If you’ve ever rotated your tires, you know why you need a TPMS tool. Most likely, the TPMS light came on, even though there’s nothing wrong with the tires. Resetting the sensors in the tire pressure system makes sure their readings are accurate and can clear this pesky and distracting warning light. That’s not the only thing tire pressure tools can do. Many of them can give you helpful insights into your tire pressure, with data you can’t get from OBD2 scan tools.
If you want to maintain your tires at home, check out the five best automotive TPMS service tools reviewed below. Any of them will let you get back on the road without a stop at your local mechanic.
But first, let’s start with the recommendations!
Best TPMS Tool 2020 Recommendations
|Editor's Picks||Product||Our Rating|
|Best Overall||Autel TS501||9/10|
|Runner Up||Autel TS408||8/10|
|Also Great||Autel TS401||7/10|
|Best for GM||VXDAS OEC-T5||9/10|
|GM & Ford 2in1||JDIAG Super EL-50448||8/10|
Below comes the buying guide! But you can go straight to the TPMS tools reviews HERE!!
Table of Contents
- 1 Best TPMS Tool 2020 Recommendations
- 2 What is a TPMS Tool?
- 3 What Does A TPMS Tool Do?
- 4 BUYING GUIDE
- 5 Best TPMS Tool Reviews
- 6 Final Thoughts
- 7 FAQs
- 8 How Does a TPMS Tool Work?
What is a TPMS Tool?
TPMS stands for the “tire pressure monitoring system”. This electronic monitor in your vehicle’s engine allows you to track the tire pressure right on the dash through a TPMS light or diagram.
Tire pressure relearn tools allow you to reset, reprogram, or activate the TPMS sensors every time you change or rotate the tires so the ECU can take accurate readings of the current tire pressure.
What Does A TPMS Tool Do?
Poorly inflated tires not only wear out prematurely but they also affect the fuel efficiency and overall safety of the vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of road fatalities that can directly be attributed to defective tires stands at 738 for the year 2017 (Source – https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/tires). Besides, TPMS has been a legal requirement for all vehicles in the US since 2008. It was first introduced as law by Congress in the TREAD Act of 2000. But it wasn’t until 2008 when it was made a mandatory requirement. A requirement on all vehicles after 2008, every vehicle on the road today has one. It would be great if every manufacturer used the same standard.
A good tire pressure monitoring sensor tool will gather everything it can from your vehicle’s TPMS sensors array. It will let you reset the TPMS Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) as well as help your vehicle’s main onboard computer know where the tire sensors are even if you replace them. Then, the tool can program and activate the sensors, so they can work with the vehicle. One of the best choices of a universal automotive TPMS service tool is the Autel TS408.
However, GM and Ford went out of their way to make their system proprietary. Therefore, you need a TPMS scan tool designed specifically for Ford and GM vehicles like JDIAG Super EL-50448.Check Price at Amazon
There are various functions that a tire pressure monitor tool can do. Here are the main ones:
The device can pick up information from a TPMS sensor and relay it to the user. As you walk to each tire, the sensor will transmit information like pressure level, tire temperature, battery level, sensor ID, etc.
Most tools can be used to clear the TPMS Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL). The TPMS light can come on for many reasons, top of the list being driving with low tire pressure. Other reasons include replacing a tire, tire rotation or switching from summer to winter tires and vice versa. If the light comes on you can turn it off with a TPMS reset tool.
More often than not the Engine Control Module (ECM) will not know the new location of TPMS sensors after a tire rotation or replacement. You can use a TPMS tool to “tell” the ECM the new location of sensors. A tool that supports this function is known as a TPMS relearn device.
TPMS sensor programming
Besides vehicle relearn (as explained above), a TPMS tool can be used to program TPMS sensors. While the relearn procedure tells the ECM how to find sensors, programming installs the necessary protocols/applications to make the new sensors fully compatible with the vehicle’s ECM. This is necessary when you are dealing with an aftermarket sensor. A tool that does the procedure is known as a TPMS sensor programming tool.
You can use a TPMS activation tool (also called TPMS trigger tool) to activate or “wake up” a TPMS sensor that is inactive or in “sleep mode”. When activated the sensor will start to gather and transmit information.
A TPMS decoding tool packs several functions in one device. It can trigger sensors, receive sensor info and send that info to the ECM.
There are certain tools that allow you to check the functionality of the system itself, not just the sensors, tires or ECM. These are called tire pressure scan tools, and they primarily help you to identify faults in the whole system.
- Safety. Your tires are less maneuverable when they’re low on air. You’ll especially notice this on tight turns and quick stops. These effects can start even before the pressure is small enough to trigger the TPMS light. A TPMS scan tool can let you find and fix problems before they get serious.
- Fuel efficiency. When the tires are too low, the engine has to work harder to keep the car moving forward. As a result, the vehicle consumes more gas to go the same distance. Using a TPMS scanner helps you keep the tires at the right level, maximizing your miles per gallon.
- Home repairs. Without a tire pressure relearn tool, you have no choice but to go to a mechanic for tire maintenance. Being able to reset your sensors lets you rotate or replace the tires without professional assistance.
Types of TPMS Tools
All tire pressure monitor tools interact with the sensors within the tire pressure system. Different devices have different capabilities as far as how they interact with those sensors and the engine computer. The main types of tire pressure sensor tools are:
- Decoders: These tools are primarily aimed at communicating with the TPMS. They can read sensor information like pressure, temperature, and wheel rotation, and send it along to the vehicle’s computer. Besides, they’re capable of activating or triggering inactive TPMS sensors.
- Programmers: Along with reading TPMS sensor data, these tools are capable of programming the sensors, which allows you to replace the sensors themselves and the tires.
- Relearn Tools: TPMS relearn tool is the simplest type of tire pressure sensor tool that can reset the sensors after you replace or rotate your tires. However, they’re not able to program the sensors, and often don’t provide sensor data.
Beside specific TPMS tools for GM and/or Ford, most wanted TPMS tools today are 3in1 devices. Then when you buy a typical TPMS tool today, you can decode, relearn, reset, and program your tire pressure monitoring system.
If you’re a DIY and looking to program TPMS sensors in 3 easy ways, buy the Autel TS408 TPMS service tool, my favorite choice. However, the best choice for experienced home mechanics or professionals is the Autel TS501 TPMS Programmer, the upgraded version of TS408.
This company makes both diagnostic tools for home use and professional-grade diagnostic equipment. Autel TPMS tools are renowned for their speed and reliability. Their customer service is also top-notch. While Autel tools can get pricey, they’re worth the investment if you need the best performance.
JDIAG is a newer company, founded only in 2015, but they have made quite the splash in their short time on the market. Their primary focus is innovation. They devote a significant amount of their profits to research and development to bring their customers the best products at a great value.
Another company known for value is VXDAS. This Hong Kong-based wholesaler focuses primarily on diagnostic equipment for home use. Their products have the features most home mechanics need, with an emphasis on convenience and user-friendly design.
TPMS Tool Pricing
There’s a big price difference between the most basic TPMS diagnostic tools and the advanced professional models. The good news is that it means you can find something on any budget. You should know what to expect from devices in different price ranges.
- Under $50: You’ll mostly find basic relearn tools in this price range. The compatibility is also often limited to one or two manufacturers. On the plus side, they’re usually more portable and more straightforward to use.
- $50–$100: Some TPMS decoders sell in this price range. Also, many relearn tools with more extensive compatibility fall in this price-point.
- $100-$200: This is the budget range most home mechanics should plan for. These tools will usually include both relearn and diagnostic capabilities, and may also have essential programming functions. Compatibility also isn’t as much of a concern as it is with cheaper tools.
- $200 and up: Tools priced in this range are for use by professionals or experienced home mechanics. Besides broad compatibility and more detailed sensor readings, they have more advanced programming options aimed at experienced mechanics.
The main difference between tools at different price points is the range of features they offer. The most important elements to pay attention to are:
- TPMS Reset. On most vehicles, you need to electronically reset the TPMS after the tires are changed to ensure the tire pressure is being adequately monitored and prevents the warning light from turning on when there isn’t a problem.
- TPMS Relearn. This feature activates the sensors and sends a signal to the vehicle’s ECU identifying each sensor’s position.
- Sensor activation. TPMS sensors are often in “sleep mode” when they’re delivered to the car dealer to avoid draining the battery. Activation wakes them up so they can start monitoring your tire pressure.
- Sensor programming. Necessary for sensor repair, this function lets you set up new sensors or reprogram existing ones.
- Read/clear TPMS DTCs. Diagnostic trouble codes (or DTCs) are generated by the engine computer when certain error conditions are detected. Not all of these codes will be readable with standard OBD2 code readers. Having this ability can be very useful when troubleshooting problems with your tires.
- Read sensor data. TPMS sensors collect data on critical stats like the tire pressure and temperature and the battery life and position of the sensor itself. The ability to read this data and send it to the ECU makes it easier to isolate and fix issues quickly.
Best TPMS Tool Reviews
1. Autel TS408 Automotive TPMS Service Tool
Versatility is the main strength of the Autel TS408. It lets you quickly activate any TPMS sensor and read essential data about the tires and battery. You can use it with cars made in the US, Europe, and Asia, and it supports both stationary and automatic relearning.
Considering all the features, it’s especially impressive how user-friendly the Autel TS408 is. Even repair beginners can navigate the menus, and it comes with everything you need to use it. You’ll get free upgrades for life, too, to serve you well in the long-term.
The Autel TS408 is easy to use, with multiple options for reprogramming sensors and broad vehicle compatibility.Check Price at Amazon
2. Autel TS501 TPMS Sensor Programming Tool
The TS501 is an upgrade of the TS408 above. While it’s a bit pricier, its expanded functions are worth investing in advanced DIY-ers and professional mechanics. The most notable addition is the ability to write sensor IDs in the vehicle ECU. It also saves and prints data for accessible repair logs.
Along with expanded features, the TS501 is faster than the TS408. Since you’ll get the same vehicle compatibility and intuitive navigation, it’s an upgrade in every sense for those who want full control over the TPMS system.
The expanded features of the Autel TS501 make it the best TPMS relearn tool for professionals and advanced home mechanics.Check Price at Amazon
3. VXDAS OEC-T5 GM Relearn TPMS Tool
The first thing you’ll likely notice about the VXDAS TPMS relearn tool is its low cost. With that budget-friendly price come some limitations, however. It only supports select GM vehicles, so you’ll have to check the compatibility before buying it.
On the plus side, this VXDAS tool reprograms tires in 3 easy steps. You’ll be ready to go in minutes after replacing or rotating your tires with this tool in your garage. Its streamlined design makes it nicely portable, too, and the durable rubberized exterior prevents damage from drops or impacts.
The VXDAS Auto Tire Pressure Monitor Sensor is an affordable and easy way to reprogram the tires on most GM vehicles, including Buicks and Chevys.Check Price at Amazon
4. JDIAG Super EL-50448 TPMS Tool for Ford/GM Vehicles
The design of the JDIAG is very similar to the VXDAS tool above and sells for a similarly budget-friendly price. Compatibility is the main difference between them. This JDIAG tool works with Ford and GM vehicles, giving it a slight advantage when it comes to versatility.
This TPMS reset tool is easy-to-use, too, though you may need to read the instructions before you start. How you position the antenna against the tire is essential. Those that complained that it didn’t work are either holding it wrong or not following the steps in the manual. Once you know how to use it, the JDIAG is a quick, easy way to relearn TPMS.
The JDIAG Super EL-50448 is a fast, easy way to relearn TPMS on GMs and Fords.Check Price at Amazon
5. Autel TS401 TPMS Sensor Programmer
The Autel MaxiTPMS TS401 can relearn or activate 98% of the sensors used in today’s vehicles. That broad compatibility makes it an ideal choice for both professionals and advanced hobbyists. It expands this versatility with three methods for programming sensors and free updates for life that keep it up to date with the latest protocols.
Users of the TS401 love its fast operation. It can relearn all four tires in about 3 minutes total once you get the hang. The tool is easy to update and can take care of all of your tire pressure sensor needs.
The Autel TS401 is compatible with most vehicles on the road, and its functionality and speed will appeal to both DIYers and repair professionals.Check Price at Amazon
A TPMS tool is a smart investment for a home mechanic. You won’t need to go to the shop when it’s time to change or rotate your tires. An accurate reading of your tire pressure helps you stay safe on the road. With one of these tools in hand, you’ll be able to monitor and repair the system from your garage’s comfort.
1. Can the Autel TS408 read a sensor ID and program that ID into a new sensor?
Yes. This process is known as “cloning” a sensor and is one of the programming methods you can use on the Autel TS408. The only caveat is the Autel TS408 can only program Autel MX sensors, not those put out by any brand.
2. Will the Autel TS408 recalibrate the odometer or speedometer if I change tire size?
No. The speedometer and odometer aren’t part of the tire pressure system. To recalibrate those, you’ll need an OBD2 scan tool with ECU coding and programming ability.
3. Does the Autel TS408 work on vehicles from Asia that use JOBD?
Yes. The OBD protocol used in the car doesn’t affect the tire pressure system. This tool will work on JOBD vehicles from Japan and Korea, EOBD vehicles from Europe, and OBD vehicles from North America.
4. Does the Autel TS501 have a tester for key fobs?
Yes. You’ll find this feature on many Autel tire pressure tools, in fact, including both the TS501 and the TS408.
5. Will the Autel TS501 turn off the TPMS light on my dash?
That depends on what’s causing it. If the light is on because you’ve changed your tires, you can do with this tool. However, if the light turns on because of your tire pressure, you’ll need to fix it before you can turn it off.
6. How can I find out if the VXDAS TPMS tool is compatible with my vehicle?
This tool works with most Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, and Opel models. Correctly, it works with 315KHz and 433KHz TPMS systems. You can see a complete list of tested models if you want to look for your vehicle.
7. Will the VXDAS TPMS tool identify a failed tire pressure sensor?
No. This tool is only for resetting the sensors after you’ve adjusted the tires. A failed TPMS sensor should trigger an OBD2 code that turns on your check engine light. You can read that information with any OBD2 code reader.
8. Will the JDIAG Super EL-50448 tool work on any Ford or GM vehicle?
This tool works on vehicles equipped with 315 MHz or 433 MHz TPMS, which is the majority of modern Ford and GM vehicles. There is a more detailed list of compatible vehicles on the product listing page.
9. Can I use the JDIAG Super EL-50448 tool to reset aftermarket TPMS sensors?
Not always. If you’ve replaced the sensors with OE-level equipment that matches the originals specifications, this tool may be able to read them.
Many third-party sensors operate at a different frequency or have an ID that this tool can’t read. Even if the sensor is in a vehicle that the JDIAG EL-50448 would typically support, you may not be able to reset it.
10. How is the Autel TS401 different from the TS501?
Autel TS501 offers more features. It has a key fob check feature and can diagnose more TPMS issues than the TS401. Besides, there are more options for relearning and programming sensors.
Since the Autel TS401 is about half the price of the TS501, it’s a better option for vehicle owners who want an affordable, easy way to maintain their tire pressure system. The more robust functions of the TS501 are more suitable for advanced automotive repair.
11. Will the Autel TS401 work with both OE and aftermarket sensors?
That depends on what you’re doing. You can read and activate 98% of TPMS sensors on the market, including those installed in the factory and those sold as upgrades.
The Autel TS401 is more limited regarding programming. It can only program Autel’s MX sensors, not those put out by other brands.
12. Can the Autel TS401 be updated on an Apple computer?
Not unless you have a Windows emulator. This tool requires Windows 7, XP, 2000, or Vista to update.
How Does a TPMS Tool Work?
To understand these tools, you’ll first need a basic grasp of how TPMS works in general. There are two types of TPMS in use today: Direct and indirect.
In a direct system, sensors are mounted in each wheel well and individually monitor the pressure of each tire. The dashboard light triggers when the pressure falls below 25% of the level recommended by the manufacturer.
An indirect system integrates with the anti-lock brake system (ABS) in your vehicle. Under-inflation changes how quickly a tire rotates. The system compares data from the ABS wheel speed sensors to the standard speed, and the tire pressure light is triggered when the variance exceeds a specific limit.
TPMS tools interact with these sensors in a variety of ways. Some retrieve readings that tell you the speed, pressure, temperature, and other data related to the tires, which helps diagnose the tires’ driveability issues.
The primary function of a tire pressure tool is to reset the sensor’s standard for a new, fully-inflated tire, which is especially crucial for indirect systems since rotating or replacing the tires can change each one’s rotation speed.
Advanced TPMS sensor programming tools can even reprogram the sensors allowing you to set up new sensors for installation or adjust the parameters for triggering the warning light.