dashboard indicators

Too clever by half

| The longer I own my Prius, the more things I find to dislike.

The latest "helpful" feature that drov e me crazy is an indicator light on the dashboard that illuminates when the air pressure in a tire is too low. Note the use of the indefinite article: "a tire." The light comes on when any of the tires has low pressure, including the spare.

Now, I fully understand that someone at Toyota thought this would be wonderful. After all, the days when every gas station was "full service" — and the service included checking the tire pressures, the oil level, radiator fluid, and the battery — are long gone. And let's face it we don't always pay close attention to the condition of our car before getting behind the wheel. So, if tire pressure is low, that's a good thing to know; low tire pressure makes the tires wear faster and reduces gas mileage.

So, Toyota put sensors in all the wheels to alert you to low pressure. But they didn't bother to have the sensor tell you which tire has the low pressure. So, when the light comes on, you can drive yourself nuts checking and rechecking the front and rear tires. I mean, unless you have a flat, how often do you think about the spare?

Again, I understand fully that Toyota thought including a sensor in the spare would be wonderful.  If the spare has no air in it, it's not much of a spare, is it?

So last week the light came on. I drove to the service station and checked all the tires, ready to use all my spare quarters to replenish them with air, something that was free at service stations in days of yore. But they were all perfectly inflated! Ah, the damned spare!

Here's where it gets fun.

The spare, naturally, is located under the floor of the trunk.

floor mat
First, remove the floor mat
compartment cover
Next, remove the cover of the compartment
tray
Next, remove the plastic tray inside the compartment
spare
Finally, the spare tire is revealed

But wait, there's more! Note that the valve stem, for checking or refilling the air pressure, is on the under side of the spare, so you must unfasten the jack holder and remove the spare tire to access the valve stem. Then, having checked or refilled the spare, you must repeat all these steps in reverse order, taking care not to forget any of the pieces!

But wait, there's even more! Having refilled the spare (it was, indeed, low on air) I expected the warning light to go out. What good is a warning light if it only comes on, never goes off? Perhaps it takes a while, said I to myself, completely in denial. 

A week later, the light was still on. I consulted the owners manual. Turning to the index, I found "Tire pressure warning light ... 132, 150."

Page 132 tells me that the tire pressure warning light comes on if the tire pressure is too low. Doh!

Page 150 contains two gems:

If the tire inflation pressure becomes low, the light comes on again. In this case, adjusting the tire inflation pressure will turn off the light after a few minutes.

If the tire pressure warning light comes on even after tire inflation pressure adjustment, is is probable that you have a flat tire. Check the tires.

Considering that a week is longer than "a few minutes," that adjusting the air pressure had no effect on the light, and that I did not have a flat tire, I did what I should have done in the first place: consult Google:

Advice from the internet
Advice from the internet

Aha! Sure enough, there is a reset switch under the steering wheel.

reset switch
That's obvious enough, if you know to get down on your knees and look under the steering wheel

I'm still dubious about leaving the ignition on for 30 minutes or driving 3 miles while rubbing your stomach counterclockwise and patting your head. However, I think I may be close to resolving the problem. If it turns out that I have to deflate all my tires and re-inflate them, I'm taking it to the Toyota dealer and causing a scene.

And there does remain the mystery button "Key" — I wonder what that does?!?!

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018

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