Do You Know What This Symbol Means?

Tirepressurewarning Do you recognize the symbol above? It lights up in your instrument panel and looks like a U-shaped pictograph with treads and an exclamation point in the middle.

Do you understand what it means now?

If you guessed a low tire-pressure warning, you are right. If you didn’t recognize the symbol, that’s also understandable because one out of three drivers do not, according to Schrader, a company that makes tire pressure monitoring systems. 

The warning for the TPMS lights up when one or more of your vehicle’s tires is 25% below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. The system is now required on all vehicles starting with the 2008 model year. 

The issue here seems to be that the public hasn’t been properly educated on the warning symbol, which is supposed to be “idiot proof” and understandable across a wide variety of cultures and languages. Yet 46% of drivers couldn’t figure out that the icon represents a tire and 14% thought the symbol represented another problem with the vehicle entirely, according to Schrader. 

As we said earlier in the week, properly inflated tires are vitally important to your safety. Low pressure will affect your braking, acceleration, stability, cornering and fuel economy. 

The government instituted the TPMS mandate after the Bridgestone/Firestone tire failures on the Ford Explorer in 2000, a controversy that was partly attributed to inadequately inflated tires. 

One-Third of Drivers Can't Recognize This Idiot Light (USA Today) 

Related
Cars.com’s Guide to Tire Maintenance

The original image we posted in this story is below, and is a warning of a TPMS malfunction, not low tire pressure. They are extremely similar and can be confusing. Please note that the icon you see above will turn off once you properly inflate your tires. The icon you see below will require a service visit.

TMPS_TellTall

By Colin Bird | August 4, 2010 | Comments (23)
Tags: Safety

Comments 

David in Houston

In our repair shops, I see many customers coming in because of this light. It's a great opportunity to serve the customer by educating them, inspecting their tires for any punctures, and fixing the issue or just reinflating to the proper pressure. Here in Houston, we see lots of customers come in during the Fall when we frequently get 30-40 degF outside temperature drops within an hour. A lot of times, this is just enough to push it past that 25% threshold.

I wish the public knew more about the lights showing on the dash - the temp & oil lights, especially. It would save folks a TON of money if they heeded these warnings.

I wish more people would just take the time to read their owners manual. Would save them time, money, even prevent accidents. ALL your dash lights are explain in it, gee.

supercrew02,

I completely agree, and was about to say the same thing. Confusion could easily be avoided if people would take the time to RTFM.

I have to admit I do not recognize that symbol. I don't think my vehicle even displays that symbol since my car doesn't have a tire pressure monitoring system.

It was really interesting to read about this symbol. Thanks for making such an informative posting.

robyn

I thought it meant "Pregnant woman on board".

Speaking of pregnant women: Thank you for a great idea. I'm looking for games to play at my daughter's baby shower that are not the typical corny baby-shower games. This one will be challenging since only 1/3 of drivers know the answer. Some of these women are car-savy,like my daughter, but it will be a challenge to most.

Joseph Glaser

I have never seen that symbol before. However, I identified it as a cross-section of a tire. Then figured out what would put that warning symbol on the dash. Low tire pressure was the obvious answer.

Justine

You all did better than me!!!
I figured it meant don't eat while driving or your backside will expand.
And, no, I'm not blonde.

Kathy Heiple

I wish the low tire pressure light stated which tire or tires are low. Is that possible?

Im a Cow

I thought it meant hot girl walking down the street

Kathy H.,
Many luxury cars and even quite a few non-luxury cars have a display in their trip computer that show each tire's current pressure. Typically if a new car isn't equipped with a trip computer it doesn't have one, but not all cars equipped with a trip computer have a tire pressure display either. It's just a good place to start checking.

John kicking tires in Death Valley


This symbol will go on also if your spare tire gets low it drove me crazy for a few min. on my Toyota FJ when I had a flat in desert..People have taken their vehicle's to the dealer for this problem..

Paul

Read your fricking owners' manual!!!

Brian

I did not know what it was but guess what, I would of read the manual if it came on. I find it silly people are that dumb that they would take it to a dealer.

Not sure how much money this adds to a car but I would think in the long run it would actually save the average person money. They will not have to replace tires as often due to low tire pressure.

The icon shown in this blog indicates TPMS Malfunction. A similar symbol, without the two dashed arcs left and right, indicates low tire pressure warning. See http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/rulings/tpmsnprmpost2cir/tpmsnprmpost2cir.html

Phil,
Thanks for pointing that out. We've made the corrections above and I guess it shows that it's easy to confuse the symbols even for us.

lexicon5

What ever happened to reading the manual? Why not write about THAT? Call a spade a spade. If a driver doesn't know what that light is, perhaps their IQ should be called into question. Maybe they dont know what a yield sign is either, or a stop sign...basically they are morons.

I propose this new design for the flat tire symbol: http://bit.ly/cRCk5D

Skinner

To all those who say read the manual (which I am in complete agreement,) have you seen any recent manuals? They are sometimes multiple books, and make War and Peace look like a short story.

It's nice to have a website like this one that will draw attention to little-known, but important details like this low tire pressure warning symbol. I personally had no clue about it, so thanks for enlightening me!

dhons

how can i fix it?i make an equal tire pressure..sometimes it doesnt appear in vehicle diagnostic computer..

shaz

what does it mean when the stop sign comes on

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