TPMS warning on dash

TPMS Warning Light? Replace your TPMS Sensors for Cheap 41


Last month, I noticed the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) warning light turn on in my 2007 GMC Yukon Denali. When I pressed the button on the dash to see my tire pressures, the left-front tire showed nothing… meaning the computer wasn’t getting any data from that wheel. After a few miles, it started working again, but I kept an eye on it. Every couple of days, it would fail again, and show a warning on my dash, like this:

TPMS warning on dash

Your car’s tire pressure is one of the most important factors relating to safety, ride comfort, and even gas mileage. Usually, when your TPMS dash warning light comes on, it’s telling you that at least one of your tires is low on pressure. That’s a great time to check your tire pressures and re-fill as necessary, or drive by a local tire shop — most of which will perform an air check (and even reset or re-calibrate your TPMS sensors) for free.

However, when a warning like “Service Tire Monitor System” appears, you know it’s something more than simply a little more air in the tires will fix. My educated guess was that the batteries in my left-front wheel’s TPMS sensor was dying. And since all four wheels have identical TPMS sensors, all of which were likely installed at the same time, I knew that the batteries on the other three wouldn’t be far behind.

Unfortunately, you can’t just swap out the battery in your TPMS sensor. A TPMS sensor includes the battery, pressure sensor, wireless transmitter, and the fill valve for your tire, all in one unit. Here’s what an average TPMS sensor looks like:

TPMS Sensor

TPMS Sensor

and here’s what one looks like installed on wheel with the tire removed:

A TMPS sensor installed on a wheel with the tire removed.

A TMPS sensor installed on a wheel with the tire removed.

As the wheel rotates, and as the sensor passes near a receiver in your wheel well on every revolution, it transmits the current pressure to your vehicle’s on-board computer. As the battery in the sensor gets weaker, those transmissions become less powerful, to the point where the system can’t “hear” them any more. On average, a TPMS sensor’s battery should last between 5-7 years. They shut off when not in use, however, so the more you drive, the faster they’ll die.

Of course, your local car dealer wants you to bring your car to them to replace the TPMS sensors. Depending on your dealership, expect to spend between $150-$260 per wheel to have them replaced. Taking mine to the local GMC dealer would have cost me over $800.

Your next best option is a local tire shop. They carry a large assortment of TPMS sensors and will almost certainly have one that is compatible with your car’s TPMS system. The local shops I called (Big O, Discount Tire, & Les Schwab) wanted around $80 per sensor, which included installation. That’s already a big discount over the dealership, and not a bad way to go.

But I’m never satisfied with just a big discount.

I like massive discounts.

So I looked up the TPMS sensor OEM part number for my 2007 GMC and found (without any surprise) that the same sensor is used on nearly all GM’s trucks and SUVs of that era: Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, etc. The OEM sensor (made by AC Delco) had an MSRP of $72.44. Local auto parts stores sold decent quality non-OEM replacements that were compatible with my vehicle for between $52 – $62 each. Alright. Now we’re getting warmer.

But to my surprise, I found these AC Delco OEM TPMS sensors for my GMC Yukon — the exact same ones the dealer would have installed — on Amazon.com for $27.29 ea (including free shipping). So for $109.16, I had all four sensors in my hands within 2 days. I was concerned that maybe they’d be used, or somehow not as advertised. But they arrived brand new, in two days, in the original packaging:

AC Delco OEM TPMS sensors for my GMC Yukon

AC Delco OEM TPMS sensors for my GMC Yukon

My next move was to call the local tire shops to get installation quotes. Big O wanted $16 per tire to install them. I told them that sounded a little steep, but they were quick to inform me that it also included “reprogramming them to work with the car.” I had to bite my tongue so as not to reply “Oh, you mean the complex reprogramming method of holding down the lock and unlock buttons on my keyfob for 5 seconds?” Instead, I just thanked them and called the Discount Tire that’s about 3 miles north of me. They quoted me $12 per tire, and said it would include rebalancing. That sounded better, but I still wasn’t satisfied. So I called the other Discount Tire shop that’s 3 miles south of me and talked to Nate. Nate told me it was a “super easy install” and that he’d do it for $20. I asked if that was “per tire.” Nate said “Nope. $20 total.” I asked about rebalancing, and he said they probably wouldn’t need it, but if they did, they’d just do it. I immediately made an appointment for the following morning.

When I checked-in at Discount Tire for my appointment, and dropped my four TPMS sensors on the counter, the guy checking me in asked me where I got them. I told him I got them for $27 each on Amazon. He looked shocked, and told me that they sell them for $60 each, which is close to what they pay for them. I told him that maybe they should start buying them on Amazon! 🙂

Thirty minutes later, I drove away with my new TPMS sensors installed (they did end up rebalancing the wheels). True to their word, Discount Tire only charged me $20 (plus $1.35 tax). I also asked for the old ones so I could include a photo of them in this blog post:

TPMS sensors installed for $20 at Discount Tire

TPMS sensors installed for $20 at Discount Tire

As it turns out, the old sensors weren’t the original ones that came with the vehicle. The previous owner of my Denali had installed aftermarket wheels, and installed these Schrader-Bridgeport TPMS sensors (which cost around $62 online) with the new wheels. I checked the date code on the sensors, and they were manufactured in March of 2009. That means they lasted for a little over 5.5 years, which is average.

So if your “Service Tire Pressure Monitoring System” warning light comes on, and simply refilling your tires up to the proper pressures doesn’t fix it, you don’t have to take your car to the dealer (unless it’s under warranty, in which case, go to the dealer). If you want to save some money, go to a local tire shop instead. And if you want to save a lot of money, look up the TPMS sensor’s part number for your vehicle, buy them on Amazon, and get them professionally installed for cheap. My grand total for parts and installation of four new TPMS sensors was $130.51. That’s less than your dealership will probably charge you to sell you a single sensor… without installation.

Oh, and my daughter and I downed a couple free bottles of water at Discount Tire, too. 🙂

P.S. A high school friend of mine (who has worked at dealerships) pointed out on my Facebook wall that sometimes your dealership will welcome the opportunity to match the local tire shops. So when you call around, include your local dealer(s), and give them an opportunity to “meet or beat.” Sometimes it’s worth it to them just to get you back in the door!

P.P.S. If you have an older car that doesn’t have TPMS, but you’d like to add it, consider a retrofit kit like this from Schrader. Your local tire shop will probably give you a good deal on installing something like that, too.

  • GratefulReader

    As TPMS was introduced around 2007, a lot of car owners are going to be facing TPMS replacements about now as the batteries die. Buying the replacements at a discount and paying for replacement labor is a great cost savings idea. But the challenge is finding a local shop that is willing to install customer-supplied parts. I have found that most are unwilling to do this and giveup the margin on their parts sales. And in the case where they will agree to do this, they do not warrant the work as warranties only apply to parts they provide.

  • Rob Fulford

    Great job with this review. Very detailed and very helpful. I just placed an order from amazon and got the same price as you noted above. Unfortunately it was after I replaced one of the sensors at a local GMC dealer for $190. I wish I would have read your blog prior to taking my 2007 Denali in for service. It would have saved me time and money. Now that my other sensors have gone out, it’s time to replace them by following your directions above. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Rob. Sorry you had to pay full price for that one, but glad that you’re going this route with the other three!

  • ujjwal kark8

    Replacing TPMS sensors at discount stores is 1/4th cheaper that replacing the same from nissan dealer. Thanks to your post.

  • Bob

    Thanks! Great post. Must be something about 2007 GMC Yukon’s right about now because my light came on yesterday…

    Just ordered the exact new four sensors you did and will install them next week.

    • Great job, Bob. It just came on in our 2008 Mercedes, too! 🙂

  • Robby

    Is there any way to (legally) fool the system into thinking its OK if you just take the sensors out when they fail? To my mind, these TPM systems are nothing but an enormous waste of money, because they don’t replace regular tire checking, and, if you do that, they never tell you anything you don’t already know.

    • Robby: I don’t think it’s illegal to defeat it, but the only approach I know is simply to ignore it. You’re right that they don’t replace regular tire checking, but they can buy you precious seconds before the tire goes completely flat on a freeway when punctured (ask me how I know). For me, because I can buy them so cheaply, it’s not a waste of money! 🙂

  • Alex

    Nice blog. I have a question, where/how do I find out the tpms part number? I have a 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali. Help?

    • Hi, Alex. Just call the parts department at the dealer and asked them for the part number. 🙂

  • Tim

    Man finding this info was Super Helpful!! I have a 2007 Tahoe and one of my sesnsor went out yesterday. I immediately went to Discount Tire, and sure enough they wanted to charge me $64 to replace. I figure I might do some searching for better price. This was my first stop…i hit Jackpot when I found your information first go round!! I will be following your advice, and getting me 4 from Amazon tomorrow!! Thanks…Thanks…

  • JayR

    Terrific post, great info.
    Question: checked the tire pressure on the dash and found pressure to be 5-6 pounds under inflated. Checked at the tire and they were within one pound of the 32 I run. I use a tire pressure gauge that’s attached to the air hose because once appon a time someone said they are more accurate than the pencil type.

    Rechecked on the dash and still 5-6 pound difference.

    Anyone run into this one? Have an Idea?
    2012 Yukon SLT 4×4

  • Thanks Steve, I love massive discounts. Amazon currently at $26.95 and shipping to me now. I am calling all tire shops within a two mile radius – $12 to 18 per tire is what I am getting mostly. Discount Tire wanted $60 a tire to replace with Schrader TPMS. 2007 Tahoe original wheel/rim, sensor came on last week.

  • Tiffany Miller

    I have a 2009 Ford F-150. A week after buying it I went on a road trip in which my tire pressure sensor light came on. My wheels all showed proper inflation. It went off after about 2 days. About 2 weeks later, I went and got new wheels, new tires, and new pressure sensors. That same day, the sensor light went on again. So the next day I went back to that shop and had them re-program the sensor (though I am sure they did that when they replaced the old ones). Again, the next day, the tpms light came on again. It comes on about every 2 days, then is off by the next day. I notice sometimes it happens if I hit a large bump (I live in the boonies in farm country on dirt roads). I thought maybe that was the culprit. But no…..it happens when I am on the highway also. Could it be my spare tire needs a new one, too? If so, would buying one of amazon work? Or does it have to match the others (in which case I assume the shop I got my new tires and sensors from can help with it). How can I find out for sure it is my spare tire’s sensor before blowing money I don’t need to blow? It is rather annoying. I can’t ignore the light. You know, like when the teacher would erase the chalk board and leave a bit still there? Maybe I am a little OCD.
    PS….if getting an amazon sensor would work, I hope a tire shop will place it. I know I was never able to find car places that would dimply install a part I bought myself when something needed fixed on my car. I guess tire shops are different?

    • Hi, Tiffany. The spare probably doesn’t have a TPMS sensor, but even if it did, that wouldn’t be the cause. The sensor inside the tire transmits only, and there’s a receiver mounted in each wheel well that picks up each tire’s individual sensor — and there’s nothing that will read one from a spare. I doubt new sensors will fix your issue, and the first place I’d look for a problem is “upstream” — possibly with one of the receivers. It’s rare, but possible.

      • Tiffany Miller

        Now I am very lost . I once read where someone was having an issue and it turned out it was because his spare was underinflates. So I assumed the spare had one. I have a bad feeling this is going to cost a bit of $$

        • Hmm… I’m thinking that what you read was probably an account of someone who installed their spare and drove with it, which would cause the TMPS sensor to go off — either because the spare was reporting low pressure (if it was under-inflated) or no pressure at all (because most spares don’t have TPMS sensors). I hope it’s not something too expensive. I’d recommend going by a reputable tire shop (like Discount Tire) and asking them to “reset” your TPMS sending units. They have a device that goes through the “learning” procedure that syncs up the senders with the receivers. Don’t go to the same place that installed your new set. They might be able to isolate the issue for you, or at least get you farther along (for free) than a stealership. 🙂

    • Mike

      I know this is 6 months old but I can add this.
      I bought a wireless phone charger for my dash. When that is on there is an overwhelming signal in the 315MHz band that causes the TPMS to fail. How do I know ? When i unplug that device the problem goes away. It also causes my remote door transmitter to lose significant range. So people need to know to look for other interference sources like this because these are RF devices.

  • Richard

    Thanks.. you confirmed what i suspected…….

  • Neil Klotzer

    Discount tire rates very high with me for customer service.

  • CHicks

    Fantastic information! The sensor light came on in my car. I checked the tire pressure, and all tires were right on the money, so I took the car to the dealer as it is still under warranty. The repairman said the sensor was broken and therefore not covered under the warranty. Ford (Classic Ford in Columbia, SC) would charge me $200 for a replacement. I denied having it repaired there, so they charged me $50 to diagnose the problem. Not a happy customer.

  • Alex Elitist

    TPMS is just ripoff IMO. I have worked as a service advisor in shops over 6 years, and I have seen this system fail more than any other component on a car, and the amounts that car manufacturers charge for repair is ridiculous. Most of my customers chose to not repair these sensors, as have I.

    • I appreciate the honest and expert opinion, Alex! 🙂

    • RM Barnes

      what is your solution to the annoying idiot light on the dashboard? Thank you for posting, I’m just curious if there’s something better than ignoring it.
      (’08 Savana 3500)

      • If you’ve remove the sensors, I’d just leave it… just as a reminder that YOU need to monitor your tires. 🙂 I think I remember seeing some guys on YouTube who hacked their way around the light using some pressurized bottles or something.

        • Matt

          I heard you can take a PVC pipe, cap both ends, put a schaeder valve on it, toss the sensors inside, pump it up for 35psi and just toss it under the seat. Problem solved

          • Yep! If you don’t want/need the actual tire data, that will work,

  • The Bear

    Ill have to say you saved me just in time . I was in the middle of going about it a different way that was very costly . Using your method I spent just $138.00, Total Thanks a BUNCH!!!!

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  • Beth

    Did your Service Tire Monitor System engine light go off, after you replaced them? Or, did you have to have the service lights reset?

    • Hi, Beth. The light went off on its own after the new sensors were installed. Depending on your car, it might be necessary to start a re-calibration process, but they’ll often re-calibrate on their own.

  • Sandu Panuș

    can I use a RangeRover tire pressure sensor into a Lexus? Assuming I will find the sensor with similar frequency?

    • If they both use the same frequency and are compatible with the wheels (valve stem size, etc.) then yes!

      • Sandu Panuș

        ok, physically they look similar, frequency both are using 315MHz as I know…

        the only issue is that Lexus sensors are being manufactured by Pacific Industrial Co, and RangeRover are being made by Siemens VDO

        • As long as they physically fit in there, and are running the same frequency, you should be fine! 🙂

  • Alex

    I agree. These almost useful devices are stupid and raised the price of a vehicle, hitting the young and the poor hardest. But our liberal overlords decided we need to have them – partly because of a lot of clueless people that drive around with under-inflated tires, so that is that.

  • JUANNITO

    I just picked up a set from SAE parts co. At 12286 Woodbine Street, Redford Mi. 48329 (877 723 8808) GMC Envoy Denali 2007.PN #SC4006. Yes a set, (4) and new in box. Delivered on Sat. 4/30/16 I started shopping for them when I found out about their battery life. Through E Bay; inc.free shipping, for $54.95. Thanks for the install info. I’ll start calling around tomorrow for install pricing…
    Dont waste you time at Bell Tire, They wanted $78.00 for one wheel when I was having a flat repaired last month in Micigan.
    I had them replace the damaged valve stem with a standard one but they kept my old sensor. I forgot to ask for it as I was on the road and the hour was getting late. They would have Hustled me like they had masks on if I would have agreed to their price. No more Bell Tire for me and my family! Again, thanks for the info.
    …On Monday May 2nd. I went to my local Discount tire shop. They replaced all of the sensors and hooked them up for $12.00 total.They also found and repaired a slow leak in one of the tires for me as it was very low in pressure when they started the job. Now that was great service! I was able to tip the mechanics for their fine service and still left a very happy camper.
    Again thanks for the great info!