Tire pressure is not an exciting aspect of car ownership, however maintaining correct tire pressure on your car is very important. We understand and can see when the tire pressure is low but we know very little about the consequences of excessively high tire pressure. We’ll explain the difference between the two.
Tire pressure is a measure of the amount of air in a vehicle’s tire. It is typically calculated in pounds per square inch (“psi”) or in kilopascals (kPa). If you’re a mathematician, the conversion factor is 1 psi = 6.9 kPa.
Maintaining the correct pressure in your tire is crucial for the safety of your vehicle. An incorrect pressure will affect your cornering and braking ability, and overall vehicle stability. Improper tire pressure can also cause tire failure and loss of vehicle control. It affects your safety, your ride comfort, fuel economy, and the life of the tire.
Dangers of high tire pressure
If your tire pressure is too high, then less of the tire actually makes contact with the road. You will feel the car bounce around and it will impact your traction, stopping distances and overall safety. A bouncier ride makes for a less comfortable ride.
Dangers of low tire pressure
Your tire will hug the road if the pressure is too low. It increases friction between the tire and the road. Your tires can overheat and wear out more rapidly. Overheated tires leads to ply and tread separation and loss of vehicle control. A non-visual sign of low tire pressure is squealing tires when cornering.
Check your tire pressure often
You should check the pressure of your tires regularly. Know that the pressure will change with temperature. Whether it is air temperature or tire temperature. Tire pressure increases by 1 psi for every 10°F increase in air temperature. If you last checked your summer tire pressure hot (+80°F), your tire pressure will change by 8 psi when it is near 0°F. The pressure loss is even more significant when it starts to get real cold (-20°F).
Your recommended tire pressure
The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is posted inside the door, inside the glove box, or in the vehicle owner’s manual. Read the pressure listed on the tire itself but understand that the pressure on the tire can be the maximum allowable air pressure and not the recommended pressure for your vehicle. The recommended tire pressure is always lower than the maximum tire pressure.
Use a proper gauge
Once you know the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle, you can get an accurate tire gauge reading. It’s noted that pressure gauges such as the common pencil-style are proven to be inaccurate. Preferably use an analog or dial-type gauge or digital gauge.
Check all your tire pressures even if they all look okay. Tires, like radials, may look fine even when they’re under or over inflated. Use a gauge, not your eyes, to get the true story.
Only check the pressure when the tire is cold or close to the air temperature and not heated from a lengthy road trip. Don’t take any shortcuts. Make sure to check all four tires and don’t forget to check your spare tire too. Be aware that small space saver spare tires can have a different pressure requirement than a normal tire. The recommended pressure will be printed on the spare itself.
Tires with correct pressure speak to safe vehicle operation. You don’t need to be a car maintenance expert to regularly check your own tire pressures. Learn how to do it, and do it regularly. Your family (and tires) will thank you in the long run.
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