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To increase awareness of the need to maintain proper tire pressure, the U.S. government has taken steps to make it easier for drivers to be aware of potentially unsafe low pressure in their tires. As of the 2008 model year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now requires that all passenger cars and light trucks feature the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).
TPMS is an automated system that monitors the air pressure in a vehicle's tires. When air pressure in one or more tires drops 25 percent or more below the correct pressure, a warning indicator alerts the driver. TPMS typically delivers these alerts to the driver through one of two types of warning lights on the dashboard.
The first uses the official TPMS symbol, which is a cross-section of a tire with an exclamation mark in the center.
The second is a top-view graphic image of a car that indicates which tires are low. Tire pressure is monitored through one of two methods: direct or indirect. Direct TPMS monitors the actual air pressure inside each tire via a sensor mounted within the tire. Indirect TPMS measures tire pressure by monitoring the speed and rotation of each individual wheel. When a significant variation in speed and rotation is detected in one or more wheels when compared with the others, it is often an indication of underinflation. This information is then transmitted to the vehicle's on-board computer, and the driver is alerted.