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Tyre pressure monitoring system reviews - comment

I still can’t find comment boxes under articles and reviews, so this is my comment on above review.

As always, even for these comparatively cheap products, the reviews don’t cover many if not most TPMSs available in Australia. In particular, the biggest question that Choice could very usefully address is “Are ebay TPMSs any good, and what shortcomings do they have if any?”. This is the sort of consumer advice we need, help actually buying products in the real world market.

Choice’s highest rated product (Fobo Tyre) had several possibly serious shortcomings, not addressed or discussed. Is this high rating deserved…?

a) it does not have a fast air leak detector,
b) its wheel-mounted sensors seem to be larger and therefore probably heavier than other brands (going by battery size). External TPMSs have particular problems with ‘flapping’ against wheel rims when mounted on longer valve stems and this would be worse the heavier the sensor. This issue is often discussed by users but not mentioned by Choice.
c) it only covers a limited range of tyre pressures (23-49psi) which is less than any other reviewed product and rules it out for 4WDs at least.
c) some products including this one use a phone as its display, but nowhere are we told to what extent it operates or displays if you don’t have your phone on and mounted where you can see it. Potentially a big disadvantage but not mentioned, though I assume it also has a dedicated display of some kind. PS Actually I have no idea if it has a dedicated display - the buying guide says not, but the review says it has a “very clear display” which doesn’t make much sense if that is discussing your phone. It’s not even obvious what “very clear display” means - does it mean well laid out with good information, or bright and high contrast and visible in sunlight or what?

More generally there is no info on what information is displayed by each product, not even whether the display is always on, and not even whether four wheels can be displayed at a time, or how difficult it is to view a particular tyre pressure.

There’s no discussion on the usefulness or otherwise of temperature displays on these units with external sensors - is it any use at all?

No test of sensor battery life, one of my most significant pre-purchase data points.

No mention of source of power for the display unit - battery powered displays may put off some people and hard-wired might put off others. Some people have USB 5V easily available and others might have a cigarette lighter socket spare – these differences are significant and essential information for purchase selection.

The fast leak detector might be considered essential by many would-be purchasers, and a discussion of how these devices work generally, how well fast leak detection works, what is the delay for reporting pressure on products that do NOT have fast leak detection, and what that means for how you use it would all be necessary for a well-advised purchase decision.

There’s no attempt to check accuracy of displayed pressure of these products. Given TPMSs are notorious for inaccurate readings, this is one test that is easy enough to carry out and very useful information. Driving around with correctly filled tyres and a gauge that reports 3psi difference might be more than an inconvenient distraction, though I’m not sure anyone offers better than ± 1.5psi accuracy. Some facts would help here and that’s what we rely on Choice to provide. PS in fact nothing seems to have been actually tested at all.

Also a discussion of tyre pressures vs temperatures would also help many buyers, particularly those who notice that the reading is considerably lower next morning than it was when they got home the previous day.

No discussion of alternative devices that use internal tyre sensors, or the advantages and disadvantages of each.

All in all after spending a couple of hours on my own research, I was disappointed to find that Choice did not answer any of my outstanding questions. These are hard things to buy given the rather pathetic information provided by manufacturers, the huge range in prices ($46 to $1000), and the average person’s inability to buy multiple systems to find out how well they work and what you can expect from them. This is exactly the kind of issues that we look to Choice to resolve. My interest is that I am looking to replace my 4 year old unsatisfactory Tyredog device and at the same time have been asked to advise a friend on what TPMS to buy. I should be able to say “look at the Choice review” but that definitely would not answer his needs, or mine.

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Hmm. Well since you have made this in your topic a “comment”,
I have two comments on your post.

  1. TL;DR
  2. Why should my subscriber money be used for such a test that would be of so little value to almost all motorists?

There is provision for Choice paid members to comment on each product. I’ve checked.

Members of Choice can also comment on the overall report and testing at the end of the ‘Buying Guide’ by selecting the Yes/No response to ‘did you find this helpful’.

@MattSteen who authored the section for the review (I’ve copied him in here) would be the best one to respond to your observations.

Tyre pressure monitoring used to be a luxury car option. It’s adaption as a standard accessory is now being driven by the EU. It’s great that Choice has taken the time and effort to provide some guidance and test after market products. Like all after market products as you point out, one size does not fit all.

I was enlightened by reading the test report and reviews of the models selected by Choice. Obviously there are more brands and designs available, especially from OS through Ebay, Amazon etc.

I’m not sure that any of this would entice me to retrofit our passenger vehicles. It has been adequate to check the tyre pressure regularly and adjust as needed. Fear of a blow out may be less of an issue these days than being stuck hundreds of kms from anywhere. More a fear of a car having run flat tyres, or one of those half sized substitutes.

I wonder whether the unreliability of the built in devices will in time be as great a hazard a due to failures to detect and report low pressure as relying on human attention?

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I wonder if it becomes more of a requirement for those cars without spare tyres, which many European brands/models and some Asian brands/models not seem to have. If one has a small leak, then knowing about it is important if one ventures some distance from home/civilisation.

Having a full sized spare it becomes less of an issue…as one can change a tyre in the event of a failure…and allow the vehicle to continue on.

A blow out or rapid deflation (which often occurs particularly when 4wding), it would have little value…as the deflation in many instances can be almost instantaneous if say a stake goes through a sidewall or a sharp rock punches the tyre foot.

The other thing is I wonder how the extra weight (of retrofitted units) impacts on the tyre balance, and if one needs tyres to be rebalanced after fitment of the pressure sensor.

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I was referring to the comment boxes that used to be under each article. I understand you can review or comment on each individual product, but not sure if you can still comment on an article (review or buying guide). Maybe you can but I can’t find it, hence my use of the community. Possibly this has now become Choice’s desired means of allowing consumers to comment.

As you say TPM is becoming more mainstream now that first the US and then Europe require it, but still some cars are sold here without it, and many are the cheaper method relying on rolling circumference. There seems to be a spike in interest in these external add-ons as suggested by the number of people I know interested in buying one. I’ve had one for a few years on the 4WD where they are actually very handy, but not happy that several expensive sensors have died, so was looking at the market again for a replacement. I understand that the article did provide a very useful introduction to these devices but if you were actually going to buy one, you could not really rely on the article to decide which to buy.

A friend wants to buy one after having a flat of which he was unaware until his expensive 4WD tyre was ruined, one of the hazards of modern vehicles and excellent suspensions. I had the same experience of not realising a rear tyre was flat on a Golf until it was too late. I don’t know in either of these cases if checking tyres regularly would have helped since both punctures likely occurred in the trip when the tyre went flat.

As you say TPMSs are another point of failure and therefore potential unreliability, particularly these aftermarket external types. With external sensors you rely completely on the air seal of the sensor cap, because the valve itself must be open all the time that these are fitted.

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Some products come with small counterbalance weights but most seem to rely on the fact that ~10g is not enough to make a difference. I’ve not noticed any effects.

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I was wrong here - the test/review does include a pressure accuracy test. In the way of recent Choice reports however, we are not given the advantage of these tests - it would be really useful to quote actual measured figures. 80% vs 85% score doesn’t tell me anything but one is more accurate than another, perhaps significantly or perhaps not. But publishing the actual figures would tell you a lot about what to expect generally from these devices, and compare between brands more usefully.

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One of the joys of Choice is the often excellent articles that introduce and explain some technology or product that is new to many people. Everybody knows what a vacuum cleaner is and does, so unless a review of vacuum cleaners is able to cover every brand and product, there may be less value in reviewing them than, for example, Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems. It seems aftermarket TPMSs have become a bit of a thing in the last few years so I believe there is great value in this review (and in updating and improving it :smile: )

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Miniature spared conveyances should not be allowed into speed zones that exceed their specifications … in reality and practicality they are city-bound rides at best …

In the case of an instantaneous catastrophic failure with a large stake or sidewall injury I’d agree, but many of the shredded tyres we see in the outback are the result of running low for a long time and the full diameter of the tyre is shredded beyond recognition - pressure warnings can pick this up long before it becomes a problem - a couple of tyre plugs and some more air gets one home (I recall one ‘outing’ using over a dozen tyre plugs, but that is another story :wink: ). Even for near catastrophic failure, say if the tyre takes 20 seconds to deflate, the low pressure warning can allow one to shave off considerable speed before it is completely flat.

On accuracy and weight - clearly both important issues.

I’d be happy with 10% tolerance on accuracy. Anecdotally, this is more difficult to achieve from ‘EBay style purchases’ than ‘known in-country brands’. Low pressure threshold/alarm is a must.

I have a bike that has factory TPMS - works well, albeit in a measure best known to Germans apparently :slight_smile: I’ve locked in a mental conversion … funny how we still keep to psi when our sausages are in kilograms - even German sausages … but I digress … I certainly would be careful on other bikes and even some cars - I can imagine when ones velocity is high (when it was allowed, I’ve taken things to well over 80 m/s) that the small weight of a TPMS might be rather distracting to the ride !

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Another reason TPMS can be beneficial are the trends in tyres. For example my Renault has a factory TPMS and 225/40x18 profile tyres. In response to manufacturers the aftermarket low profile trend seems to be keeping up.

Improper inflation can probably impact low profile tyre life more quickly than a higher profile one, whether from a puncture or lack of attention.

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I wonder if this is due to a slow leak…or lowering pressure to allow better traction in sand/off road and then forgetting/ignoring lower pressure when returning to the bitumen. A TPMS may be useful for a slow leak, but could be annoying if it gives regular warnings when driving off road where tyre pressure has been lowered. A solution could be to disable it when lowering tyre pressure, but this tends to defeat the purpose of the TPMS and when it could be needed (and also needs to be reactivated when tyres are reinflated and returning to bitumen).

My last employer fleet team did identify poor vehicle maintenance by employees as an issue and every month would send out emails (a checksheet) asking those with vehicles to check fluids, washer water, lights and tyres (condition and pressure). Maybe as a society, in general we have become complacent (or lazy) in relation to regular vehicle checking and maintenance by the driver, and why devices like TPMS are becoming more common on come vehicles (in addition to not having full sized spare wheels where any major tyre damage can be catastrophic to a journey). I wonder how many of us walk around the car before driving to visually check tyres and what may be under or behind the car (or do we rely of TPMS, electronics and reversing cameras)?

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JMR, We’ll thought out. Addresses most of the areas that would interest me and my caravanning mates.

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I guess occasionally people might forget to air up after deep sand work, but out here it’s mostly punctures or bad maintenance/checks that seem to be the cause after running at speed on defined gravel roads/tracks where there is a lot more sidewall and tread stress to heat up the tyres.

If one airs down to say 12-15 psi, it should be apparent that any significant speed is dangerous … should … a TPMS can be configured to ignore the sensors while aired down by powering off the head unit :wink: If one is tooling along at 10-20 in a creek bed it is unlikely a flat will result in much more than annoyance and some puncture repair. If people are going to exit the creek onto the sealed highway and accelerate to and sustain 130 then its possibly just one of the many reasons they will come to grief. TPMS is just a handy tool …

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I use a Safety Dave Tyre pressure monitoring system .

8 sensors 4 for the ute and 4 for the van and cannot speak highly enough.

2 year replacement warranty and he even supplies spare batteries for the sensors anti theft fittings ( I remove mine when not towing the van).
Any issues Safety Dave is only a 1800 call away

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Thanks @JMR - great feedback and suggestions, however sorry to hear you were ultimately disappointed by CHOICE.

We conducted the TPMS test a while ago as a test of consumer interest. Since then we’ve only updated the test once but we unfortunately did not get the traction to invest more member money into the category.

TPMS has had low traffic, search and limited requests as a category over the last few years, which means we haven’t invested more testing into improving the test.

Often when we test the interest of consumers in a category, we’ll do what might be considered a light test (as per the TPMS). If it generates a lot of interest, we’ll add testing regimes to it. By light test, we might just test its primary purpose - monitoring pressure (or accuracy).

For example, we started off testing washing machines (many years ago) just doing soil removal - that’s their job - but now we do gentleness performance, rinse performance, water and energy use and spin efficiency, while also collecting the features and specifications as well. We still don’t test all the features though, as much as we want to - limited resources.

We usually do at least a few iterations of a test (for example, we did runners a few years ago and repeated it last year). Many of them just don’t generate the consumer interest even if they are a requested category. Sometimes we test the category less often (we might test washing machines 10 times a year, but others once every few years). It depends on their popularity, which is a measure of how useful we are as a consumer testing organisation. We put the money where people show their interest.

The reviews don’t cover the market: this is unfortunately the case for almost every product category we invest in. This is purely around limited resources. To cover all the market in any category would mean increasing membership fees to cover dramatically increased testing costs. We try to manage a balance between covering the popular majority of the market and keeping our membership fees low enough so they don’t turn you off investing in a non profit entity that has a lab service and also lobbies for consumer interest. It’s a fine balance.

CHOICE reports don’t quote actual figures: this is correct, we generally put interpretations in for the convenience of people to understand immediately what product is better than another. Raw figures often need interpretation and most people want an easy route to consumption - not wanting have to learn how to interpret the figures. It’s a thing we are known for, and its rare that people want the raw figures - where we have included them in the past its been due to some demand (so, for example, kWh in energy usage).

Again, sorry to hear it wasn’t a great experience for you and we didn’t have the full complement of what you were looking for.

Matthew

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Thanks Matthew for detailed reply. I do appreciate the limitations placed on testing due to finite resources, but still wonder whether there isn’t more scope to adopt different approaches to acquisition of expensive products for testing, and to presentation of the test data.

1–One of the dilemmas in testing a limited number of products is that it potentially disadvantages suppliers whose products are not mentioned. If members are going to choose what to buy from the reviews, then untested products obviously won’t be purchased even if they are as good or better than those that were covered. And of course the consumer is missing out on what might have been a better buy. What I’m suggesting is that as well as comparisons, one of the purposes or at least outcomes of choice reviews is providing information on the market - what’s available. In fact this table could be updated by readers, members and suppliers to provide a very useful resource. User reviews could be attached as they are for tested items providing some info on the untested products as well.

So two possible suggestions on this are:

a) in reviews provide a list/table of all similar products you know of, including those that were not purchased or tested. This would probably still not be complete, but would alert members to available alternatives and provide some context for the test and inform on the scope of the market. It should not be a huge burden on authors because it would just be a tabulation of what was presumably covered in the original selection process.

b) provide a means for manufacturers and suppliers to submit product for test that avoids the possibility of special selection or preparation of the product. One possibility might be a policy under which CHOICE guarantees to test a particular item (assuming if it fits with the tested category) if the supplier guarantees to buy back the item post-test, destroyed or not. CHOICE still buys the item themselves in the normal way. As well as avoiding special selection or preparation, it would also be clear that CHOICE has not received funds that might distort independence while still allowing suppliers to ensure they are included in a test. I understand this doesn’t address the cost of the additional testing time and effort that would be required.

2–I’m disappointed but not surprised to find that the whole world isn’t interested in TPMS :slight_smile: But again I’d suggest that there is hidden value in such tests in terms of alerting people to something they didn’t know existed or much about. Perhaps many readers appreciate learning something but don’t have a need to comment or react at that time. In any case most of my criticisms could be addressed by a relatively minor update to the Buying Guide and How we test, and including just a couple more units in the test. In particular and hugely helpful would be inclusion of one or two of the very cheap models available from eBay and/or China direct. There is a wealth of information of use to the consumer in comparing cheapies with ‘mainstream’ - sometimes the cheapies might turn out to be as good as more expensive units. When they are not, this is useful too and exploring the deficiencies is a great way of teasing out what’s important and what’s not. You did this in passing in the review of USB powerbanks and it was very informative. I have just purchased a $40 TPMS without the advantage of CHOICE’s input so we’ll see how that turns out.

3–I will continue to lobby for more ‘actual figures’ in reviews. In fact contrary to “CHOICE reports don’t quote actual figures”, you did provide useful figures in the powerbank review and IMHO it was by far the most useful part. (By coincidence I just wrote a review on that article talking about this). The scores were completely incomprehensible to me so I needed the hard figures to make any sense of it. (Two examples re scores in that review - a) how did a unit that requires 30 hours to recharge manage to get the highest score under any circumstances? b) what is the Performance Score telling you? The ‘i’ button explains that it is merely a reflection of the measured capacity in mAh. But this would be silly because how do you meaningfully compare a powerbank that has an intended lower capacity for pocket use with a larger unit of higher capacity? The scores given don’t follow capacity anyway so I don’t know what they are actually based on. Perhaps it’s the difference between claimed capacity and actual.

I understand the need or desire to simplify technical results through something like scores, but surely there is a middle way. For a start, most people could actually relate to or make use of the mAh figure given in that article, and there are many other examples where some hard data would work for many people. There are equally many examples where the score is more mysterious/confusing than the original data, and combining two or more data points into the one score leaves us with very little info at all about any one aspect.

My strong request/suggestion is to include some hard data (as in above example) in the mainstream review, but ALSO include lots of supporting data (the figures from which scores are derived) in an optionally accessible part of the spreadsheet. This is very little extra work and it would make no difference at all to people who are happy with scores, other than a link or button they don’t press. For those of us who do click on “Show test data” it would provide a much better understanding and useful points of comparison. For example in the TPMS review, showing the actual errors in pressure readings tells you about variability as well as errors themselves and gives us an idea of what to expect in terms of accuracy - something we don’t get at all from the current article.

Thanks again Matthew for accepting my apparently endless criticism with good grace. I do intend it to be constructive criticism that reflects my own experience in using CHOICE reviews. I appreciate what CHOICE offers but would love it to do more or ‘better’ in some ways that arguably might be financially and technically possible .

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Good points that resonate with a some of my observations on other Choice tests or reviews.

Sometimes one of the biggest challenges as a consumer begins with identifying the contenders in the market place.

A further challenge is identifying what is important to consider or assess. This may also include some guidance on differences in needs. Choices buying guides are really helpful most of the time on this aspect.

That Choice can or can’t actively test certain products is less critical. In practice some products are so specialised by design and standards certification that it is not ever going to be practical for Choice to road test. It then comes down to individual members to submit their one off experiences where relevant.

In particular I like the suggestion that Choice members etc could in advance of any review or review and test be asked to submit their suggestions of suppliers or brands available nationally or locally.

I’m curious more than keen on the usefulness of after market TPMS.
It’s great to know the option exists.

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Two people I know have experienced slow leaks that left them with ruined tyres that probably would have been saved with a working TPMS. I’ve also found them useful as an alternative to daily checks and as a quick check after changing pressures for difficult patches (4WD) - just a glance at the TPMS and see that everything is OK. My experience with a Tyredog system is that the sensors fail easily and are expensive to replace, so for much of the time I found myself driving with one or two wheels unmonitored. As mentioned I have just ordered a $40 system so will see how that compares. If it is basically OK I could buy a second unit and have plenty of spare sensors for less than the price of a single Tyredog sensor. IME, aftermarket TPMS are useful and justify their purchase price (if they don’t fail), particularly for country/off road travel.

I agree CHOICE buying guides are always helpful, regardless of how many products are eventually tested.

Pre- and post-test suggestions from members could very usefully include “things to watch out for” to alert CHOICE testers and writers to aspects that might usefully be mentioned or tested. Continuing with TPMS example, readers might have mentioned the unreliability of (some?) sensors, the need to test battery life, the fact that external units can ‘flap’ around and rub on tyre rims and that there is simple fix for that, the fact that some internal-sensor systems may be difficult or impossible to re-sync after rotating tyres, the difficulty in quickly checking tyre pressures if you choose to fit the supplied security device…etc.

I guess CHOICE already hopes for some of this information post-test through user reviews but not many members bother with reviews. CHOICE already collects long term reliability data on some products, so combining this with all above suggestions might result in a routine database of available models, price, reviews, qualitative reliability information, quantitative reliability data (for some products), and user suggestions and requests for test. Most of this info would be provided by users, directly inputting to the database. By aiming to cover the whole market as far as possible you could have a great resource with little extra workload after initial software. For each product CHOICE chooses to cover, it could sit alongside the existing resources…

Buying guide / Reviews / How we test / What’s available

It would never be complete but user-provided info would still be extremely useful if it was systematised and presented in such a high-profile way.

I use a Saftey Dave TPMS 8 sensors in all on ute and caravan
And have never had any issues with this TPMS
have no hesitation in recommending
…I have nothing to do with Safety Dave