Install Your Own Aftermarket Tire Pressure Monitoring System

 There are two main types of aftermarket tire pressure monitoring systems. One type uses sensors that are installed inside the tires, in which case the sensor is typically an internal part of the valve stem. The other type uses sensors that are built into valve stem caps. Each type of sensor has its own advantages and disadvantages, but only the cap type can be installed at home.

If you want a system that has sensors built into the valve stems, you have two options. The easiest is to have the job done by your mechanic. The other is to remove your tires at home and take them to a tire store or a mechanic who owns a tire bead breaker and a balancing machine. You can technically even do this at home if you have your own bead breaker, but most people aren't going to have that option.

In any case, installing an aftermarket tire pressure monitor that uses internal sensors involves breaking the bead on each tire, removing the valve stems, and replacing them with sensors.

Cap-based tire pressure monitor systems can typically be installed without any special equipment. In order to install this type of system, you will need:

  • Enough sensors for your tires.
  • A receiver unit designed for use with the sensors.
  • Somewhere to store your old valve stem caps.
  • Anti-seize compound (optional).
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Prepare your vehicle for the sensors.

valve stem caps
Store your caps where you'll be able to find them later. Photo © Jeremy Laukkonen

The first step is to remove your valve stem caps and store them somewhere safe. You won't have any immediate need for them, but you will need them if you ever decide to remove the monitoring system in the future.

If you’ve recently checked your tire pressure, you can move on to the next step. However, you should make sure to check it if you haven’t in a while.

If your tire pressure is low, you'll want to adjust it to the correct level of inflation prior to installing the sensors. Each car has its own requirements, so make sure to check your user’s manual, the specifications decal, or the tire sidewalls if you aren’t sure how much pressure your tires need.

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Calibrate your tire pressure monitoring system.

disassembled tire pressure monitor sensor
In some cases, you will have to calibrate each sensor before installation. You may also be able to perform the calibration after the install. Photo © Jeremy Laukkonen

Some aftermarket tire pressure monitors are easy to calibrate, and other systems can’t be calibrated at all. If you buy a system that can’t be calibrated, it’s vital to select one that’s compatible with the amount of pressure in your tires.

For instance, if your tires need to be inflated to 35 PSI, but you buy sensors calibrated to 50 PSI, they will always show your tires as under-inflated even though they aren't.

If your system can be calibrated, make sure to set it to the specific amount of pressure that your vehicle needs. You may also be able to set the threshold at which the system alerts you. Since some monitors don’t show the actual pressure in the tires, it’s important to know what the alert threshold is.

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Install the tire pressure sensors.

installed tire pressure monitor sensor
Ensure that each sensor is seated tightly. Photo © Jeremy Laukkonen

The process of installing cap-based tire pressure sensors is incredibly simple. Even if you have no experience working on your car, you won’t have any trouble. In most cases, all you have to do is screw the sensors on in place of the valve stem caps.

It’s important that you don’t cross-thread the sensors, because you need a tight seal for the system to work properly. Regular valve stem caps don’t hold back pressure because the schrader valves are designed to do so. However, cap-based sensors depress the valves the same way that any other tire pressure checker does. That means it’s vital to achieve a tight seal when you screw the sensor on.

You may also want to use a tiny bit of an anti-seize compound when you install the sensors. In some cases, the sensor threads may corrode or fuse to the valve stem threads. If that happens, you may not be able to remove the sensors. However, it's vital to make sure that the compound doesn't squeeze up into the sensor mechanism.

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Activate the system.

TPMS receiver
If the TPMS receiver display indicates a problem, you can take care of it before you suffer a catastrophic tire failure. Photo © Jeremy Laukkonen

The final step is to turn on your tire pressure monitor and verify that it’s receiving a signal from each tire. If it isn’t, you’ll have to go through a troubleshooting procedure to determine what the problem is.

Some systems that are designed for passenger cars may not have a high enough signal strength to work on a long truck, SUV, or recreational vehicle. Your system may also fail to work properly due to low battery levels in the sensor caps.

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Changing tires or buying a new vehicle.

TPMS receiver
Tire pressure monitoring systems that use cap sensors can be moved from one vehicle to another quite easily. Photo © Jeremy Laukkonen

If you buy new tires or rims, or you upgrade your entire vehicle, it’s easy to take a cap-based tire pressure monitoring system with you. While in-tire monitors will typically have to go with your old car in the event that you sell it, it's a very simple matter to just pop off the sensors in a cap-based system and take them with you. Just remove the sensors, replace them with the caps that you saved during the initial installation procedure, and you're good to go.

Swapping a cap-based aftermarket tire pressure monitor system to a new vehicle is just as easy. Just install the sensors on the new vehicle, make sure everything is correctly calibrated, and your new vehicle will have an aftermarket tire pressure monitor just like that.

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