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The sensors that are always useful for monitoring tyre pressure will become compulsory for European cars. Let’s try to find out more with the help of the people who make them

Nicodemo Angì

EVERY SO OFTEN, both generic and specialized press report on the results of surveys that demonstrate that car drivers do not check their vehicle’s tyre pressures often enough. Tests of sample groups in supermarkets, statistical surveys, reports by the road traffic police: the sources of data are different but the figures invariably confirm that car drivers neglect their poor tyres.
Frequently, tyre pressures are incorrect, generally too low, and this leads to a variety of problems: uneven tread wear and fuel consumption, overheating, bead detachment and poor grip.
Correct pressures not only prevent these problems they also reduce to a minimum any dispersion of energy caused by friction when the wheel is rolling.
So there is more than one reason for keeping tyres at the correct pressure and it is good to know that there are methods for constantly monitoring our tyres.
We are referring to the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System known by the initialism TPMS.
It is a small device fitted with pressure, temperature and internal battery charge sensors and a tiny radio frequency transmitter which are housed inside the rim and integrated with the valve stem (and by which it is fixed to the rim itself).
The device constantly measures the abovementioned values and transmits them in digital form to the vehicle’s electronic system; if there is a fault, it will send a warning message thereby preventing dangerous situations.

A multi-purpose tester
For a more in-depth look at the state-of-the-art of TPMS technology and its diagnostic systems, we talked to Saverio Valsecchi, head of the I am VDO and ATE commercial divisions at Continental Automotive Trading Italia.
The sensors used by VDO measure tyre pressure, temperature and changes in internal battery status, which it transmits via a 434 MHz radio frequency (for Europe).
To simplify the management of data from the sensors, VDO has made another version of the well-known ContiSys OBD tester, the ContiSys Check TPMS. This new product has an additional module that dialogues directly with the sensors; it has an integrated supply (rechargeable batteries) and visualizes data from the TPMS sensors on a compact, legible display. The tester also has an important database service and visualizes, for example, tightening torques and sensor part numbers; sensor operation data can be saved for future use. We saw that the tester will also store all the basic functions like FastCheck EOBD, Brake, Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG), Common Rail (CR) injector coding, service reset and more. The TPMS module can also be used with the tester basic model.

New opportunities
From the point of view of prevention and safety, TPMS sensor checking means that workshops can offer their customers another useful service by informing them about the state of their tyres and the level of sensor battery charge. Improvements in service can lead to increased turnover for all operators in the sector, especially with regard to the new European regulations that are about to come into effect.
One of the challenges that await tyre specialists is finding partners who can quickly supply the correct spare parts, bearing in mind the variety of TPMS that have already been adopted by the various car manufacturers.

• Regulations and servicing
TPMS is a very interesting subject and we investigated it more thoroughly with Saverio Valsecchi.

Can you tell us about the orientation of future European regulation and its implications?
European legislation establishes the use of tyre pressure monitoring systems on all new models of cars from 1 November 2012. Moreover, from 1 November 2014, all cars registered in Europe must be equipped with a tyre pressure monitoring system. The regulation refers to all category M1 vehicles and therefore installations of this device will increase significantly in the short term.
Tyre pressure monitoring systems must be installed on summer and winter tyres and the observance of this regulation will be checked by the relevant organizations, for example during periodic roadworthiness checks.
The regulation implies a considerable technological and economical commitment by all those involved. What’s more, this technology is still young and its development will require constant updating that must keep pace with the evolution in car models.

How does the Continental Group assess this new regulation?
With its VDO brand, the Continental Group applies a proprietary technology to TPMS that not only allows it to keep in step with the regulation, but also to evolve with future developments. Apart from the commercial opportunities, these regulations are positive from the important aspect of safety, a subject that is very dear to us: VDO had already developed TPMS long before the regulation made its use compulsory.

What effect could it have on artisans?
VDO’s policy is to develop technological innovations and to make them available for the aftermarket sector together with the know-how necessary for applying them. Specifically, we are certain that TPMS enables technical workshops and tyre specialists to carry out a whole range of new interventions and checks. They will meet the needs of customers who are increasingly well-informed, bring opportunities for increasing the turnover of the operators themselves and make car drivers even more loyal.

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