Electromagnetic Signals from Air Fields Screw with Auto Sensors

A few months ago, Peter was stymied by the fact that the tire pressure light on his 2010 Ford Escape lways seemed to switch on. He carefully checked the tire pressure, which was fine. He took his car to the Ford dealership, which confirmed the tire pressure was fine. They reset the light. And then, on his next commute north, the light came back on.

Finally, with the Ford technician resetting the tire pressure light again, and doing the same commute, it was confirmed that the light comes on just after passing Moffett Field in Mountain View. On other occasions, it comes up just as he passes the University Avenue exit in Palo Alto, which is rather near the Palo Alto Airport. Now for the boring technology explanation: modern Fords (as well as many other models) have a sensor which detects when a tire’s pressure seems to be low. It them beams a short signal on a single radio frequency to the tire pressure light, which then turns on.

So somewhere near airfields, that someone is sending something out on exactly that frequency, which Peter’s car receives and interprets as a command to turn on the low tire pressure light. It may not be the airports that are the culprit, but they’re bound to be sending out radio signals on multiple frequencies.

Peter just wants his low tire pressure light not to turn on. The Ford technicians seem to not comprehend “electromagnetic interference” though that’s exactly the problem. And the best solution would be to set the sensor to a different frequency, or replace it with one of a different frequency, preferably one not used by Moffett Field. Or figure out if some shielding from transmissions not from the tire sensor have been lost. But all the technicians can do is hope for the computer to give them a code to tell them what to do — even if the computer is the dumb machine that’s screwing up in the first place.

Update: We went to Lake County, where there is definitely no electromagnetic interference, and had the same problem. It continues to be intermittent, and by managing to get to a dealership while the alert was still on, Peter learned it was a combination of both sensors and the computer malfunctioning. However, Ford doesn’t recognize it as a recall sort of defect. If you have the same problem, post a reply, and maybe we can document this enough to get Ford’s attention. It is really annoying.

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