For those of you who live in states where it snows or you have more than one set of wheels, dealing with your vehicle's Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) can be a challenge. By default, your vehicle's TPMS system is setup to work with the wheel sensors that come with your car. Swap your OEM wheels with an aftermarket set and you get a flashing light on the dash that looks like the image above.
Some of you can (and will) ignore the TPMS warning light, but some of you can't. If you live in one of the following states, your TPMS must be functional in order to register your vehicle:
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
If you are the owner of a Lexus, Infiniti or Toyota, your vehicle needs to have the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring sensors) initialized at the dealership or by a trained installer. Expect to pay $40-$160 depending on exact market and vehicle model.
One other note if you switch your tires out winter to summer. The initialization process needs to be completed each time the tires and wheels switch back and forth.
Knowing this, I've compiled a list of options for dealing with your vehicle's TPMS system if you have multiple sets of wheels. I arranged the list from the least to most desirable according to my opinion, of which you are free to disagree with.
Solutions that involve disabling the TPMS are prefixed with "HACK:" where as solutions that leave the TMPS fully functional are prefixed with "SOLUTION:". To me, a desirable solution is one that leaves the TPMS intact, yet allows me to swap my wheels out w/o incurring a yearly cost and/or inconvenience (such as visiting a dealer).
If any of this information is incorrect, please let me know. I'm not an expert in the area of TPMS, but I'm hoping that creating this one-stop thread for TPMS info will help save other's a lot of time in researching the topic.
So, without further adieu...
HACK: Remove the TPMS Warning Light LED
A blinking warning TPMS warning light can't blink if there's no bulb. If you're mechanically inclined, start tearing your dash apart and remove the bulb. Apparently several TW members have already done this.HACK: Disable TPMS
No cost if you don't mind tearing your dash apart.
Renders the TPMS useless for ALL wheels on your vehicle, requires quite a bit of work to get at the bulb, isn't legal, and probably isn't a great solution if you want to resell your vehicle. I'd be pretty miffed if I bought a vehicle and then got a flat with no TPMS warning light because the previous owner removed the bulb.
Several TW members have found where the main TPMS module is located (behind the radio?) and disabled it by cutting or unplugging the wires to the module. From what I've read, the method for disabling the system varies depending on the year of the vehicle.HACK: Do-It Yourself "Pipe-Bomb"
(Same as LED bulb removal)
(Same as LED bulb removal)
No, not a real "pipe-bomb", but a home-made tube, usually constructed of PVC pieces, that is air-tight and has an air valve for adjusting the pressure. The idea is to take the TPMS sensors out of your OEM wheels, stick them in the "pipe-bomb", adjust the air pressure of the pipe to OEM specs, then throw the pipe under a seat or something so the TPMS is tricked into thinking the tires are properly inflated.HACK: Black Tape
Click here for details on building a TPMS "pipe-bomb".
If the pipe-bomb is properly constructed, this should theoretically prevent the TPMS warning light from ever coming on no matter which wheels you have... TPMS equipped or not.
While I give the solution a nod for it being a creative solution, it once again renders the TPMS completely useless on ALL your wheels, not just your summer or winter wheels. Not only that, but it requires a bunch of work I'd rather not do! While not a great solution, it leaves the vehicle's TPMS intact which is good for resale (other than the next owner will have to put the sensors back in a set of wheels.)
Take your vehicle's gauge cluster apart and simply put a piece of black tape directly over the TPMS warning light. (I'm pretty sure you can't just stick the tape on the gauge cluster's clear plastic cover because the light will still be noticeable.)SOLUTION: Have Dealer or Tire Shop Reset ECU Sensor IDs
It's cheap, relatively easy, and reversible.
Like many of the TPMS hacks listed above, this requires pulling the dashboard apart and removing the gauge cluster's plastic cover.
Unlike removing the LED bulb or disabling the TPMS, this hack is a little more obvious and shouldn't take long for the next owner of your vehicle to figure-out that there's a piece of tape on the warning light
This hack doesn't resolve the issue of the TPMS not working on non-OEM wheels, hence rendering the TPMS useless when you have your non OEM wheels on. In addition, when you mount your wheels OEM wheels, you won't be notified of a tire that has low pressure or is flat even though the TPMS system is fully functioning!
As a Toyota owner, every time you swap out your wheels you'll have to go to the dealership or tire shop to have them change the sensor ID values in the ECU to accept the ID numbers of each new sensor. If you don't do this, it won't matter if your alternate wheels have sensors or not... you'll get the warning light.SOLUTION: Purchase Chinese OBD2 Mini VCI Tool
Most Toyota vehicle ECU's only store 5 TPMS sensor IDs at a time. Four (4) for your normal tires + 1 for the spare. (I'm not sure if all Tacomas have a sensor in the spare or not.) Therefore, you need to change the sensor IDs to whatever sensors are on the vehicle in order for the TPMS to work. It'd be nice if Toyota added the ability for the ECU to remember up to 10 sensor IDs, but that's available on the Tacoma.
Some vehicle owners have stated that if your OEM wheels and sensors are stored near your vehicle, the TPMS warning light *might* not go off because your vehicle's TPMS might read the sensors when your car is in the garage. I take this with a grain of salt and even if this does keep the light off, you'll be a might unhappy camper if your non-OEM wheels have a flat and you aren't notified
The dealer or tire shop may have a tool to read the sensor IDs directly from the valve stem. If not, you need to know the sensor IDs for your aftermarket wheels (obtained from the shop you got the wheels from) and you should probably keep the sensor IDs of the OEM wheels as well for switching back. The sensor ID is usually marked on the sensor itself, so if you don't know the number, the tire will have to be partially removed from the rim to view the number on the sensor or the dealer might have the proper tool to read the ID.
This is probably the only solution that is "dealer approved", hence puts you at no risk of voiding any warranties. It's also a solution that is legal in all 50 states. It's is recommended that you find a local wheel & tire shop, like Discount Tire Direct, to program the IDs for a much lower price than the dealer (and some charge no fee at all.)
This solution creates an ongoing expense and inconvenience of having to visit a dealer every time you want to swap your own tires. What a P.I.T.A.!
This tool is a Chinese hack version of the Toyota TIS software with limitations. The tool includes a USB OBDII cable for connecting your PC to your car and the TIS-hack software (Windows only).SOLUTION: Purchase ATEQ TPM Quickset Tool
Click here for ZiggyNaggy's review of the tool.
Several people have reported that by using this tool, they were able to change the sensor IDs in their ECU. However, I can't guarantee that this will work for all Tacoma models as some reported it didn't work.
Since the tool cost is less than $50, it might be worth the shot even if it doesn't work for setting the TPMS sensor settings. The tool provides other diagnostic information, like CEL codes, which is always useful.
If this actually works on your vehicle, it's a really low cost way to reset the sensor IDs in the ECU and leaves the TPMS completely functional.
There's a chance this tool might not work on your model of Tacoma.
Since the tool only allows you to change the sensor IDs and it doesn't provide any way to store additional IDs, that means you'll have to go through the process of entering the IDs every time you swap wheels. You better have the TPMS sensor numbers for both sets of wheels stored somewhere where you won't lose them!
The tool's software requires you to own a laptop that is capable of running in Windows XP mode, so even though the tool is cheap, it'll get expensive if you don't have a laptop and/or you aren't able to get your laptop to run the software.
This tool is the only one I've been able to find that provides a reasonably priced, easy to use solution for swapping TPMS enabled tires. The tool reads and saves your vehicle's OEM TPMS sensor IDs from your vehicle's ECU via the OBDII port. It then allows you to enter and save one set of IDs for an alternate set of wheels. You then designate one set as your "winter wheels" and the other as "summer wheels". Once you've configured the tool, all you have to do when swapping wheels is plug in the tool, hold the "winter" or "summer" button until the tool does it's job, and you're done! Pretty slick.SOLUTION: Use Programmable Sensors to "Clone" OEM Sensor IDs
Click here for a review of the ATEQ tool on the ToyotaNation.com forums.
This solution is relatively low in cost and once the initial setup is done, requires very little time and effort to use. For those of you who bought a wheel and tire package online with TPMS sensors already installed, purchasing this tool is probably the best route to go as you'll easily make up the $159 purchase fee by not having to go to the dealer twice a year to swap your wheels. If you forget to ask the shop that sold you the wheels what the sensor IDs were, you'll likely have to pay a few bucks to have a local shop read the IDs from the valve stems (if they have the tool to do so.)
Unfortunately, even "reasonably priced" seems like more than I'd like to spend just to swap-out my own tires. The tool can be purchased on Amazon.com for $159 (which is way cheaper than any professional grade TPMS tool). Like the Mini VCI tool mentioned above, this tool also requires a PC that runs Windows and requires an Internet connection for downloading updates. You don't need a laptop, however, since the PC is only used to setup the tool and isn't used for connecting to your car.
Several companies have realized that many vehicle owners have multiple sets of wheels and that swapping them is a totally P.I.T.A. because of the TPMS sensors. In addition, it's not cost-effective for dealers and tire shops to stock hundreds of TPMS sensors for each brand of car. As a result, these companies have created 'programmable' sensors. (For example, the Schrader EZ-Sensor) What this means is that the sensors don't have a permanent ID, the ID must be 'programmed' into the sensor. This allows for programming the sensors on a second set of wheels to have the same IDs as the stock wheels (called "cloning"). Therefore, the vehicles TPMS control unit won't know which wheels are on the car because the sensor IDs are always the same.
The TechSmart™ T55000 TPMS Cloning Tool claims that it can clone any programmable sensor and is priced at $110 on Amazon.com. With this tool, you could potentially clone your own sensors and then take your wheels and tires to a local shop to have the tires mounted.
Discount Tire Direct informed me of the following:
Discount Tire has stores in most states as well as recommended installers. If you want programmable TPMS sensors installed in your wheel/tire package, you must call Discount Tire and order over the phone. They will then mount the tires with the sensors and ship them to you, and it will be up to you to find a wheel shop that can 'clone' the sensor IDs from your OEM sensors.Quote:
In-order to clone the sensors we must have the existing sensors present so the information contained within the sensors can be scanned/downloaded into the scan tool and then transferred to the blank EZ-Sensor. We can send the EZ-Sensor's out to you not programmed and any local tire shop or dealer with a Tech400 or Tech300 (with the EZ-Sensor compatible software) can clone the sensors for you.
*** Warning! *** I went to Discount Tire Direct to get wheels installed and cloned sensors. The employees at the shop I went to did not install programmable sensors and had no idea what "sensor cloning" is. They installed VDO Redi-Sensors, which are not programmable. Make sure the sales rep knows what cloning is and that you are getting Schrader EZ-Sensors installed before they do any work. Otherwise, you'll end-up like I did with non-cloned sensors
The Tire Rack goes one step further:
Once again, I'm assuming you'd have to order the wheels by phone in order to get the programmable sensors, but it'd be worth it since you'd be able to bolt-on your wheels as soon as they arrive w/o any extra hassle.Quote:
Yes we sell the Schrader EZ sensor for $60 a piece. We can even program them if you like if you can provide us with the ID codes.
To me, this is by far the best solution to the annoying TPMS wheel-swap issue. Once your aftermarket wheel sensors are "cloned", then you're free to swap your wheels like you want to with no additional expense and no additional time wasted.
No solution is perfect, not even this one The issue, as I see it, is that in order to get this solution to work, you'll have to figure-out where to acquire programmable TPMS sensors and find a shop that has the tools to program them. The tools to program the sensors are relatively expensive. Of the programming tools that do exist, I'm not sure if they can program any brand sensor or only specific sensors (For example, I'm not sure if a tool that programs Schrader EZ-Sensors can also program Orange brand programmable sensors or not?)
My hope is that someday all TPMS sensors will be programmable via a standard protocol which would then make this the absolute best solution.