Under Pressure: Give Tire Safety One More Chance

With summer driving just around the corner, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reminding drivers that June is National Tire Safety Month, and shops can also bring awareness to customers. Tires will not only leak air if punctured, but they can also leak air naturally — even a properly mounted tire can lose 1-3 psi per month. Proper tire pressure is important, because it affects safety, tire durability and fuel consumption.

For every 10 percent of under-inflation in each tire, there can be a 1-percent reduction in fuel economy. The United States Department of Transportation estimates that under-inflated tires waste 2 billion U.S. gallons of fuel each year — or about 9 cents per gallon. Improper tire pressure can also lead to accidents and breakdowns.

Yearly, there are more than 250,000 accidents due to low tire pressure, and 75 percent of roadside flats occur because of low- or under-inflated tires. Annually, more than 33,000 injuries result from under-inflated tires.

“An important part of vehicle maintenance is paying attention to your tires — the only contact points between your vehicle and the road,” said a NHTSA spokesperson in an email statement to NOLN.

Educating Drivers

There is a lot riding on your customers’ tires, and during National Tire Safety Month, shops can educate drivers about tire safety. It is important to not only look for any objects that have penetrated the exterior of a tire, but to also look at the sidewall of a tire for signs of bulges, gouges, cuts or other irregularities. Customers should also be reminded about the importance of tire rotation, balancing and alignment services.

“Tires affect your vehicle’s handling, ride, braking and safety,” the NHTSA spokesperson said. “For optimum performance, tires must have the correct air pressure, tread depth and balance, and the wheels of the vehicle must be properly aligned. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises motorists to conduct monthly maintenance inspections, check the pressure of all tires (including the spare), check the vehicle’s tire tread at least once a month, rotate their vehicle’s tires and ensure the vehicle’s tires are balanced to keep it from shaking or vibrating.”

Tires are the only thing between the car and the road, so shops should take care to make sure their customers’ tires are safe.

“Tires start, stop and steer in all types of weather and road conditions,” said Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of Training for the Tire Industry Association. “If the tires are unsafe, the vehicle is unsafe. Proper inflation, repair, lug nut torque and tread depth are critical components of tire safety, so the professionals entrusted with servicing tires and wheels must follow industry guidelines to protect the motoring public.”

TPMS: Give Tire Safety One More Chance

Today, most drivers have the benefit of a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on their vehicle, which can provide real-time tire pressure information to the driver, either via a gauge, pictogram or low-pressure warning light.

All light vehicles sold after September 1, 2007, are required to be equipped with TPMS. TPMS has components that can fail over time, so it is a smart idea to add TPMS service to your suite of add-on services.

“It is a good revenue stream for a shop and a great service to be able to offer to the customer,” said John Amato, TPMS technical trainer at the Autel Intelligent Technology Corp. “TPMS units don’t last forever; the sensors on the tires have a limited battery life — and that can be up to eight years. But as people are keeping their cars longer, the units can wear out. Plus, physical damage can occur to the components.”

TPMS/Tire Service Advice: These Are the Days It Never Rains But It Pours

Traditionally, TPMS service has had a large barrier of entry because of the massive quantity of part numbers available from the OEMs.

“We’re able to make one sensor, and we provide the software on our tools that emulate any part number,” Amato explained. “One part in the inventory can then cover 99 percent of TPMS units up to 2018. This means there is no more wait time for the customer while a shop orders it and waits for it to show up. With our system, the TPMS unit is always on the shelf.”

One hurdle that shops used to have to overcome was a plethora of OEM-specific sensors.

“Our tool allows us to program the factory protocol onto a blank sensor, so in this way, it is quite similar to recording to a blank CD,” Amato added. “It really simplifies the process and allows shops to quickly address the problem. Having one part number can tremendously reduce costs for the shop and the consumer.”

One important consideration for consumers — but a draw for shops — may be the cost of replacing the TPMS units. TPMS sensors typically need to be replaced in sets of four. This is common when the units are reaching the end of the battery life. For shops, this service can be integrated with other repair and diagnostic offerings.

If you’re aiming to be a one-stop-shop for customers, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have to send them anywhere else for their TPMS service needs.