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Direct or indirect TPMS - what’s the difference?

TPMS stands for tyre pressure monitoring system. These systems have been fitted to all new vehicles for sale as of November 2014. TPMS can be direct or indirect. This article explains the difference between the two systems and provides some tips on using them.
The two types of tyre pressure sensor

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Direct TPMS: the most common system

As its name suggests, a direct TPMS measures tyre pressure directly and in real time. Each of the wheels is fitted with a pressure sensor, which is usually connected to the tyre valve. The sensor sends information to a receiver unit located in the vehicle. The driver is alerted if a loss of air pressure occurs. Direct TPMS are the most common and effective systems.

Advantages

  • Accurate and responsive
  • Detects a faulty tyre

Disadvantages

  • A constraint when changing tyres
  • Requires maintenance (seals need changing)
  • Limited lifespan (five to seven years)

Indirect TPMS: the easiest to maintain

Indirect TPMS do not measure tyre pressure but instead measure the rate of revolution of each of your car’s wheels. The system uses the ABS or ESP systems to check that wheels on the same axle are spinning at the same speed. If the rate of revolution differs (+/- 20%), you will be warned of the anomaly via a dashboard warning light.

Advantages of indirect TPMS

  • No special procedures required when changing a tyre
  • A simple and inexpensive system
  • No maintenance required

Disadvantages of indirect TPMS

  • Inaccurate and unresponsive (particularly for slow punctures)
  • Detects anomalies but without identifying which tyre has lost pressure

INDIRECT TPMS

DIRECT TPMS

TECHNOLOGY

COST

PRECISION

WARNING SYSTEM

MAINTENANCE

Direct or indirect TPMS - how to identify them

Direct TPMS are easy to identify if the sensor is incorporated into the valves. In this case, the external part of the valve is rigid and generally metallic.

Indirect TPMS use conventional valves made of flexible black plastic.

Indirect TPMS

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Some manufacturers only fit direct TPMS on their vehicles, they include: BMW, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Opel, Toyota.

Others only fit indirect systems, including Seat, and Skoda.

Some use both, depending on the model: e.g. Renault, Volkswagen, and Audi.

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