How many times have you thought about your tire pressure? Probably not until it becomes an issue, right? These days, knowing how to drive is prioritized over knowing about the safety of the car itself. However, it’s incredibly important to know information about your car, especially the tires.
The tires might be the most important part of the car, considering that proper tire health can affect all kinds of things, from fuel economy to proper car handling. Here is all you need to know about the importance of keeping tire pressures within their safe ranges.
If you’re not keeping up with your tire pressure, you’re putting yourself and other people on the road at risk. Safety is the number one reason that you should be aware of the inflation in your tires and the proper range that your tires have. Driving on tires that are under-inflated or tires that are over-inflated puts you at risk of the tires blowing out. A blown-out tire is the quickest and scariest way to lose control of your vehicle.
Not only that but keeping your tires at their recommended air pressure will extend the longevity of your tires. Tires are expensive! Having to buy new tires before yours are due to be replaced, simply because of driving on improperly inflated tires, is a waste of time and money. Tires that have the proper air pressure are also easier to handle, which means that you have better control of your car. Proper car control is paramount for safety on the road.
Of course, driving on properly inflated tires is also good for your gas mileage. If you’re driving down the road on tires that are either under-inflated or over-inflated, you’re not maximizing your fuel economy. These days, you don’t want to waste even a cent of gas. One way to do that is to make sure that your tires are always properly inflated.
Most people think that to check your tire pressure, you should be looking at the tires. This isn’t the case, however. Unless you’ve recently had your tires changed, you can find the tire pressure for your specific car on the inside of your door jamb, either on the front or back door.
Tiremakers all over the world use a standard “pressure per square inch”, or PSI. In the United States, these standards are set in place by the Tire and Rim Association. Each tire size has a maximum PSI that should be followed, as well as a maximum load level -- meaning how much weight you can pull on those tires. For every size of tire, you can find an inflation and load table that will help you when you’re trying to check your tire’s optimum pressure.
The number you can find on your tire is actually the maximum tire pressure. This is how much pressure your tires can conceivably handle, but it isn’t the optimum level. This should only be used if you’re carrying extremely heavy loads, and not for long periods of time. If you fill your tire pressure to the maximum just for everyday driving, you’re over-inflating and causing more damage to your tires and car.
When you find the placard on the door jamb of the driver's side, take a moment to read over the information. You should find the size of the tire and the PSI for both the front tires and the back tires. It’s usually the second number, denoted with “PSI” behind it.
This number is considered the “cold” tire pressure, meaning that this is the pressure your tires should have in them first thing in the morning before the car has started. Thus, it is called the “cold” tire pressure. This is because when you drive and the tires heat up with the movement of the car, the pressure will naturally rise a few degrees.
To check your tire pressure, you’ll need a small pressure gauge. Almost any gas station or auto parts store will sell one. They’re cheap, easy to use, and invaluable in making sure your car is running right. Once you have the pressure gauge, remove the valve cap from whichever tire you’re checking. Place the end of the pressure gauge against the valve and press down until you hear a hiss, then press harder until the hiss stops. This should open the valve and push the air out into the gauge.
If you have a standard pressure gauge, it should push the bar out of the bottom to show a number. The highest number that it shows is the PSI.
For the most part, your tires should always stay in the optimum range. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule that may make driving a safer experience for both yourself and the people on the road around you. Here are some exceptions to the over inflate/under inflate rule to tire pressure.
If you’re carrying heavy loads, you may want to fill up your tires just a bit more than usual. A higher tire pressure when you have a vehicle that is either loaded or pulling a heavy load behind it can actually be beneficial to your tires in the long run. Make sure you stay within the recommendations set by the manufacturer, however.
It may be beneficial when driving over snow or in sandy areas to deflate your tires just a bit to allow greater contact between your tires and the ground. However, take care not to do this unless you have a portable air compressor in order to re-inflate your tires afterward. This concept might help you get out of a situation in which your car is stuck in the snow.
Understanding the importance of keeping tire pressures within their safe ranges is paramount for anyone who is regularly spending time driving. Knowing the right tire pressure and the dangers of driving with improperly inflated tires are the first steps to being a better, safer driver. Properly inflated tires can save on fuel, make your car easier to control, and keep you safe when you’re out on the road.