Pop quiz: What does the symbol above – found on the dashboard of cars and trucks made after 2008 – stand for?
A) Warning: big hips ahead
B) Yikes! Have you put on weight?
C) Oh no! Your big mug is empty
D) Danger! A viking helmet is heading right for you!
Actually, it’s none of the above – it’s a tire pressure monitoring system, or TPMS for short (in layman’s terms, it’s the light on your dashboard that looks like a fat U with tire treads on the bottom).
And what does it tell you? The TPMS icon lights up when tire pressure in one or more of your vehicle’s tires is 25 percent below the manufacturer’s recommended amount. And all vehicles made after 2008 are required to have them. This stems from the Ford Explorer mess from about a decade ago when rollover accidents were blamed on underinflated Firestone tires. Because of this debacle, it was found that many drivers never check their tire pressure, which in turn puts their lives and their gas mileage at risk. The idea of a warning light seemed like a no-brainer.
If you failed our little quiz, we bet you feel a little silly now. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Schrader, a company that makes tire pressure monitoring system, conducted a survey at the start of 2010 that found that 46 percent of drivers didn’t realize that the little tire-tread icon was supposed to look like tire treads. And even if they did recognize the icon or not, a third of those polled didn’t know what the tire pressure monitoring system is.
Further results showed that 14 percent thought the light was warning them that something else was wrong with their vehicle, but not tire pressure.