Tire pressure monitoring systems are required on new vehicles by law in America. This is not a feature that Honda installs as a feature on just some Civic trims. For more than a decade, Honda has been installing systems and they have been driving some Honda Civic owners crazy. They certainly do help let you know if a tire is losing pressure. However, in many cases, these systems can be an annoyance as well.
Here are the reasons that your Honda Civic has a “Tire Pressure Monitoring System” alert. We will refer to it as “TPMS” from here forward in our story. Before we begin, if your TPMS system warning light is on now, pull to safety and immediately check your tire pressure. Some vehicles can display the pressure in the vehicle's information display. If your Civic doesn’t, use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressures. The correct setpoints for your Honda Civic are listed on the driver’s door. Do not drive your Civic with the TPMS light on without verifying that the tires have proper air pressure.
Civic Tire Pressure Warning - Temperatures Have Dropped
If seasonal temperatures are dropping and your TPMS warning light has illuminated, the reason is most likely due to the temperature difference between when the pressure was last set and the current temperatures. The pressure inside of a tire drops with temperature declines. You need to reset the tire pressure in early winter and also early summer. Lower pressure does not mean the air leaked out of your tires. The air inside simply became lower in pressure as the temperatures dropped. This happens to all tires, not just those in your Civic, regardless of which gas is inside of them (air or nitrogen).
If you find that the pressure inside your tires is lower than the setpoint, add air to top them off to the correct pressure. The TPMS light will normally go out shortly after you set the pressures to the proper level. If just a single tire is lower than the rest by more than around 30%, have a tire technician investigate.
Civic Tire Pressure Warning - You Have a Flat Or More Than One Flat
The reason you have a tire pressure monitoring system in your Civic is to detect a flat tire. Or possibly more than one flat tire. If the light comes on while you are driving, this is the likely cause. Pull off the road to a safe area as quickly and safely as you can to investigate. A brief visual inspection is not enough. Use a tire gauge to check the pressure in all four of the vehicle's tires. If you have a flat, refer to the Civic’s’ owner’s manual (see below) on what to do.
Civic Tire Pressure Warning - TPMS System Failure
A driver's initial reaction when a warning light comes on is to hope it is just a mistake. The TPMS system in your Civic may have a problem, but it is unlikely. Many people who has a problem with the tire pressure system in any vehicle quickly go to every Facebook forum to report it (angrily). However, the Honda Civic is not a vehicle that struggles with the TPMS system more so than others.
If you have checked that the pressure in your tires is correct using a tire gauge, and the TPMS system is displaying a warning, ask a mechanic for help. You don’t have to go to a Honda dealer, but if your Civic is under the initial new vehicle warranty, that would certainly make sense.
Like any system in your Civic, age and damage can cause a problem with the TPMS system. Individual sensors in the tires can be replaced, but the system's computer will still need to be re-initialized. We suggest that this job is best done by a mechanic or tire professional who understands the system and can handle the work.
Civic Tire Pressure Warning - Tire Sealants
Emergency tire sealants like Fix-A -Flat, or Slime may cause your TPMS sensor to malfunction. This does not mean that the sensor is now broken. Here is what the Fix-A-Flat brand says about TPMS sensors and its product: “Fix-a-Flat is tire sensor safe. After the qualified tire repair professional has repaired your tire, they should clean the TPMS device with water to remove any sealant that may have come into contact with the device. After the repaired tire is replaced and inflated, the TPMS system can be reset and will resume operating as normal.”
Civic Tire Pressure Warning - New Tire Or New Tires
If you buy new tires for your Civic and immediately get a tire pressure warning light, check the pressure. Flats can happen any time, even driving out of a tire shop parking lot. If you have checked the pressure and it is properly set, return to the tire shop and let them know that the Civic’s TPMS system has indicated a problem. If the shop changed the valve stems in the tires, the system's computer may need to be re-initialized.
Be aware that some TPMS systems are sensitive to the sizes of tires. You should only use the exact size tire your Civic came with. If you have mounted aftermarket wheels with a different size tire, the retailer who did the work should be able to explain to you how they will resolve the TPMS system errors.
Civic Tire Pressure Warning - Nitrogen Is Unnecessary
There are some dealers and shops that suggest nitrogen as a solution to a TPMS problem in a Civic The claims that these advocates of nitrogen for tires make are unfounded by science.
Furthermore, your Honda Civic was designed to work perfectly fine using compressed air. Can inflating an underinflated tire with nitrogen cause the TPMS light to go out? It might. Just as inflating the tire with compressed air should do. If you wish to spend money on nitrogen, feel free. Just know that the Civic doesn’t need it.
A TPMS system alert can be an annoyance, but for the most part, it is a feature that is intended to help us in case a dangerous situation develops. Add air to your Civic’s tires when temperatures begin to drop in early winter. Reset the pressure to the proper PSI again in early summer. These are the best two habits you can have to avoid TPMS issues in your Civic.
Honda Civic Owner's Manual Link
Civic Tire Pressure Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How do you reset the TPMS light on a Civic?
A: Use the owner's manual link at the bottom of the story to find your Civic’s year and instructions. Follow them, but be aware that resting the system may not solve the underlying issue.
Q: Can the TPMS be in the Civic turned off?
It cannot be turned off. It can be reset.
Q: Is it dangerous to drive with the tire pressure light on?
A: Yes, driving without knowing why the light is on is dangerous until you have checked the pressure with a tire pressure gauge to verify that the pressures are correctly set.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
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