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TPMS Options for Multiple Wheel Sets (I.e., Winter/Summer, Street/Off-Road, etc.)

Discussion in 'Wheels & Tires' started by Hot Taco, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. Jan 9, 2013 at 9:38 PM
    #1
    Hot Taco

    Hot Taco [OP] Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    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:
    • Hawaii
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    • West Virginia
    State laws aside, keeping your TPMS working isn't as easy as just purchasing another set of wheels with sensors... at least not for most Toyota vehicles. From TheTireRack.com:

    Yikes! You have to schedule an appointment with the dealership and pay them every year just to put on your wheels?!?!? Not only that, if you swap winter and summer tires, you have to incur this cost and waste-of time twice a year! UNACCEPTABLE! :eek: (At least to me it is.)

    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.

    PROS

    No cost if you don't mind tearing your dash apart.

    CONS

    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. :mad:
    HACK: Disable TPMS
    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.

    PROS

    (Same as LED bulb removal)

    CONS

    (Same as LED bulb removal)
    HACK: Do-It Yourself "Pipe-Bomb"
    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.

    Click here for details on building a TPMS "pipe-bomb".

    PROS

    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.

    CONS

    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.)
    HACK: Black Tape
    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.)

    PROS

    It's cheap, relatively easy, and reversible.

    CONS

    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 :eek:

    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!
    SOLUTION: Have Dealer or Tire Shop Reset ECU Sensor IDs
    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.

    Why? :confused:

    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.

    PROS

    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.)

    CONS

    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.! :mad:
    SOLUTION: Purchase Chinese OBD2 Mini VCI Tool
    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).

    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.

    PROS

    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.

    CONS

    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.
    SOLUTION: Purchase ATEQ TPM Quickset Tool
    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.

    Click here for a review of the ATEQ tool on the ToyotaNation.com forums.

    PROS

    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.)

    CONS

    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.
    SOLUTION: Use Programmable Sensors to "Clone" OEM Sensor IDs
    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.

    *** 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.

    PROS

    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.

    CONS

    No solution is perfect, not even this one :eek: 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.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2013
    Wile likes this.
  2. Jan 9, 2013 at 9:47 PM
    #2
    chris5255

    chris5255 Me mber

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    Good information. I bought my 2nd set(winter) of tires from my local Discount Tire store. They reset my tpms for me at no cost whenever I have them switch my tires back and forth. The dealership wanted $95.
     
  3. Jan 9, 2013 at 9:52 PM
    #3
    chris5255

    chris5255 Me mber

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    Just to clarify, I have 2 sets of wheels and tires that I switch back and forth between.
     
  4. Jan 9, 2013 at 10:00 PM
    #4
    tacowagon

    tacowagon Well-Known Member

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    that is very informative for a newb like me. first time owner of tpms. more gadgets, more problems.

    still love it though....
     
  5. Jan 13, 2013 at 6:58 AM
    #5
    JimBCa

    JimBCa Well-Known Member

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    WOW is all I can say about your post.

    I didn't even know I had them until yesterday, while cleaning my truck. Never had anything like it in my '95 GMC, it was only luxury cars that they came with. Been reading for the last 45 min different posts on them to learn.

    Than yours came up.

    Thank You for a well written and very informative post.

    :)
     
  6. Jan 15, 2013 at 7:58 PM
    #6
    Cape Codder

    Cape Codder Native Son

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    Thanks, Hot Taco, for the research, organization, and time creating an informative post.
    Please update us, if you find the "Cloning" Solution improves (or any solution).
    I agree, Cloning is the way to go. Hadn't heard about it, 'til you posted.
    Thanks again


    CC
     
  7. Jan 15, 2013 at 8:13 PM
    #7
    Hot Taco

    Hot Taco [OP] Well-Known Member

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    You're very welcome :D


    You do have two solutions for cloning at the moment:
    • Option 1: Order wheels from Discount Tire by phone (or by local store) and tell them you want the programmable EZ-Sensors installed. You'll then have to take your vehicle to local shop that has a tool such as the Bartec Tech300 or Tech400 tool and have them 'clone' the new sensors. If you don't want to have to explain this whole mess to the person taking the order, read this thread to contact the Discount Tire employee I got my information from.
    • Option 2: Order wheels and tires from any retailer with no sensors and order your own EZ-Sensors. (According to the Schrader EZ-Sensor web site, the part number for Tacomas is 33000. You can buy this sensor on Amazon, among other places.) Take everything to a wheel and tire shop that has the Bartec tools, have them install the sensors into your new wheels and 'clone' them. You'll probably have to pay the feel to have your wheels rebalanced, but at least you'll be done messing around!
    So really, the only hard part about getting the cloning to work is finding a local shop with a tool to do the programming. I don't plan on ordering any wheels until late Spring (when the snow goes away), so I haven't called any shops yet to find out if they have the tools.

    Note that if you want metal valve stems instead of rubber, it appears that you have to get them in addition to the sensors (like these). Seems silly that you can't just order the sensors that way to begin with.
     
  8. Jan 15, 2013 at 8:27 PM
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    Cape Codder

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  9. Jan 15, 2013 at 9:44 PM
    #9
    penguins_cc

    penguins_cc Well-Known Member

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    I wasn't even aware of the last three solutions you described. Kudos for the write-up. I've become a hell of a lot handier since I became a TW member!
     
  10. Jan 17, 2013 at 8:04 AM
    #10
    merkman

    merkman Well-Known Member

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    When its time for new stems, can you just put in regular rubber stems and forget the sensors and be done with it? Who needs them, it's like the walk light at a crosswalk...wasn't red and green enuf to go on? I can tell when I have a low tire and if you get a blowout what good is the sensor...waste of money
     
  11. Jan 17, 2013 at 8:32 AM
    #11
    Hot Taco

    Hot Taco [OP] Well-Known Member

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    I, like yourself, originally disliked the idea of the Tire Pressure Monitoring System when the light first went on in my wife's RAV 4. However, after doing all sorts of researching (and thinking), I've warmed-up to the idea that my car is monitoring my tire pressure for me so I don't have to constantly remind myself to do it.

    TPMS doesn't just tell you that you have a flat, it also tells you if your tires are under or over-inflated. I suggest reading the following article to learn why this is important:

    The Tire Rack: Air Pressure - Correct, Underinflated and Overinflated

    I like to consider myself a "car guy", but even the craziest car fanatic doesn't check his tire pressure on a daily basis... there are more important things to do in life! However, one's tire pressure can change pretty radically in one day. Here in Wisconsin, it can be sunny and 70 degrees one day, and then cloudy and 20 degrees the next (literally). Chances are, if one's tires were properly inflated at 70 degrees, they're now underinflated at 20 degrees. Unless you constantly remind yourself, "Check my tire pressure every time the temperature changes" (which would be insane), chances are you don't really know if your tires are properly inflated.

    I think that most people that think that they know what their vehicle's tire pressure is are just ignorant of the fact that they really don't. (At least that was the case for me when I drove to work on a nearly flat tire about a month ago in my non-TPMS equipped vehicle :( )
     
  12. Jan 19, 2013 at 1:58 PM
    #12
    KenLyns

    KenLyns Lord of War

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    With the last solution, I wonder what happens when the original sensors and cloned sensors are both near the truck. The sensor transmission range is a few feet. Many owners keep the summer wheels in the garage in the winter.
     
  13. Jan 19, 2013 at 2:03 PM
    #13
    Hot Taco

    Hot Taco [OP] Well-Known Member

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    I thought about that myself, since my off-season wheels do sit right in front of my truck (however, I don't own a vehicle with TPMS, yet). I'm assuming that if both wheel sets are properly inflated, nothing would happen. If one the wheel sets are under-inflated, then things could get interesting... would the ECU read and use the signal from the inflated or under-inflated wheel? Inquiring minds want to know! ;)
     
  14. Jan 21, 2013 at 2:35 PM
    #14
    Hot Taco

    Hot Taco [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Some more good news. I contacted The Tire Rack, asking if they sold programmable TPMS sensors. Here is the reply I got:

    I'm assuming you'd have to order by phone, since I don't see those sensors available as an option on their web site.

    What this means is that if you can get the codes off your ECU and give them to The Tire Rack when you order your wheels, you'll be able to bolt-on your wheels when the arrive, never have to stop at or give the dealership any of your money just to swap tires, and you'll have a properly functioning TPMS system! :cool:
     
  15. Jan 21, 2013 at 6:09 PM
    #15
    Cape Codder

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    Thanks for the update


    CC
     
  16. Jan 22, 2013 at 4:52 AM
    #16
    merkman

    merkman Well-Known Member

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    I have a second set of steel wheels with sensors for my 2012. The light has been on since I put the snow tires on in mid december. Yesterday the light went out and has stayed off. It still comes on when all the lights flash at startup, but then stays off.... A feature? a problem? an anomoli? What do you think? It really wasn't bothering on!
     
  17. Jan 22, 2013 at 5:44 AM
    #17
    Hot Taco

    Hot Taco [OP] Well-Known Member

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    My *theory* would be that the last time your car's ECU checked for tire pressure, you were out of range of your OEM wheels (I.e., you weren't at home) and so the dash light went on. However, the next time your ECU checked for tire pressure, your car might've been in the garage or close enough to your summer wheels that it could read the sensor IDs and turned the light off. I don't know how frequently a Tacoma's ECU checks for tire pressure, but it isn't doing it constantly.
     
  18. Jan 22, 2013 at 5:53 AM
    #18
    Simon's Mom

    Simon's Mom Wag More Bark Less

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    SBurl Vermont
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    Stock for now
    That was my experience with my 06 Tacoma w/ 2 sets of wheels/tires only running sensors in one set for 4 years.
    It would be fine (no light) until I went out of range.
    Once back home next to the wheels/tires/sensors in storage the light would reset overnight.
    Once I got the light to let me know the one wheel/tire in storage was low...that was pretty funny....
     
  19. Jan 22, 2013 at 8:32 AM
    #19
    merkman

    merkman Well-Known Member

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    Etna, NH
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    That could be the very thing. My OEM wheels are in my cellar, probably 40 ft away from my garage. When I move wood, I drive right by them on the other side of the house only feet from my OEM wheels. I moved wood Sunday morning in preparation for a stretch of below zero temps coming tonight. Well how do we find out how often the ECU checks the sensors? Thanks guys. My dealer wants $42 to flash the sensors, 1/2 hr of labor. I passed on that.

     
  20. Jan 22, 2013 at 8:56 AM
    #20
    4Wheelin4Banger

    4Wheelin4Banger Longtime Toyman

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    Randy
    Ferntucky, NV Halfway between Reno & Falabama
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    3" OME lift 885s & Dakars riding on 33" KM2s Click the sig pic to see the build thread .
    That's my problem with TPMS they don't check often enough to be useful.
    I can get 15 miles/15 min from my house before the light on the dash goes off. Are you telling me that you can't loose enough air in 15 min to make them become dangerous? :eek: I know you can.
     
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