DETROIT -- Nissan Motor Co. is trying to limit driver excuses for ignoring tire pressure warnings with its Easy-fill Tire Alert technology. The system was launched on the redesigned 2011 Quest minivan and is being spread across the carmaker's lineup for 2013 models.
Believe it or not, it's already been more than a decade since concerns over rollover crashes with Ford Explorer SUVs focused attention on the need to keep tires properly inflated for safe driving.
One result was a government mandate that vehicles be equipped with tire-pressure-monitoring systems, also known as TPMS. The system warns the driver if pressure in a tire falls 25 percent below the recommended inflation level.
Sadly, there are plenty of drivers who ignore the warnings. Their reasons include that adding air to tires is a dirty job, that it's too hard and that a pressure gauge is not handy.
There are a variety of monitoring systems. Some just activate a warning light on the instrument panel when one or more tires are underinflated. More advanced systems display a readout of the air pressure in each tire, making it easier to identify which one is low.
But Nissan's system takes the individual readout for each tire one step further -- it signals when the tire reaches the recommended pressure, no tire gauge needed.
The pressure sensor in each wheel communicates with the car's body-control computer. When air is added to a tire, the car's parking lights flash three times to let you know the system is active. (Note: The ignition has to at least be in the accessory position for the system to work.)
When the tire sensor reads that the proper pressure is reached, it briefly sounds the car horn. That's the signal to stop adding air. If the tire is overinflated, the car horn chirps three times -- a signal that some air should be let out. When the recommended pressure is reached, the horn chirps again.
Nissan's system takes advantage of technology already on the car to make it easier to keep tires properly inflated. Don't be surprised if this technology is adopted by other automakers in coming years.
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