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

Continued from Part I …

This suggests four possible scenarios:

1) All the tires are low on air (check your spare in the trunk too, if you have one). This occurs seasonally as the weather cools, and possibly several times. Solution? Check the pressures and inflate your tires properly.


2) One tire is low. This likely means a nail or other fault causing the tire to leak slowly. Checking all of the tire pressures will reveal a single tire to be low. A qualified service facility will be needed to address the problem.

3) The system needs to be reset. If you’ve recently had the tires rotated or replaced, check with your dealer about resetting the TPMS system.

4) If the light is flashing, there is a fault in the TPMS system, which your dealer will have to resolve. In the first three cases, the light is simply illuminated, not flashing.

If you must drive before addressing the light, please do so carefully…under inflated tires are a potential hazard. Your tires are the only thing between you and the pavement. The light will go out after the proper tire pressures have been restored and after a bit of driving.

And by the way, the light will also come on if a tire blows, but the blowout will have your full attention…

So please, show this light some respect! Its doing its job, even if you see it illuminated on multiple occasions during year! Your tires need the attention.

Now if every car could tell you which tire and the exact air pressure…

Rare Tire Pressure Light w/ArrowsFinally, there are a handful of cars that use this symbol instead, so be aware! Its still a cutaway of a tire, and somewhere along the line it was decided that the exclamation point would be more easily understood.

In another article, we discuss how too many of the warning symbols shown on today’s instrument panels assume too much of today’s information-overloaded drivers and do everyone a disservice.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) establishes symbols for use on controls, indicators and telltales applying to passenger cars, light and heavy commercial vehicles and buses, to ensure identification and facilitate use.

It also indicates the colors of possible optical tell-tales, which are supposed to inform the driver of either correct operation or malfunctioning of the related devices. The American National Standards Institute also has a hand in this.


To date, the ISO has defined over 220 of these symbols, and growing! They are supposed to be identified easily by all people everywhere regardless of language and background. But all the good intentions – and not too mention a good deal of time, effort and money – has resulted in far too many symbols that mean absolutely nothing to the average driver.

Check out the videos below.

And one filling the tires.

… Back to Part I


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