In recent years, many shops and parts retailers involved in TPMS service have seen it go from a sure-fire money maker to a major headache.
Technicians can’t get sensors to relearn to the vehicle. Retailers are seeing sensor returns at unprecedented levels. It’s a problem that’s costing shops both profits and the good will of their customers and costing parts retailers time and money as well. How did things go so far downhill?
Back in 2008, when TPMS became standard on all new cars, it looked like a win-win for motorists and the aftermarket. It created a new level of safety for drivers and a new and profitable service opportunity for the aftermarket. While there was a significant learning curve and some start-up issues along the way, TPMS did turn into a true benefit for vehicle owners and a new profit centre for service providers and the parts distribution channel. And until recently, things had been continuing along quite nicely.
However, today more and more shops are seeing TPMS service issues they had not often seen before such as failures in sensor relearning or an inability to program new sensors. Parts retailers are seeing a wave of warranty returns for sensors that, when tested, turn out to work perfectly.
Out-of-date TPMS tool software is often the culprit
Often, what has been happening can be traced back to a single issue—the failure to keep TPMS tool software updated. The latest generation of TPMS sensors are significantly different than previous generations, and without the most up to date software, TPMS service simply cannot be done successfully.
For most of the 15 years since TPMS became required equipment for all new cars sold in the U.S., the technologies and software protocols used by OE TPM systems remained relatively stable. As a result, updating TPMS tool software was often not critical to successful service (with the exception of needing to update software to get the latest year/make/model application information). However, in recent years, OEMs have begun implementing new, next generation TPMS technologies, software, and protocols. While most existing TPMS tools are compatible with the newer sensors and systems, they cannot perform the service successfully without the updated software.
Frustration in the bays
Technicians attempting to perform TPMS service with outdated software often run into one of two scenarios. They may simply be unable to program or relearn new sensors, so they can’t even get started on the service. Or, they may go through all the usual steps, thinking that they’re getting the job done, only to find that the system won’t recognize the new sensor(s). Often the technician assumes the sensor is defective, or that there is a problem with the TPM System itself. In either case, it leads to technicians dismounting tires and pulling out sensors they just installed – racking up time they likely can’t bill for.
Frustration at the counter
After the technician pulls out the sensor(s), they end up back at the parts counter where they create paperwork headaches and time lost on returns. Ultimately, the sensors make it back to the manufacturer, and more often than not, the sensor proves to work perfectly when programmed, triggered, or relearned with a TPMS tool that has the latest software. But by then, everyone has lost time and money.
Updated software cures most issues
Today, updating TPMS tool software solves a majority of the issues that technicians are seeing. Up to date TPMS tool software helps ensure that shops can service all vehicle makes and models faster, with less troubleshooting. For some tools, updating the software also gives technicians access to the latest service steps for the make and model they’re working on. This is critical, because in some cases, the new generation TPMS sensors call for new or different service procedures. And updating the software also helps ensure that TPMS tools can work with all the TPMS sensor brands they’re designed to.
According to Sean Lannoo, Sales Technical Training Supervisor for Continental (makers of Autodiagnos TPMS tools and REDI-Sensor multi-application TPMS sensors), “We go into shops to do TPMS tech training, and we often find the first thing we have to do is have the shop update their tools. We’ve seen that about 35% of shops have not updated their tool in the past year, so they’re almost certain to run into trouble getting TPMS service done on newer vehicles.”
TPMS manufactures are stepping up
To help solve the wave of TPMS trouble being seen in the auto service industry, four of the leading TPMS sensor and tool manufacturers have joined together to promote an initiative they’re calling “Don’t Wait, Update.” They’ve created a website at updateyourtpmstools.com where technicians can find links to download the most recent software for many of the most popular tools. The TPMS brands behind the initiative include Autodiagnos (Continental), ATEQ, Bartec, and Schrader.
Whether you’re a technician, shop owner, distributor, or retailer making sure that TPMS tools have the latest software avoids wasted time, lost revenue, and frustrated your customers.
Sponsored Content by Continental Automotive Systems Inc.
Author: Sean Lannoo, Sales Technical Training Supervisor