Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Everything you didn't want to know about installing new TPMS sensors on Lexus / Toyota vehicles

Note: this post is for Lexus, specifically the 4th Gen Lexus RX350 (2016+).  I am ASSUMING the process is similar for other Lexus and Toyota.


TPMS on the Lexus is a pain.

 On a GM vehicle, you do the following:

  • Install the new wheels with their new TPMS sensors on the car
  • Put the car into "relearn" mode; and
  • Poke each TPMS sensor with a $25 activation tool.


Not so easy on the Lexus/Toyota.  The basic steps are:

  1. Read the ID codes for the existing TPMS sensors (for future use)
  2. Obtain the ID codes for the new TPMS sensors
  3. Program / load these ID codes into an OBDII-capable TPMS programming tool; and
  4. Connect the tool to the car to upload the new sensor IDs to the car ECU.

The main issue with this is that many of the less expensive tools on the market will do only 1 or 2 of these steps.  You obviously need a tool that does all of them, and that means a more costly tool.

Unfortunately, vendors use confusing terminology such as "trigger", "activation", "re-learn", "reset", "electronic reset tool", and other misleading garbage, and often deliberately obscure the fact that some of their tools can't do some of these functions.   It's really all about what they don't say.

For example:

A.  The ATEQ Quickset will do 1, 3 and 4, but cannot do 2, because it cannot talk to TPMS sensors directly.  So if you don't have the ID codes for the new TPMS sensors, this tool will not work.

Reasons why you might not know the new TPMS ID codes:

  • You (or your shop) failed to write down the ID codes stamped on the TPMS sensors before they were mounted.
  • The sensors are aftermarket / generic, and did not have ID codes written on them.
  • The TPMS seller did not provide you with the ID codes.

If you do know - or can get - the IDs for the new TPMS sensors, the Quickset is probably a great tool, and cheap.  But if you don't already know the IDs, it's no help.

B.  Carista will do 1, maybe 3, and maybe 4.  It will not do 2 because it cannot talk directly to the TPMS sensors.

C.  The ATEQ VT31, VT36 and VT37 will do 1 and 2, but will not do 3 or 4, because they have no OBDII connection.  They talk only to the TPMS sensors, not to the car.

D.  The Autel TS401 and TS408 also lack an OBD connection, meaning they cannot do steps 3 or 4 either.

This leaves some people with a need for a tool that will talk to both the TPMS sensors directly and to the car via OBDII, and these are more costly.

At time of writing, the least expensive tools I can find are the ATEQ Quickset X and the Autel TS501.  These tools can talk directly to TPMS sensors and also have the necessary OBDII cable connection to allow complete identification and programming of new TPMS sensors for Lexus vehicles.  The Quickset X is the least expensive at about $300.


•  I've not tried any of these tools myself (yet), so I can't confirm they work.

•  The TS501 includes features for testing keyfobs, programming virgin / blank TPMS sensors, etc.  The Quickset X (apparently) does not, but may be cheaper.

•  Some Lexus vehicles have a "TPMS reset" and/or a "TPMS initialization" procedure built in to the car.  These do not reprogram or relearn the TPMS sensor IDs, and so are no help when installing new TPMS sensors.  They should NOT be used, at all, when installing new TPMS sensors, or else the car ECU might "lock up" and prevent new TPMS IDs from being programmed at all.

•  Some Lexus cars will store two sets of TPMS IDs.  As far as I can tell, the only tool that can program the second set is the Techstream (?) tool used by dealerships.  All of the aftermarket tools will only program the first bank of IDs.

•  If you did buy a Carista, Quickset or similar "program only" tool in error, you might consider:

  • Downloading your existing TPMS IDs into the Quickset;
  • Having the dealership install and program the new TPMS sensors for you; and
  • Downloading the new TPMS IDs into the Quickset afterwards.

You will then have the TPMS IDs for both sets of wheels and can swap them at will yourself (at least until your existing TPMS sensors die in 7-10 years and you have to do this over again).

Alternatively, a dealership or tire shop might agree to just read the TPMS sensor IDs for you, for a fee.

•  Toyota dealers may be able to read / program Lexus TPMS systems, and may charge less than a Lexus dealer.

•  Many Lexus cars will determine the position of the TPMS sensors automatically, meaning there is no predefined order for programming them. 

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