Grumble all you want. Point fingers wherever you wish. The pressure already is on for tire handlers to get up to speed on government-mandated tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).
That was evident at the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, where seminars conducted by the Tire Industry Association (TIA) on TPMS drew big crowds.
The systems-being phased in now for a September 2007 deadline-are required on virtually every new passenger car, light truck and sport-utility vehicle sold in the U.S. Experts said while they are a challenge, TPMS also provides an opportunity for dealers and service shops.
Kevin Rohlwing, TIA's senior vice president of education and technical services, and others offered the following tips:
* Identify whether a customer's vehicle has TPMS. Look for a metal valve stem with a large collar nut and a dashboard display unit.
*If equipped with TPMS, verify the system is working properly. Starting work on a vehicle that has a malfunctioning TPMS could leave you open to misunderstandings or blame.
* TPMS systems-there are two types, direct and indirect-are set to alert the driver if a tire falls 25 percent below the pressure specified on the vehicle's tire pressure placard. Indirect systems estimate pressure from data collected from the braking system or electronic stability control sensors. Direct sensors are mounted in each tire.
* While direct monitoring systems will warn when a tire falls below the limit, they will not necessarily indicate which tire.
* Unseat the bead away from the valve stem and check; never put a shovel at the valve stem. Breaking a sensor in the valve stem could run $150 for the part alone.
* Replace the nickel-plated valve core every time a tire is removed or mounted.
* If the sensor is removed, the grommet or O-ring should be replaced.
* Protect the sensor during demounting/mounting. The hardware must be kept clean.
* Always check and use the correct torque for tightening the valve stem nut. Some call for 35 inch-pounds, and failure to set the wrench correctly will be a costly mistake.
``How many sets of tires are you going to have to sell if you have to eat $500 worth of sensors as a dealer?'' Mr. Rohlwing asked, adding: ``Is that technician going to take the time to look it (correct torque specifications) up? It's not that much torque. You'd be surprised at how little torque it takes to get these done right.''
* There are four different types of grommets and they are not interchangeable.
* Should a sensor be removed, TIA recommends that the grommet kit be replaced.
* Chrome valve stem caps can become corroded and break off. Hardened plastic caps with O-rings to prevent breakage are available.
* Do not remove or disable the TPMS unit. ``It's just like a seatbelt. It's illegal to remove,'' Mr. Rohlwing said. ``If you intentionally disable it, you're breaking the law.''
* Recalibration is another factor that will make 30-minute tire installations a thing of the past. Some vehicles require a manufacturer's tool. There's no standardization-though progress is being made, including a new line of aftermarket TPMS parts that Siemens VDO Automotive Corp. recently introduced after consulting TIA. (See related story on page 10.)
* Sales staffs must communicate to installers that the work order involves a TPMS vehicle. Customers should be informed the work will take longer.
``The simple days are gone. The 35- to 40- to 45-series aspect ratio tires require special equipment,'' Mr. Rohlwing said. ``This is a whole new business model. You'll need a good rim/tire machine.''
While balancing remains much the same, Mr. Rohlwing pointed out that some original equipment wheels no longer have the outside rim flange to attach wheel weights to. ``You need a two-plane balancer that allows tape weights and clip-on weights.''
After the TIA session, a tire dealer from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, who didn't want his name used in this story, said the seminar had been eye-opening. ``We really didn't know too much about TPMS. I want to learn more,'' said the man, who has specialized in selling wheel and tire packages, special suspensions and body kits. ``My employee broke a sensor, and we had to put in a new one.''
Later, Grant Heldebrand, who runs Grant's Auto in Taylor, Mo., dropped by the Siemens VDO Automotive Corp. booth at the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) and listened intently as Howard Laster, director of marketing and business development for Siemens VDO Automotive Service & Special Solutions, went over the company's new program of TPMS replacement and service parts. He also addressed how they could help tire dealers boost revenue in parts and service.
``We're in a rural area, and we get folks coming in all the time with flats,'' Mr. Heldebrand said. ``We've got to know what's going on with these systems.''
Conceding there's ``a lot of doom and gloom'' over TPMS in the industry, Mr. Rohlwing said, ``We'll live through this.''
With millions of cars equipped with the systems by 2007, he added, ``it could be good for the tire dealers. It could separate the good from the bad.''
For more information about TPMS training, contact TIA's Kevin Rohlwing at (301) 430-7280, Ext. 110.
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