You certainly took me to task over my editorial about selling TPMS sensors. I received dozens of letters and phone calls saying shops should explain to customers why it is so important to having working safety systems. You know what? I agree.
In a recent editorial, I voiced the opinion that shops shouldn’t be too aggressive in selling TPMS (“Mandating Monitors,” February 2014).
As soon as the issue hit the streets, I knew I was in trouble. I received a lot of phone calls and more letters to the editor than I could print in the magazine.
At the start of her letter to me, Beverly Kaltenbruner, of Harold’s Auto Service in Lethbridge, Alta., said, “Boy, Allan, you sure know how to stir things up, don’t you!”
Well, I guess I do. But I’m not too stubborn not to learn from others and to admit my error when I’m wrong.
In the upcoming April issue of Canadian Technician, I take back my words about TPMS. I also publish nine letters on the subject. They are well-articulated arguments for returning vehicles to the level of safety that the manufacturer intended.
Here are some letters that I couldn’t find room for in the magazine.
A waiver won’t protect you
Since, at present, I believe TPMS is classified as a safety system, what are the legal ramifications to technicians and shops that remove them? Bear in mind that a lawyer will tell you a signed waiver isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
We need annual safety inspections for light vehicles
I agree that TPMS is an important safety system – one of many on today’s vehicles. There needs to be legislation to make our roads safer, with annual safety inspections for passenger cars. Why should annual safeties be limited to heavy trucks? Let’s focus on the safety of everyone on the road (and sidewalks). We need an updated and detailed safety standards manual that includes TPMS, TCS, SRS, ABS, and all relevant safety systems. Inspections would be a boost to the automotive parts and service industry while making our roadways much safer. Say ‘yes’ to TPMS!
Insisting on TPMS can cost business
I totally agree with the safety attributes of TPMS and have gone so far as to sell it to customers at cost to ensure their safety. However, I still have had dozens of customers refuse to purchase them because they can go to my competitors – big and small – and buy winter sets without TPMS. Until it’s written into law and everybody’s on the same playing field, I will continue to give my customers the option of purchasing or refusing TPMS sensors. I think the people who say they aren’t losing business by demanding their customers buy TPMS sensors are fooling themselves.
Consumers need our help staying safe on the road
There’s a reason tire pressure monitoring systems were introduced. Unfortunately, people still ignore the warning light when it comes on. I can’t tell you how many customers have come in with tires that have been totally destroyed because they drove on flat tires!
When I’m driving, if I see a vehicle with one of our license frames on it that has a tire that is clearly low, I’ll have one of our service advisors contact the customer and suggest they have the tire checked – either by us or someone else. The majority of car owners don’t have a clue how to check a low tire. Should we get rid of seat belts and air bags too, because the majority of drivers never have an accident and these safety systems are a huge added expense in the construction of a vehicle?
The aftermarket has sensors for around $50 each. This is cheap insurance over the life of the tire.
Simpler is better when it comes to tire pressure
I realize that the Canadian Independent Automotive Association is trying to do the right thing with its TPMS policy, and that safety is a huge concern for everyone involved in the repair and service of vehicles. But there are other concerns here – like the corroded aluminum nuts that hold these TPMS sensors in place. I’ve seen many where the attaching nut is completely corroded away. Talk about a safety issue. Sometimes simpler is better… like a rubber value stem and an $8 tire gauge.
I read your article on TPMS and have to say I disagree.
The safety features put on today’s vehicles are not only there for convenience of the driver of that vehicle, but for the safety of other people on the road. For example, ABS brakes give you the ability to brake and steer in an emergency in order to avoid a collision – not to stop faster.
If driving on under-inflated tires weren’t such a huge problem, why would the car manufacturers spend the money to install such an “annoying” system?
What if a customer wants a shop to disable the ABS because he had put mismatching tires on the vehicle? Would you argue that ABS does not affect the integrity of the vehicles electronics system? Is it just an annoying orange light?
As professionals, we should ensure the vehicle is put back to the way it was when it was new.
I’m a certified tradesman and a lawyer and I dabble in safety codes as they apply to the trades and reflect our responsibilities toward consumers. I read your editorial on TPMS (February 2014) with incredulity. You are articulating the libertarian view of, “It’s my life I don’t need a motorcycle helmet!” You’re saying safety systems are a cost that we ought to be able to dodge.
The view that signing a waiver insulates the tradesperson from liability is a seriously misguided one. You can bet your bottom dollar that if a vehicle with a disabled TPMS is involved in a serious accident and it appears that the TPMS could have prevented the crash, there would be a lawsuit.
The final point here is a practical one. Cars are a significant investment and they need to be kept in good order. If it costs too much have the TPMS in their winter tires, maybe the motorist should think about parking that car!
Industry needs to get on same page about TPMS
There are many things that give us a sense of pride in our trade, and that build trust in the minds of our customers. There are also times when we may do things that are less professional in order to save our customers some money. Often we come to regret those actions. Not installing Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems just because our customers don’t want to pay the price falls into the latter category.
Doing the right thing – the professional thing – is what we at the Canadian Independent Automotive Association attempt to foster in all of our board deliberations, town hall meetings, conference calls, and newsletters. Often there are conflicting views about best practices. Our conversations are spirited but, with the help of industry experts, we often come to a consensus on what an industry standard should look like.
We certainly hope that shops across the country see our TPMS policy statement and embrace the concept. The more our industry is able to “get on the same page,” the more professional we look.
TPMS not unlike smoke detectors in helping to save lives
Saying that TPMS is only a convenience feature on a car is like saying that a smoke detector in a home is no more than an added selling feature on a real estate listing. If we apply the same logic as your argument, then technically one could be “fire smart” by inspecting their home on a daily basis to ensure no fire hazards exist. That would be cheaper than installing smoke detectors and feeding them with batteries. But building safety codes would never allow that approach, no matter what kind of waivers we offered to sign.
Furthermore, I challenge you to find a single professional contractor who after having to remove a smoke detector would finish the job without ensuring it was properly re-installed and fully functioning.
Yes, there are hundreds of cars on the road with non-existent or nonfunctioning TPMS systems and it might never be a problem. But talk to a family that has lost a loved one due to a car accident that could have been prevented by TPMS technology and I’d bet you’d reconsider your position.
It disappoints me to hear you chastise us for exhibiting professionalism and high standards for safety in our industry.
Consumers aren’t checking tire pressure
I read your TPMS article. Thank you for bringing up an issue that has bothered me for some time now. We’re a small shop that relies almost exclusively on word-of-mouth marketing. As such we try to balance the wants and needs of our clients. We’d always like to sell the “by-the-book” repair but TPMS is one of those fence-sitting issues.
Like you, I don’t like the way OEMs are taking away people’s responsibility for looking after their own vehicles. With extended service intervals of 8,000 to 10,000 km it’s important to have someone checking things like tire pressure. If you think the vehicle owner is doing that, think again!
I disagree that you can often see a low tire. These days with low-profile sidewalls, you don’t see a low tire. Nor do you “feel” it when you drive. By the time you notice there’s a problem, it’s too late.
Educating customers is part of our TPMS policy
I understand the importance of TPMS being installed in today’s vehicles… but most customers don’t. Nor do they know what the light means when it comes on. We do our best to educate our customers. Vehicles should come from the factory with sticky notes informing customers of these safety features and what to look for when something has gone amiss!
It’s my responsibility to educate consumers
I believe TPMS is a safety feature, not merely a convenience system. If a client comes in with a faulty sensor, it’s my responsibility to educate them on why they should have it maintained. Under no circumstances should I just install a valve stem and send them on their way.
Having the client sign a disclaimer would only indicate that I knowingly tampered with a safety system. In a court of law, my client would simply say that without a lawyer present they didn’t know what they were signing.
We, at Integra Tire 99 Street, hope the whole industry will learn about the importance of TPMS and recognize that we need to be united on this topic.
Canadian government needs to get involved here
It often seems carmakers see consumers as having bottomless pockets. The cost of purchasing and maintaining new vehicle safety technology keeps increasing. I don’t believe the answer is to tape over warning lights or disable safety systems. Nor is it to strong-arm consumers into paying unrealistic costs.
As a consumer and a shop owner, I believe Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada should be involved in creating guidelines for vehicle safety systems. These guidelines would ideally provide shop owners the means to cover our butts legally while ensuring vehicle service remains affordable for the average Canadian vehicle owner.
Hopefully the CIAA’s TPMS position paper and your recent editorial will encourage widespread industry conversations that catch the ear of those empowered to solve the problem.
We should uphold the highest industry standards
Let’s not let the lack of government legislation be the reason we’re not professional when it comes to TPMS. It’s a safety system and we should uphold the highest of standards with respect to that. We’ve all seen practices that were once commonplace give way to practices that reflect higher industry standards. Those of us that champion professional behaviour sooner or later bring the rest in line.
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