Living with TPMS is an acquired taste
I manage Brian's Tire Co. on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, have been reading your publication for many years and have gained a wealth of knowledge about what is going on around the nation and world with tires and other automotive repair issues.
I've paid special attention to Tire Business Staff Reporter Kathy McCarron's articles about the controversial tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS). I felt after reading the articles that there is still a 50-50 like-it-or-leave-it attitude on this new and costly monitoring system.
From the largest auto dealerships to the smallest tire shops like mine (one full-time, two part-time employees), we all have to pocket the expense of tools, scanners and service kits. Some of you have gone as far as keeping a stock of sensors in your shops.
I am fortunate to have parts stores located within a 5-mile radius of my location that are willing to stock these sensors for me. So this expense is not just sitting on my shelf.
Within the last eight months, I have had a minimum of three cars per week come in for flat repairs or tire rotations. I would like to say that every customer who came in didn't know about the costly TPMS sensors on their vehicle. As John Jindra Jr., owner of Quality Tire Service Inc. in Spring Grove, Ill., told Ms. McCarron, “It goes back to educating the customer.”
I have spent about $1,000 initially in tools and kits. I charge a flat fee of $20 per vehicle for just checking all four TPMS sensors prior to working on the tires. By the time I check 300 vehicles, my tools and scanner will be paid for.
Besides fixing an obvious flat tire, I also scan all four sensors to make sure they are working. You don't know what a previous tire shop did, if anything, so we need to cover all our bases.
If I do find that a sensor is not working, at least I can let the owner know and explain the procedure and any costs involved to remedy the problem. A simple flat tire repair involving TPMS can cost my customer anywhere from $35 to $50.
If a tire rotation is involved and I have to recalibrate the vehicle's TPMS, I charge a flat $30 whether I take 10 minutes or 45 minutes to get it to work. If I have to change sensor kits, there is a $4.95 charge for each kit.
These kits are not cheap, especially since TPMS has become a standard mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and you have to replace the grommets and caps every time a sensor is removed from a wheel assembly.
Also please note that tire dealerships or other repair shops will not be able to recalibrate the sensors after installing a new sensor or tire rotation because of specific tools available only to car dealerships. Sometimes car dealers send customers with a TPMS problem to me because they don't want to deal with it or they don't know how to fix the problem.
I am in agreement with Kevin Rohlwing, the Tire Industry Association's senior vice president of education and technical services, when he states that it's not the vehicle manufacturers who are making it difficult. NHTSA and Congress are at fault.
There is no standardization in the implementing and manufacturing of the sensors and it makes our job as tire dealers very difficult and time consuming.
I don't think the government or any other organization should set a fee structure for this TPMS issue.
We as tire dealers will charge accordingly (or not)—like any other service that involves machinery, tools and training—to become efficient and make a profit.
I feel over time, when we get used to TPMS in our daily language, it will be just like repairing a flat tire. (I'm sure before my time, tire dealers were complaining about tire repair patches, plugs and uniseals.)
I have been changing and repairing tires for 10 years and have set a comfortable groove for myself. I don't mind changes in technology. What I object to is the way those changes are given to us.
I feel like we were forced to deal with TPMS even when information was so scarce and no one wanted to touch it because the price of replacing a broken sensor scared us.
TPMS will become a way of life for all of us, just like the laws mandating seat belt usage and having your toddler in a child restraint seat until a certain age and weight.
I thank you once again for a wonderful publication and a chance to let you know what I think, coming from a very, very small shop on an island.
Brian's Tire Co. Inc.