Next to your brakes, tires play the most important role in vehicle safety. Unless a tire has gone noticeably flat, drivers tend to ignore tire pressure altogether. Maintaining properly inflated tires can provide many benefits and help you avoid many risks.
Better fuel economy
Proper inflation = great mileage. Even the difference of a mile or two per gallon can have a significant financial impact over the course of a year. Underinflated tires, in particular, increase what is called rolling resistance and cause you to burn more fuel.
Better tread wear
Tires are not cheap. Keeping them at the recommended pressure can significantly extend the life of your tires. Both over-inflation and under-inflation cause accelerated tread wear in different areas of the tire.
Proper cornering and optimal stopping ability
Overinflated tires have less tread in contact with the road surface, causing you poor handling and increased stopping distances. In the event of emergency braking or maneuvering, this difference can be critical.
Reduced risk of blowout
When its pressure is too high, a tire has an increased risk of suffering a catastrophic failure, especially on long drives in hot weather.
Both underinflated and overinflated tires produce a less enjoyable ride from sluggish handling to jarring rigidity.
Tips for Proper Pressure
Keep these tips in mind when checking tire pressure.
- Never trust your eyes to tell you if a tire is underinflated. Looks can be deceiving.
- The number given on the tire itself is typically its maximum pressure. Check your owner’s manual or tire pressure placard (often found on a door post) for the ideal pressures.
- Front and rear tires sometimes have different recommended pressures.
- For consistency, it is a good idea to keep a tire pressure gauge in your car rather than relying on the gauges at different gas stations. Hint: digital gauges are more reliable than the manual type that looks like a silver pen.
- Tire pressure should be checked when the car has not been recently driven. Driving increases the temperature, and therefore the pressure, in your tires.
- Built-in tire pressure monitoring systems are not infallible. Do your own evaluation periodically.
- Outside air temperature affects tire pressure. Be sure to check your tires as the seasons change.
- Always take the time to check all four tires. Check your spare periodically as well.
- While checking your tire pressure, do a visual/tactile inspection for damage, embedded nails or debris, etc.