Separating pressure, flow/velocity and wave intensity signals into forward and backward components provide insights about arterial wave propagation and reflection. A linear wave separation is normally used, but ignores the pressure-dependence of wave speed. While a non-linear separation could incorporate this pressure-dependence, no such method exists for wave intensity decomposition. Moreover, although linear separation errors for pressure (5-10 %) have been quantified previously, errors for velocity and wave intensity have not. Accordingly, we describe a non-linear wave separation technique based on the method of characteristics. Data from a computer model suggest that the percentage linear separation errors for velocity and wave intensity are approximately one-half and twice that for pressure, respectively. Although comparable to measurement uncertainty in many instances, linear separation errors may become more significant: (1) if wave speed varies substantially over the cardiac cycle, e.g. if pulse pressure or vessel compliance is high, (2) if the degree of wave reflection in the arterial system is large, or (3) if the constant wave speed used for the linear separation is closer to the minimum or maximum pressure-dependent value rather than the mean. Consideration of linear separation errors may therefore be important in some physiological settings.