those of their rivals, because car buyers demand increasingly sophisticated technology.
So, there is no incentive or benefit to standardize on-board computers, including TPMS and the accompanying relearn process required after changing air pressures, rotating tires or replacing sensors.
MacKinnon’s follow-up statement to his class is grounded in sound business logic and establishes the foundation for his teaching objectives.
He states, “Those who get trained, purchase the right tools and learn how to use them for the many TPMS reset and relearn procedures will meet customer expectations and make money. Those who don’t will lose business to their competitors.”
Many TIA training participants provide their own true confessions. At the beginning of a class, some acknowledge a lack of understanding of the basics, including which automatically relearn sensor IDs.
For example, a service technician correctly installs a new sensor on a Honda Pilot SUV or Honda Ridgeline pickup truck. The vehicle is backed out of the service bay and immediately parked. When the customer starts to drive away, the Malfunction Indicator Lamp blinks a warning. No matter what the technician does, the light won’t turn off.
The fact is that everything is working properly, but the service steps will be retraced maybe several times to no avail.
The solution is simple, if known. Enter TIA’s recently updated TPMS Relearn Chart.
Rolled out at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the updated chart makes some of the more confusing TPMS applications clearer for technicians to understand and follow. It’s divided into domestic and import vehicles by make, model and year. Listings indicate whether direct or indirect systems are used, when a system relearn is necessary, a relearn summary, OE and replacement part numbers and torque specifications.
Looking at the Honda Pilot listing, the technician who has been wrestling with the persistent warning light will discover the vehicle merely needs to be driven above 15 mph for a minimum of 40 seconds after service is complete and the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Communication will be established between the on-board computer and sensors, IDs will automatically be learned, and the light will stop blinking.
MacKinnon said his first hurdle when joining the organization a few years ago was learning about TPMS. He had spent more than a decade in the retail tire industry as a technician, supervisor and manager. He needed accurate, up-to-date TPMS information, but it seemed that each resource he contacted gave him different and sometimes conflicting data.
“Shops face the same challenge,” he says. “They seek TPMS knowledge and basic skills needed to use available tools, charts and manuals. It’s confusing for them because new information, technology and products including different manufacturers’ replacement sensors are being introduced every month.”
Even replacing an OE sensor with another manufacturer’s sensor can create installation challenges that may lead to extra expenses for the shop or a flat tire for the customer. The 2008-2009 Chevrolet Cobalt models utilize either Continental Siemens or Schrader OE snap-in or clamp-in sensor valves. The clamp-in sensor, designed to handle higher pressure, has several service packs available from other manufacturers, according to the TIA Relearn Chart.
Installation requires a different amount of torque to tighten each replacement manufacturer’s sensor nut to a wheel surface. The chart specifies that 80 inch-pounds (9 Nm) is needed for the Continental replacement part, 71 inch-pounds (8 Nm) for the Dill and 62 inch-pounds (7 Nm) for the Schrader.
The torque trifecta creates a gamble for an inexperienced tech. Too much torque applied to the replacement sensor nut may break the sensor, cutting into the shop’s profit margin. Too little torque may result in a slow air leak or the sensor becoming dislocated. Either leads to a tire going flat and the customer becoming unhappy.
TIA’s full-day training class led by MacKinnon is split into two equal-length sessions. The morning session covers technologies required to service all TPMS and includes the latest industry innovations and product introductions. The afternoon provides hands-on experience with participants using proper TPMS tools and physically changing sensors.
“I believe at the end of the day our participants are extremely confident that they can service the majority of vehicle makes and models that will show up in their service bays,” he says.
MacKinnon was quick to point out that TIA hasn’t been able to develop its manuals, charts and training sessions without the help of major industry players. Sensor manufacturers Schrader, Dill and Continental have contributed to the trade organization’s information base.
“They’ve been big supporters of ours,” he says. “In addition, all of the major TPMS tool manufacturers provide information to our organization about new product introductions, which keeps our training current.”
He says that TIA’s ultimate goal is for tire technicians to know how to service all TPMS sensors, but the training helps the organization benchmark tire dealers’ levels of expertise and adjust class information accordingly.
He adds that tire dealers demonstrate care for their customers by investing a lot of money in proper tools and manuals, but they are hesitant to ask the right questions of sales reps.
“Knowing the basics about how to properly use the tools gives a tire dealer the ability to properly service the vast majority of vehicles and get the most out of his or her investments,” he says. “TIA won’t tell a dealer which manufacturer’s tools to purchase, but we will demonstrate and train them how to use the tools and meet customer needs.”
MacKinnon compares the expanding and constantly evolving TPMS industry with the wheel weights industry. In the beginning, there may have been two types of wheel weights used to balance a tire. As the industry matured, more products and balancing processes were introduced. Now, with the conversion to non-lead products, the wheel weight industry is again complicated. But in that, dealers can find opportunities.
The tire service industry adapted to each change. Today, tire technicians are keenly aware of subtle wheel weight differences and recognize minute variations simply by observation.
TPMS will eventually be the same, says MacKinnon. “The tire dealer service departments that recognize the wide variety of sensors, systems and their diverse requirements will be successful.”
Sean MacKinnon can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] TIA’s TPMS Relearn Chart can be ordered at www.tireindustry.org.