Your tire pressure monitoring system either relies on measuring wheel speed via the ABS wheel speed sensors (which don’t have a battery) or uses dedicated air pressure sensors mounted inside each tire (which does have a battery).
Most systems use dedicated TPMS sensors in the wheels that have limited battery life.
How Long Do TPMS Sensors Last?Most quality TPMS sensors will last between 7 and 10 years.
In some circumstances, your sensors may only get 5 years of battery life. Others may find their sensors last as long as 12 years.
The most common reason for a sensor to fail is the limited battery lifespan. The sensor’s electronics are very reliable and are not prone to failure.
Sensors can get damaged from potholes and curb strikes. They can also suffer damage during servicing by accidentally getting hit with a pry tool.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Happens When TPMS Sensor Batteries Die?
When a TPMS sensor battery dies, it obviously can no longer maintain a connection with the TPMS computer.
When the TPMS computer stops receiving the expected radio frequency transmissions from one or more sensors, it flashes the tire pressure warning light on your dashboard for 60 to 90 seconds when starting your car or truck.
After it finishes flashing, the warning light will remain lit until you turn off your vehicle. It will continue to behave this way until the problem has been resolved.
How To Test TPMS Sensor Batteries
The sensors your tire pressure monitoring system uses wirelessly transmit more than just the current tire pressures. Most sensors broadcast the current air pressure in the tires, the temperature of the tires, a unique identifier code, and the TPMS battery life.
Your TPMS may display the current battery life of each sensor. This is somewhat uncommon, but it’s worth poking around the TPMS menu in the instrument cluster or infotainment interface.
The most common method for testing your TPMS battery life is using a TPMS scan tool. TPMS tools are small, handheld computers designed to activate sensors and read the sensor transmissions.
There are different types of sensors and different types of TPMS tools. Also, these scan tools are not usually inexpensive. They aren’t something you would likely purchase unless you regularly need to service TPMS sensors.
Where Is The TPMS Battery Located?
The batteries for TPMS sensors are embedded within the sensor’s housing. The batteries are quite small but powerful enough to last many years without needing to be serviced.
The TPMS sensor’s battery is sealed within the body of the sensor to protect it from moisture and chemicals that could damage the battery and sensitive electronics inside the sensor.
Because the batteries are sealed inside, they are not designed to be replaced. When a battery dies, it is expected that the entire TPMS sensor will be replaced.
How To Replace TPMS Sensor Batteries
As mentioned, tire pressure sensors are not designed to allow for replacing batteries. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, however.
Suppose you are interested in replacing the batteries in your tire pressure sensors. In that case, you’ll need to break open the sensor housing, remove the silicon-like sealant the battery and electronics are encased, replace the battery, and reseal the sensor body.
This can be a tedious process and may not be worth the trouble for many. But others interested in some DIY may be up to the challenge.
My friend, theDiYwizard, has an excellent video showing the entire process in detail, and he gives some excellent tips for tackling the job more easily.
One significant benefit of replacing the battery in your sensor is you won’t need to reprogram the new unique IDs of replacement sensors to the TPMS computer.
How Much Do TPMS Sensors Cost?
There are two types of replacement TPMS sensors to consider:
OEM TPMS Sensors
OEM TPMS sensors are usually of excellent quality and will be as reliable as the ones that originally came with your car or truck. Unfortunately, like with most OEM parts, they are quite expensive. It’s not uncommon for a single sensor to cost $100 or more.
These sensors are preprogrammed for your vehicle, but the new unique IDs will need to be programmed into the TPMS computer. This will require the additional use of a TPMS tool. These tools can vary in price depending on the vehicle manufacturer and brand of TPMS being used. A couple of hundred dollars is not uncommon.
Aftermarket TPMS Sensors
Aftermarket sensors are usually significantly cheaper than OEM sensors. Good quality aftermarket sensors can be found for $25 to $30 per sensor.
Aftermarket sensors are designed to be “Universal,” which means they will work as a replacement for “most” tire pressure monitoring sensors. They require a tool that clones the information from your current sensors. This sensor tool usually needs to be from the same manufacturer as the aftermarket sensors.
For instance, Autel makes some good quality aftermarket sensors and has a reasonably priced sensor tool that you can use for cloning and relearning sensor positions when rotating your tires.
I recommend watching this video from Gabe’s Hacks for a bit more on how to work with setting up aftermarket TPMS sensors.
How To Replace TPMS Sensors
Replacing your sensors yourself can be challenging if you don’t have access to the same equipment found at your local tire shop, but it can still be done.
Since the sensors are usually incorporated with the valve stems, you need to deflate the tires and break the bead away from the bead seat to get access to the sensors.
Once the bead is separated from the wheel, you can usually push the tire sidewall down enough to access the sensor to swap it out. Low-profile tires are more difficult to work with and require a little ingenuity to flex the sidewall enough to get to the sensor.
I suggest checking out the following video from Gabe’s Hacks for some DIY instructions on the process and some helpful tips and tricks.
Below are some links you may find helpful when learning about tires
- Changing TPMS sensor batteries – Tire Review
- What is TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) – Tire Buyer
One last important note to keep in mind is that if one of your TPMS sensors has failed, it’s quite likely that the others will be failing soon since they are often replaced in sets of four.
Hopefully, you’re not fully prepared to deal with a dead tire pressure monitoring system sensor. If your TPMS light is flashing when you start your vehicle, chances are the battery in a sensor has died.
Good luck and happy motoring.