By Jim Piraino. Over the past couple of months, it has come to my attention that auto repair professionals are seeing a rise in the failure rate of the wheel sensors that supply the signal to Tire Pressure Management Systems (TPMS). Most of these failures are due to dead batteries, as each of the four sensors has a non-replaceable battery built into them. In most cases, these batteries have a life expectancy of 5 to 6 years. Although some upscale vehicles, such as BMW, have sophisticated systems that allow the technicians to monitor battery life as a percentage (using a scan tool), most will give no warning of pending failure. For the millions of vehicles rapidly approaching this 5 to 6 year age bracket, it’s not a question of if the sensor will fail, but rather when it will fail.
As an auto repair professional, you need to be prepared to capture this surging market by assuring that you have the proper tools and equipment needed to reset the system. You should identify suppliers and make sure that they will have the necessary inventory available (some common sensors are available through aftermarket suppliers).
Prepare a policy and procedure for dealing with this issue. It would be wise to replace all four sensors at one time, so creating a package that offers all four sensors, installation and wheel balancing makes the most sense. An extended warranty of 5 years on a no cost replacement is perfect for this service, and offering such a warranty will elevate your shop well above the competition.
Wheel sensor costs are estimated to be between $50 and $75 per wheel. When marked up properly, and coupled with labor, the ARO for a four wheel service could easily be $500 to $700. As you can see, this is a very worthwhile service to offer from a profitability standpoint.
Lastly, I’d recommend creating a handout that informs your customers what to expect if they fall into this category. For example, let them know that if a light or message comes on, the first thing they should do is check the tires to be certain there is no loss of air pressure, then make an appointment at the shop, etc. Some customers may choose to ignore the light, and if so, you need to be ready to properly explain why this is a bad idea.