The Single Most Misunderstood Warning Indicator on Your Instrument Panel – Part I

Tire Pressure Monitor SymbolHave you seen this light on your instrument panel?  What the heck does the symbol mean and what the heck do you do about it?

It is the TPMS – Tire Pressure Monitoring System – indicator. Rare Tire Pressure Light w/ArrowsAnd it is the single most misunderstood and maligned trouble light you will see on your instrument panel. A number of issues with today’s cars and and the people who service them come gift wrapped in this one symbol. The rarer second one shown to the left, discussed below.


We are accustomed to warning lights pointing to a fault with a system in the car. That is rarely the case here, as the light is primarily shown to inform a driver that the tire pressure or pressures are low and there is likely no actual fault with the vehicle! So here we will discuss the merits of the TPMS light.

Under the category of misunderstood, this light has been described by drivers variously as:


  • An exclamation point in parenthesis
  • An exclamation point in brackets
  • An exclamation point in a horseshoe
  • Flames – destined to be a classic!
  • A wishbone
  • An exclamation point in a fish bowl
  • An exclamation point in a cup
  • And, a real favorite, a candle in a glass!

Never has anyone called and said “I have an exclamation point in the cutaway of a tire” – which is exactly what it is!

Everyone from motorists to service personnel, believe it is nothing but a pain in the neck. But, in truth, it is doing its job, calling attention to the fact that the pressure in one or more of your tires is low. Addressing the issue when it comes up will save you money on tires and fuel by extending the life of your tires and by reducing rolling resistance, respectively.

The light suggests four possible scenarios:


The Single Most Misunderstood Warning Indicator on Your Instrument Panel – Part II


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