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What Can You Do About TPMS Kits & Winter Corrosion?

The salt and calcium grime that make roads less slippery in the winter don’t just rust the paint on your hood, they can also corrode critical pieces of your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). What can you do about TPMS kits and winter corrosion?

Tire pressure monitoring systems use a wheel-mounted valve to detect your tire pressure and send a signal to your dashboard when your tire pressure gets dangerously low. An estimated 70 per cent of vehicles sold in Canada since 2010 are equipped with TPMS.

Over the last few winters, Kal Tire has noticed that the metal valve stems used on some TPMS-equipped vehicles can corrode over winter.

What causes TPMS kits to corrode?

While some TPMS manufacturers now use rubber valve stems, most early valve stems—the part that sticks out from your wheel and faces the street—were made of aluminum. In the face of salt and calcium on winter roads, it’s often just a matter of time before corrosion sets in.

That corrosion is amplified because metal valve stems, which are aerial, have a small amount of electrical current running through them. Salt and calcium on electrolysis is a recipe for corrosion, but what does that mean for your TPMS?

What happens when a TPMS kit corrodes?

When your metal valve stem begins to corrode and you don’t catch it, you can no longer remove the sensor or you may also not be able to remove the valve cap to check or add air to your tires.

When that happens, you won’t get a flashing TPMS symbol on your dashboard, and, surprisingly, your TPMS will continue working even when the stem is corroded. That’s because the stem is the source of aerial communication, so the actual sensor inside your wheel will continue working, although at some point when the stem is corroded to the point it falls off, communication will be lost.

What you will have when you make it into a service centre is a choice of two expenses:

  1. Replace the valve stem with another metal valve stem (if the sensor has a replaceable valve stem). This is a minor expense, but to ensure your safety, you’d probably have to do it once or twice a year.
  2. Replace your TPMS sensor. Kal Tire’s universal rubber valve TPMS is a good option. We use the Schrader Easy Sensor system, and it fits about 85 per cent of vehicles that are TPMS-equipped. This is a bigger expense but you’ll have peace of mind and safety for the long haul.

How can you prevent TPMS valve stem corrosion?

To avoid letting your valve stems corrode, take your vehicle into a Kal Tire location near you to have your TPMS inspected. The best thing to do, save from switching to a convenient rubber system, is to regularly replace the metal valve stem components at seasonal change overs.

Is your vehicle’s TPMS system more than five years old? Read our post about flashing TPMS lights and expiring sensors so you can ensure your TPMS is always working to help save you from a blowout.

Photo credit: Schrader