One Third of Drivers Can’t Recognize this Idiot Light

One Third of Drivers Can’t Recognize this Idiot Light

What if you made a product that shows up on every new car, a product that can save lives, but a third of motorists can’t use the product because they have no idea what it is?

A third of motorists can’t recognize the system for low tire pressure, a survey by a maker of the systems found.

Such is the quandary faced by Schrader, a company that makes tire pressure monitoring systems, or TPMS for short. For the one out of three drivers that is, it’s the idiot light on your dashboard that looks like a little U with tire treads on the bottom. Oh. That.

The TPMS icon illuminates when tire pressure in one or more of the vehicle’s tires is 25% below the manufacturer’s recommended amount. It became required by law in 2008, the direct result of the Ford Explorer debacle a decade ago in which rollover accidents were blamed on underinflated Firestone tires. An outgrowth of the scandal was the finding that many people never check their tire pressure, putting their lives — not to mention their gas mileage — on the line because of underinflation. Requiring a new idiot light seemed like an ideal solution

Schrader says it conducted a survey at the start of the year that showed 46% of drivers couldn’t figure out that the little tire-tread icon was supposed to look like little tire treads. Whether they recognized the icon or not, a third didn’t know what the tire-pressure monitoring system is.

Another 14% thought the light was warning them that something else was going wrong in their car — but not tire pressure.

Yet the survey found almost all, 96%, of drivers agree that driving with under inflated tires is a serious safety issue, although only 44% said they regularly check their tire pressure.

Armed with its scary survey results, Schrader created a website:

The site,, is designed to try to tell drivers about inflating their tires The comprehensive site helps drivers understand the purpose and benefits of TPMS, as well as what steps to take when the TPMS alert illuminates. The site also explains the many economic and environmental benefits of proper tire pressure.

“Drivers can sometimes take it for granted that their vehicle’s four tires are what keep them connected to the road,” says Carl Wacker, a vice president for Schrader. “Just like seat belts and air bags, TPMS helps protect drivers when their safety is most at risk.”

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