Nissan Takes Tire Inflation to the Next Level

While it's been known for quite some time that low tire pressure can sap gas mileage, and if deflated enough, can also be a serious crash hazard, there seems to be very little attention paid to the subject. But, thanks to technology from Nissan, there will be no more guess work when it comes to determining your vehicle's correct tire pressure.

Nissan's recently introduced "Easy Fill Tire Alert" system alerts drivers to a low-pressure situation through a dashboard display that shows the pressure and position of the problem tire or tires. This system makes it easy to determine if there is a serious condition where the driver should stop immediately, or if the driver can continue on to the nearest gas station, tire shop, or dealership. While several luxury car manufacturers have offered this technology for years, what makes Nissan's system unique is what happens when it comes time to air up the tires.

Once the driver has stopped and begins filling the tire, the car's emergency four-way flashers blink to confirm that air is properly entering the tire. Then, when the tire has reached the required air pressure level, the horn will chirp once. If the driver puts in too much air, the flashers will begin to blink faster and the horn beeps three times to alert the driver of the error so that he or she can simply begin bleeding off pressure. As the over-inflated tire(s) deflate, the horn will chirp once again when it has reached the proper inflation level.

While the system has already been in use since 2011 in Nissan's Quest minivan and upscale Infiniti QX56 SUV, the technology will now be available to the masses with the completely redesigned 2013 Altima. Nissan also has plans to introduce the system on even more of its vehicles in the near future.

While fallout from the decade-old Ford Explorer/Firestone rollover catastrophe meant that Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems became mandatory on every car or truck built since 2008, Nissan's improvements take the safety measure a step further. On most vehicles equipped with TPMS, a small light vaguely resembling a cross-section of a tire with an exclamation point in the center becomes illuminated when one of your vehicle's tires is 25% below the recommended amount. Unfortunately, the system, in its basic form, does not alert the driver to the specific tire or tires affected, nor does it tell the rate at which the tire or tires are losing pressure. Worse yet, only a third of drivers knows what the TPMS symbol even signifies, while only 44% of drivers regularly check the tire pressure of their vehicles.

While any safety feature is a welcome addition, Nissan's significant improvements to the existing tire pressure monitoring systems can help further improve driver safety, and more importantly, help reduce the risk of a low tire pressure-related accident. Of course, with fewer accidents comes a cheaper insurance premium, which is something we can all appreciate.

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