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New regulations for Midlands motorists as the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System is introduced

From today a new EU law will require battery-powered sensors to be fitted inside every tyre Photo: PA

New regulations which come into force today, will compare how various tyres grip the road, and how noisy they are.

From today a new EU law will require battery-powered sensors to be fitted inside every tyre on every new model car.

The sensors, known as the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, or TPMS, will become part of the annual MOT from January 2015, as in two years' time all new cars will have to have them.

At the last count there were more than 26 million cars on Britain's roads, meaning there are well over 100 million tyres on the tarmac at any one time.

However, it is thought that only 4% of people drive with all four tyres properly inflated.

Figures from the EU show that under-inflated tyres are a contributory factor in 9% of all fatal road accidents and 41% per cent of serious injury road accidents.

The figures also estimate that world-wide, 20 million litres of fuel are burnt unnecessarily each year through low tyre pressure, releasing two million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

"The way it works is there's a sensor valve in each wheel that sends a low frequency signal to the car's electronic control unit. If the tyre pressure drops by more than about 20 per cent that's indicated by a symbol appearing on the dashboard."

– Mike Garwood, National Tyres

French car makers like Renault, Peugeot and Citroen have been fitting TPMS to some of their models for nearly 10 years, but to most people that warning light would be a bit of a mystery.

In a recent survey, half of drivers couldn't identify it at all and others guessed it meant anything from their engine overheating to their car approaching a cattle grid.

The new sensor will cost anything from £40 to £250 per tyre.

If you happen to suffer a blow out, the sensor could well be damaged and it will need replacing.

If the sensor's battery dies, it will need replacing.

And if you haven't got a spare tyre but want to use your car's puncture repair kit instead, the sealant can clog up the sensor so… it will need replacing.

And then there are the garages.

One independent tyre fitter, trading in Birmingham for 22 years, says the diagnostic equipment needed to implement the system has cost him a small fortune but warns that the expense for customers won't stop at simply buying the sensors.

"I've got to go round to each wheel one at a time getting the readings from the sensor then I have to program the sensor into the management system of the car and that's going to cost, depending on the vehicle, between £50 and £60 each car."

– Douglas Cocks, Tyre Fitter

But the new law, a version of which has been in force in the USA for 12 years, is being welcomed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

"There are two key benefits from this system. Firstly, your tyres will be safer if they are appropriately inflated and secondly you will be more fuel efficiency if they are appropriately inflated. So safety and fuel economy."

– Paul Everitt, SMMT

Of course for a few years yet TPMS will only be compulsory on new cars - but sooner or later they will pass into the second-hand market.