

I've been saturating the forums with info about a cheap TPMS reset tool that I've been using for a year now. You can get it from Ford for less than $20, and resets the blue rim-mounted sensors just fine.

It's part number #8C2T-1A203-AB, "TPMS SENSOR TOOL" and looks like a garage door opener with 1 green button in the middle. Use the ignition key / brake pedal procedure to get into the training mode. This works as well as those $300 universal handhelds. They are coming stock with ford vehicles starting with the '08 models.

I got tired of the tire shop monkeys breaking my sensors, and got snow tires mounted on stock rims with their own set of TPMS sensors. I figure I can make my investment in rims & sensor parts in about 4 years (even less if you add in the broken sensors).

I hate to paste a link for fleabay, but this is what the tool looks like. Buy it from your local Ford dealer and save $.

Thank you to all those that posted the TPMS retraining procedure; bgird, ExplorerDMB and gijoecam. I had a very slow leak, 8 lbs in 40-50 days, that kept tripping the low tire pressure warning. Adding more air each time reset the alarm. After the third go around on the same tire a tire shop suggested I replace the sensor/valve. I did yesterday only to learn the alarm function didn't go away. My 2004 Explorer retraining functioned as described in this post using a magnet to activate the direct-type TPMS sensor - the procedure worked the first time for me because of the detail provided. You saved me $41.40 for a "transmitter" (term used by the Ford Part man) in lieu of "magnet" or $128.00 in labor (quoted by a Ford service advisor). Let's hope the slow leak problem is solved as well. I used a 2" hockey-puck style magnet found at ACE hardware used for picking up scrap. The hole in the center of the magnet fit nicely over the stem.

Q: I bought aftermarket rims and tires and was wondering if the Schrader valve stem TPMS used from 2002 - 2005 would work on a 2006 Explorer or do I need to get the banded sensors?

Q: I bought aftermarket rims and tires and was wondering if the Schrader valve stem TPMS used from 2002 - 2005 would work on a 2006 Explorer or do I need to get the banded sensors?
I recommend you check your 2006 manual. If your manual says you have a TPMS monitoring system then you would purchase the stem sensor (approx $60-70 ea.) in lieu of the banded sensor. Perhaps a 2006 owner can help you better or check with a dealer if you are still uncertain.

I met an accident some time last month and my car was pretty damaged, the tire front right was damaged too so i had to change the tire ring, i have replaced the TMPS sensor also the one with the silver starp but still there is a light for tmps on my dash board . is there anyway to resolve this , the sensor looked pretty intact when i changed to the new ring but i dont know it was done properly, is ther some specifications to fit the sensor or is it anypart of the ring. please help

TPMS - can it be turned off?

Wondering if there is a way to turn off the TPMS warning in the vehicle as I know the tires and rims are new? Is there a step process to do this (ex: turn the vehicle on and off 2 times, put e-brake on, turn on once more scenario)?

warning tire pressure very low TPMS

I own a Ford Explorer 2004.
the pressure is fine in every tire.(also the spare one)
I had the messagge when I took the car after was parked for 3 hrs,
suddenly came up when I was driving.(outside temp 25C/77F
I have tryed tire pressure training procedure and I was able to train every single tire but did't cancel the TPS Warning.
I ve tryed to over-inflate and also disconnecting the battery for one hr.
Is there any other reset which I can still try?
If one of the sensor is damaged how would I recognize which one is it?

any suggestions?

OK, great problem but I can only give you some of MY thoughts. Actually two thoughts.
1. Did you every have a low tire that you had to add air to. Start there as a possible tire with a sensor problem.
2. Since I had a flat tire recently the display showed another warning level beyond your warning, something like EXTREMELY LOW TIRE STOP CAR (not exact). Perhaps you can take each tire pressure down to flat, one at a time, and re-pressurize it. Since the sensor system does not operate all the time only responding to motion you will have to be patient. Maybe de-pressurize/re-pressurize one tire a day and then drive your car normally. Perhaps the warning will clear or reveal something else to you. Maybe other readers can weigh in on this problem for you and have better ideas. Good luck with troubleshooting.

thanks TEK for spending your time trying to help me out.I will try to do what you just wrote to see what's gonna happen...fingers crossed!

TPMS relearn worked on 2004 Exp. Limited... Thanks

Hello guys-...

Just to let you know the process to relearn works as you described in this forum....

When I bought the Explorer.. two months ago, the previous owner make a not safety fix in one sensor so I ordered the replace unit and installed it. But I didn´t have the donougt magnet.. so I use two of the inside magnets that my magnetic glass house cleaner thing has inside, just put those magnets on the top of the sensor and voala!!!... the proccedure to relearn passed from each tire of the Explorer...

So, any strong magnet will do the trick, just to let you know....

Thanks for your help and the information posted on this threat.

AKA: Col

Thank you Drew! I recently broke valve stem off while trying to check pressures, (05 Explorer) the local garage charged me $127 to install valve stem in carry in flat tire. The TPMS light would not go out, another $67 for the reset, which did not work. If I'd had the big ones, I'd probably still be working on cars professionally!

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what about resseting with the other style? the clamp and band? any suggestions for that?