Choosing TPMS tools

Chances are, you're already familiar with the acronym TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System). Whether you're just updating TPMS tools you already have, or looking to expand into tire and wheel service and starting fresh, there is a lot to know about working on TPMS vehicles.

"TPMS represents huge opportunity for the tire service centers and auto repair garages alike," said Scot Holloway, general manager of Bartec USA. As of 2008, TPMS is on all vehicles, but it has been around in various forms for better than 10 years.

"TPMS is definitely the growing segment" for the repair shop, said Holloway.

The chief tools a shop needs to do TPMS work are scan tools that "re-learn" the systems following work, various torque wrenches to work on the sensors and a knowledge base in manuals or online to keep up with the various OE specs.

Now is a good time to consider TPMS-specific tools as there is a "leveling off from anything new coming out," said Holloway. "I think everyone's comfortable now with the concept that the re-learn in many cases is requiring a more complicated tool — one that can connect to the OBD."

Shops should identify their customer base when expanding into TPMS, said Mike Crimmings, TPMS product manager at ATEQ. "If they do a lot of Asian-model vehicles, then they should be using a tool which can rewrite sensor information to the car ECU … needed when replacing, or in some cases rotating, tires on Asian-model vehicles.

"Otherwise, they can save money and reset TPMS systems with a diagnostic trigger tool."

Saving money on the tool may not be the best way to go. Holloway and Crimmings both mentioned tools that are available that can reset multiple systems with one process.

"When using just a trigger tool to reset TPMS systems, there are multiple sources where a user can find information to force the car into learn mode … ready to accept new sensor information. It might take some time for a technician to become familiar with these different procedures," Crimmings said.

But, some scan tools "allow the technician to use one procedure to reset TPMS systems," said Crimmings, which greatly reduces the learning curve for techs.

Both Holloway and Crimmings stressed that help after the purchase of a TPMS scan tool is essential. Customer help lines for questions are key, they said.

Techs should know where they can turn for help after the purchase, said Holloway, whether it is online, a help line, training DVDs or more.

"A properly functioning TPMS will drive business to the repair shop," Holloway said. "A repair shop ready to handle TPMS will increase customer satisfaction and profits."

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