With aftermarket TPMS, drivers can improve vehicle safety, fuel economy and more.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, we believe it is important to remind members of our community that maintaining tire pressure is incredibly important. Not only will it reduce your risk of serious accidents (as severely underinflated tires can lead to blowouts), but it will save you money on tires (by reducing wear and tear) and gas (by improving your fuel economy). And better MPG means fewer emissions, which is better for public health and the environment. Indeed, Driving2Save was founded after Brian realized how costly it was to drive on an underinflated tire that his factory-installed TPMS did not warn him about until it was too late.
We have a longstanding and deeply personal interest in whether aftermarket TPMS works, especially easily-installed systems that integrate with your smartphone. There are several of these systems on the market today. We tested the leading ones, and the good news is that they all worked well. The better news is that we had a clear favorite that represents a real value for consumers – especially those interested in improving their entire driving experience.
So, if you have a smartphone and drive an older car without a TPMS, or if you drive a newer car with a TPMS that does not tell you the actual pressure in your tires, we strongly recommend purchasing an aftermarket TPMS. Based on our testing, we believe the Nonda Smart Tire Safety Monitor is the best system on the market today.
What did we do?
We installed each system, tested its performance, assessed its ease of use and evaluated our user experience.
What did we find?
- You can indeed teach that old car a thing or two – including how to monitor your tire pressure with easily installed tire pressure sensors. Aftermarket tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are evolving. They are now very affordable and easy to use!
- Most systems are comprised of 4 wireless tire stem sensors, a receiver and often an app.
- The first aftermarket TPMS – FOBO – was a good first attempt, but other products, such as Nonda’s, have surpassed FOBO in appeal and overall user experience at half the price.
- Nonda is further pushing the needle with an app that can integrate its current and future products, such as an engine monitoring plugin, backup camera and media receiver. In essence, it is a sensor platform. Car Geeks should love it.
- Aftermarket TPMS is now ready for mainstream use and we recommend these systems for anyone that drives a car without a built-in TPMS. Even if you have factory-installed TPMS, if it does not tell you the precise pressure in each tire, you may want to add an aftermarket system to optimize your fuel economy and detect leaks earlier.
What did we like?
1st Place: Nonda’s Smart Tire Safety Monitor
- Pros: A visually appealing product that provides slow-leak detection, a USB charging port, and product integration (current and future) in addition to real-time monitoring. As you can see for yourself, it is easy to install and use.
- Cons: Receiver cable is a bit short for some (if you choose to mount it away from your USB port) and not the cheapest, but well worth the price.
2nd Place: ENKLOV Wireless TPMS
- Pros: One of the cheapest, functional systems currently on the market (11/2017), wireless sensor means no apps or phone use at all, and long battery life (up to 3 years).
- Cons: Receiver will occupy the 12V plug and some vehicles only have one, a lot of beep alerts, but they can be turned off.
3rd Place: FOBO Tire Plus
- Pros: Functions as a TPMS, visually appealing.
- Cons: Very expensive, annoying app and receiver, sensors consume batteries at an alarming rate, complicated.
How did we figure this out?
As many reports – including our own – have shown, underinflated tires can put you at a greater risk of an accident, increase wear on your tires, and reduce your fuel efficiency. Many in-vehicle tire pressure monitoring systems do not adequately prevent under-inflation as they only inform you when pressure is 20-25% below what the manufacturer recommends. Older cars do not even have TPMS. Despite the benefits of properly inflated tires, many people still drive with underinflated tires because checking tire pressure is often low on the “to do” list in our busy lives. Looking for a solution for time-crunched drivers, we tested three aftermarket TPMS to see if they worked, and worked for busy people.
The aftermarket TPMS market has been steadily gaining momentum the past few years. FOBO was one of the first companies to produce a Bluetooth TPMS ($229.99), so we used their products as a benchmark. We chose ENKLOV as it was highly rated on Amazon (30+ 5 star reviews) and one of the cheapest systems at $69.99 at the time of testing (11/2017). Nonda’s Smart Tire Safety Monitor was the final contestant chosen for this face off – we chose this system because it is taking the next step in aftermarket smart gear by having on app that can integrate their suite of smart products such as backup cameras and a media app. Furthermore, it has a middle of the road price at $119.95 (11/2017).
We tested these three systems on our chief scientist’s older Subaru Impreza over the course of a week – we did not use different vehicles because there should not be any vehicle-specific differences. The Impreza did not come with any factory TPMS and contains only a 12V (cigarette plug). For the test, we used an android-based phone as well as an iPhone 6 to test the usability of any apps.
We used the following categories to rank how much each transmitter performed:
Ease of Installation – we analyzed how much time was needed to install the sensors and get them paired to the receiver/app. Was the manual helpful?
Features – in addition to providing real-time tire pressure readings, what additional features does it have? Some features include battery voltage reading, slow leak detection and locking mechanisms.
Receiver/App Quality – how well does the receiver or app provide readings? Is the app or receiver annoying with constant beeps and reminders?
Accuracy – are the readings accurate?
Build Quality and Battery Life – how durable are these devices? How well do the batteries hold up over time?
FOBO Tire Pus: $299.99 (11/2017) Rating: C-
Ease of Installation: FOBO was intuitive to install – upon opening the box, you are greeted with all of the hardware: 4 sensors, a battery-powered receiver, locking nuts, spare sensor batteries (trust us, you’ll need them), 2 wrenches and the manual. The manual is adhered to the top of the box, putting it in a handy place. It contains a 6 step quick start guide that asks you to download their app, turn on Bluetooth, open the app, pair the sensors and then install the sensors. Overall, it took us approximately 15 minutes to install. Pairing the device to the app was a different story.
Features: The feature list was high, including locking nuts to deter theft, replaceable batteries, wireless receiver, waterproof sensors and alerts for low pressure. However, the competitors included more – such as vehicle battery voltage monitoring, additional customization and product integration.
Receiver/App Quality: The wireless receiver provided freedom to place the receiver wherever it is convenient. Unfortunately, the receiver is so annoying that you will likely be stashing it deep within the glovebox or possibly next to your spare tire. The receiver pairs with an app that requires you to sign up and sign in. After the email verification, the sensor pairing process begins. Pairing the sensors took significantly more effort than it should have required as we could not get two of the sensors to pair up with the receiver and during this process the receiver beeped incessantly. After removing the two stubborn sensors, reinstalling and swiping the receiver over it, it finally paired. We were very relieved as the beeping was driving us to insanity.
Once the system was setup, the app provided basic readings of tire pressure, temperature and the sensor battery level. For the next few days of driving, all was well, but unfortunately, this peace and quiet would not last. The receiver began having issues pairing with the sensors and while this itself is not a major issue, the lack of a mute button on the receiver/app was. We were greeted with incessant beeping and reminders that the sensors were not fully paired. Without a way to mute, the noises were very aggravating to the point that we did not want to use the product anymore.
Accuracy: The readings were within 1 PSI of the actual pressure.
Build Quality/Battery Life: Sensors are weather sealed with an o-ring inside and the overall system appears very well built. Manufacturer claimed a battery life of up to 2 years, but our experience indicated otherwise. Two of the four sensors died after 2 weeks of use, but the AA powered receiver is still going strong.
ENKLOV Wireless TPMS: $69.99 (11/2017) Rating: B
Ease of Installation: Similar to FOBO, this was fairly intuitive to install. A fairly detailed instruction manual walks you through a 10 minute installation procedure. The locking mechanism was easier to figure out on the ENKLOV system and worked fairly well to deter theft of the sensors. Similar to the other sensors, be sure to plug in the receiver prior to installing the sensors! We purposely installed some of the sensors prior to plugging in the receiver and the receiver did not pick it up.
Features: This system contains all of the features that FOBO has and added vehicle voltage monitoring. You can also change the alert volume on the receiver – a nice feature FOBO sorely lacks. If you are tired of the alerts, pushing the buttons on the back of the receiver mutes the system (until the next time the car is started).
Receiver/App Quality: One great thing about ENKLOV is that it does not require an app for use. Many of us have smartphones that are overloaded with apps and therefore, it is wonderful not having to install another one. This system comes with a receiver that has a built in display that shows real-time pressure, temperature and vehicle voltage. Buttons on the back of the receiver allows users to customize the threshold for alert (high/low pressure, high temperature), alert type and location of sensors.
After we installed the sensors, it took several minutes for the receiver to obtain a signal from all four sensors. Initially, it beeped at us to let us know that it did not have a signal from all sensors, but you can stop this by pressing the button on the back of the receiver. We purposely deflated one of our tires to see how this system would react and it flashed/beeped the location of the underinflated tire on the screen. One potential fault that we noticed was that this system does not allow you to customize tire pressures individually. This is a fault because certain vehicles (such as Subarus) call for higher front tire pressures than rear. Therefore, you will have to set a larger range of tolerance on the receiver.
Accuracy: The readings were within 1 PSI of the actual pressure.
Build Quality/Battery Life: Sensors are weather sealed with an o-ring inside and the overall system appears well built. One small gripe – the screen is difficult to see on a bright, sunny day – we found that looking at it from above seems to help, but overall, it was more difficult to read. The manufacturer claimed a battery life of up to 1-3 year; we will update this note pending long term use.
Nonda ZUS Smart Tire Safety Monitor: $119.99 (11/2017) Rating: A
Ease of Installation: Nonda’s system provided the simplest installation instructions: plug in the receiver, pair it with the intuitive app and put on the sensors (with locking nut if you choose). Nonda stated self-installation time of 10 minutes and we did it in approximately 7. The locking mechanism is a nut that you screw onto the tire valve, screw on the sensor and then back out the locking nut until it is tight against the sensor. If secured correctly, it is very difficult to remove the sensors – you end up unscrewing the battery replacement cap instead of removing the entire sensor.
Features: Nonda has all the features of FOBO as well as the voltage monitoring found on ENKLOV’s TPMS. What differentiates Nonda is that their app currently incorporates other smart tools such as engine management, mileage tracking and car locator. In the near future, they plan on releasing other tools such as backup cameras and Bluetooth HD music receivers that all work on one app.
Receiver/App Quality: Unlike FOBO, Nonda chose a wired receiver as opposed to wireless and while that limits where you can place the receiver, we appreciate not having to change out the batteries. The sleek black receiver contains four lights corresponding to the location of the tires – a solid green means that the tire pressure/temperature is within the limits that you specified. If the tires venture outside the limits or the sensor has an issue, it will blink the green light as well as give you three audible beeps. We REALLY appreciated the three beeps as opposed to FOBO’s incessant beeping. In addition, the folks at Nonda were very thoughtful when they designed the receiver. They incorporated a reversible USB plug so that you do not lose a USB plug.
We really enjoyed using the app that Nonda has created. It was very clean and simple to use. Upon downloading it, we had to create an account and verify it with our email (they provide a link with explanation for why they need this). Once you enter the main page, the upper righthand corner has a + sign for adding your TPMS. Upon clicking that, it will provide easy instructions for pairing. Once the sensors are installed and paired, drive away and the system will calibrate for a few minutes. In our experience so far, this was the easiest to pair, least intrusive and most intuitive system to use.
Accuracy: The readings were within 1 PSI of the actual pressure.
Build Quality/Battery Life: Similar to the other kits, the sensors feature an o-ring that provides weather protection. The installation kit included an extra cap, locking nut and o-ring just in case – a very welcomed addition. The sensor’s cap was very easy to remove with the included wrench, making battery replacement easy. The manual states that the batteries should last up to 1 year based on 3 hours of driving each day. While this is slightly lower than ENKLOV’s system (up to 3), we believe that 1 year is a very reasonable amount.
From our time spent testing these three products, we believe that FOBO provided a good start for the Bluetooth TPMS market. However, the other products fixed FOBO’s flaws. Best of all, they provided these improvements while significantly reducing the price. We believe that if you value price above all else and want a simple system, then ENKLOV’s system would be for you. With no app to mess with, a simple plugin with a readout of tire pressures and long battery life – it is the recommended value system.
However, if you are willing to spend a little more, we highly recommend Nonda’s ZUS Smart Tire Safety Monitor. This system is visually appealing, smart, integrates with other smart products and is well-engineered. The part we appreciate the most is the way that this system alerts you to problematic sensors or tires. Instead of hounding you until it is fixed, it provides three beeps and a flashing reminder on the receiver. All of these reminders and beeps can be turned off with a click of a button. We are looking forward to testing Nonda’s other products such as the backup camera, music adapter and engine management tool. Having all these products integrate into one app would be a great way to teach 10 year old cars new tricks that help you Drive2Save.