The trouble with TPMS

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TPMS software and relearn steps have changed with the most recent generation of sensors.

With more than a dozen years of experience behind them, most shops and technicians have mastered TPMS service, making it a routine and profitable part of their services. But about two years ago, things started to change. Familiar programming and relearning routines no longer seemed to work reliably- or even work at all. A sensor relearn that could be done in under a minute now seemed to take many minutes to be successful, if it was successful at all. And tools and sensors that always used to work together no longer seemed to be talking the same language.

The game has changed

“The fact is, TPMS technology has changed, driven by changes in TPMS systems at the OEMs. The aftermarket did not catch up with the changes right away – in fact many shops and technicians are still trying to get back up to full speed on TPMS service,” explains Peter Dobrowolski, Product Manager for TPMS and TPMS Tools at Continental Automotive Aftermarket. “The biggest issue overall has been making the aftermarket understand that to work with the latest generation of TPMS sensors, TPMS tools need to be updated to the most recent software. Many technicians were able to work successfully for years without a tool software update. With the newest vehicles and latest sensors, that’s no longer possible. The software protocols have changed, and without the latest software on their tools, technician can’t complete TPMS service on many makes and models.

A multi-application sensor allows you to work quickly on most makes and models.


New relearn procedures

Another issue tripping up technicians is the fact that newer vehicles’ TPMS systems may have different procedures for relearning sensors than previously seen from that manufacturer. If the shop does not have the relearn instructions for the latest vehicles, they cannot do TPMS service successfully for the latest makes and models.

4 REDI-Sensors provide coverage for 225 million vehicles in operation.


Subtle factors affect service success

Not having the latest tool software or using out-of-date procedures are big, obvious causes for TPMS trouble that can suck the profit out of TPMS service. Other problems are more subtle. “Most aftermarket sensors have to be programmed with the protocol for the vehicle it’ll be installed on. As the code for those protocols has gotten more complex, programming takes longer, and there seems to be more chance for programming errors,” notes Dobrowolski. “Our REDI-Sensor multi-application sensor avoids that issue because the protocols for thousands of applications are pre-loaded at the factory. This eliminates the chance for programming errors. Not only does the technician get to skip the programming step, but our sensors also generally relearn much faster than the sensors that require programming.”

TPMS Tool/Sensor compatibility is key to fast, profitable TPMS service.


Tool / Sensor compatibility

Even when TPMS tools are up to date and technicians are using the correct service steps, there seems to be more TPMS service trouble these days than in the recent past. “Compatibility between the TPMS tool and the sensor has become a more frequent issue for technicians,” explains Dobrowolski. “Everyone in the industry is working to catch up with all the changes that have occurred. While compatibility between most tools and sensors could be presumed in the past, right now that’s no longer the case. Tool and sensor brands that were always compatible may not be now. Sometimes their initial programming attempt is not successful and must be redone multiple times. Other times the programming appears successful, but the sensor wont relearn to the vehicle. We stress to our customers that REDI-Sensor TPMS sensors and Autodiagnos TPMS Tools are both from Continental, and that means we can guarantee their compatibility. Tool and sensor compatibility is critical to keeping TPMS service profitable. Plus, Continental is a global OE supplier of entire TPMS systems to OEMs, and we use our OE platform for our REDI-Sensor multi-application sensor. Other Aftermarket sensor suppliers use aftermarket platforms that have not been tested to meet the OE system standards.”

Stay fast to stay profitable

There are three types of sensors available in the aftermarket, OE, Programmable, and Multi-Application. OE sensors come preprogrammed, but usually only for one small group of makes and models. Programmable sensors come ‘blank,’ and must be programmed in the shop for the vehicles they’ll be used on. That programming represents an extra service step. Multi-Application.TPMS sensors such as REDI-Sensor come preprogrammed with protocols for tens of thousands of vehicles, thereby eliminating the need for programming in the bays. “The sensor type that a shop chooses can affect their ability to work quickly and profitably. By keeping the four REDI-Sensors Multi-Application TPMS Sensors on hand, you eliminate the need to call your supplier and wait for a TPMS sensor delivery. Our four REDI-Sensors provide coverage for over 225 million vehicles on the road today. With REDI-Sensor on hand there’s no waiting for a parts delivery, or spending time programming a ‘universal’ sensor. You can get right to work on your customers vehicle. Relying on OE sensors may mean calling suppliers or dealerships to find the specific sensor you need and then waiting for delivery. Programmable sensors require that extra step, and as the programming process has become more prone to problems, many shops want to avoid that.”

The TPMS take away

To recap the guidelines for maintaining service profitability in the new TPMS technology era are:

  1. Make certain TPMS tools have been updated with the latest software.
  2. Be sure you’re using the latest service steps for the sensor you’re using.
  3. Make sure your TPMS tool and sensor are compatible – check with the manufacturer if needed.
  4. Choose a type of sensor that will allow you to work quickly on any make or model that comes into the shop.
Categories : Commercial, Mechanical


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