Your car’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) is designed to display a dashboard warning light if a tire is low on air. But if the TPMS light is blinking or flashing, it means something else entirely.
What does it mean when the tire pressure light blinks?
A blinking TPMS light indicates an issue with one of the individual TPMS sensors. While it may be worn or damaged, the most likely cause is a dead battery within the sensor itself.
TPMS batteries are built-in, usually last 5-10 years, and cannot be changed. If a TPMS battery depletes, you must replace the entire sensor.
In this simple guide, I’ll provide more details about why your car’s tire pressure light might be blinking, including how to fix it.
I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about the TPMS light, including:
- Does the TPMS light go off automatically?
- What happens if you drive with the TPMS light on?
- Is it safe to drive with the TPMS light blinking?
Let’s get started.
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How The TPMS System Works
A Tire Pressure Monitoring System has four sensors located on the inner side of each tire’s valve stem, transmitting pressure readings to an electronic control unit (ECU).
The recommended PSI rating for the average car tire is between 32 and 35. Most TPMS systems are designed to alert the vehicle’s occupants via a dashboard alert if PSI drops roughly 25% in one or more tires.
The TPMS allows the driver time to inspect if any tires are low on air and add more before it becomes a safety hazard.
What A Blinking TPMS Light Means
TPMS Sensor Battery Is Dead
A blinking TPMS light likely stems from a dead sensor battery. These batteries are built-in, last about 5-10 years, and cannot be replaced.
If a TPMS battery does fail, you’ll have to replace the entire sensor.
TPMS Component Fault
You may also see a blinking tire pressure light if a component inside the TPMS fails.
As an example, a faulty antenna or a wiring issue may keep the sensor from transmitting readings to the vehicle’s ECU.
TPMS Sensor Is Missing
The TPMS is a safety and convenience feature, so it’s not required for a vehicle to function.
When changing tires, be sure to also transfer the sensors, or you’ll likely end up with a blinking TPMS light.
How To Fix A Blinking TPMS Light
Press/Hold The TPMS Reset Button
Some cars have a TPMS reset button beside the steering wheel, often near the traction control button.
The process usually involves pressing and holding it until the TPMS light flashes. Your car’s owner’s manual will explain the specifics.
Reset The TPMS In Vehicle Settings
If your vehicle does not have a TPMS reset button, it may have a similar option in the infotainment system’s on-screen settings.
Be sure to also check the gauge cluster in front of the steering wheel.
Disconnect And Reconnect The Battery
Like a modem, disconnecting and reconnecting your car’s battery should reset a TPMS light that’s blinking.
However, if the cause is not resolved, like a flat tire, don’t be surprised when the TPMS light reappears.
Reset The TPMS Using An OBD2 Scanner
You can also reset a blinking tire pressure light using some OBD2 scanners. These tools are great for reading and displaying diagnostic data.
Not sure how to use an OBD2 scanner? Check out our detailed guide.
Replace Dead Or Faulty TPMS Sensor
Finally, you can fix a blinking tire pressure light by replacing the afflicted sensor.
This involves removing the tire and draining it to reach the inner valve stem where the sensor is, as shown in this video from Repair Geek.
TPMS Light: FAQ
The TPMS light should disappear once each of your car’s tires is within its recommended PSI range.
If the TPMS remains, you might need to drive up to 10 miles before it goes away. Just note that some vehicles require staying at or above 50 miles per hour.
Driving a car while the TPMS light will not cause the vehicle harm. The tire pressure monitoring system is a safety feature that simply watches and alerts; it does not alter vehicle performance.
Yet, if ignoring the TPMS light leads to a flat tire, it can potentially be a safety hazard.
A blinking tire pressure light will not make your vehicle any less safe to drive. Should you make a habit of it? Probably not.
Just note that a blinking TPMS light basically means the system isn’t functioning, so you won’t be able to depend on it.
Blinking TPMS Light? Here’s What To Do
The first thing to do if your car’s TPMS just lit up and is blinking is pull over when safe and inspect the tires for damage.
To test if a sensor has failed, you can check each tire’s pressure using a gauge and verify them against the scanner’s readings. If pressure is within recommended levels, but the light is blinking, you may need to replace the dead or faulty sensor.
After replacing, drive the vehicle for 10 minutes at 50 MPH or above. If the TPMS light remains, you can reset it manually using any of the methods shared in this guide.