Your tires are the main point of contact between your car and the road, so maintaining the proper air pressure in them is a must. So why are both overinflated and underinflated tires risky and a critical factor to consider?
The amount of air pressure in your tires is crucial to their performance, durability and the functioning of your car’s braking system. For these reasons, the tires on your car should be checked frequently to keep them inflated to the proper pressure.
When tires are underinflated
When the air pressure per square inch (PSI) is too low in your tires, it not only reduces their lifespan, but also increases their drag (or rolling resistance). As such:
- Too much of the tire’s surface is in contact with the ground. In turn, this will wear them out prematurely, cause the tread to wear unevenly, and possibly lead to overheating, tread separation, and maybe even loss of vehicle control.
- The increased rolling resistance of the tires will boost your bill at the gas pump, because the engine will have to work harder to move your car forward.
Are overinflated tires better?
While you may think hard tires are better, the opposite is true. If the air pressure is too high it will make them rigid. As a result:
- Your car will be more sensitive to bumps and shocks caused by potholes, which could prematurely wear out your suspension system.
- What’s more, the tread will wear out faster and traction will be reduced, key when you’re turning corners.
- Most importantly, hard tires negatively impact stopping distance – vital when the road is wet or slippery.
So check your tires regularly, about once a month, to make sure they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
How will I know if the pressure is correct?
There are several ways to check the pressure of your tires.
Use a pressure testing gauge
This device attaches to the tire valve using a rubber tube connected to a dial, which displays the tire pressure.
- Easy to use and inexpensive, it provides an efficient and accurate reading of internal tire pressure.
- Some portable pressure gauges are about the size of a pen and can be stored in the glove compartment.
Visually inspect your tires
Observe your tires carefully before you hit the road.
- Sometimes you can estimate the pressure just by looking at them, but do it when the tires are cool.
- Hot air will expand your tires, especially after a long drive or on hot days, making it difficult to accurately assess their pressure. When in doubt, use a pressure gauge.
Pay attention to your level of comfort when driving
Tires that are too soft will create drag and resist rolling.
- You may have too much contact with the road and feel some vibration while driving.
Tires that are too inflated will not be flexible enough to adapt to bumps and irregularities in the road.
- This may cause your car to bounce, which will also affect your driving comfort.
Check the sticker on the driver’s side door
The manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure for your car is on the sticker found on the inside of the driver’s side door.
- It can also be found on the sidewall of your tires.
Checking tire pressure takes only a few minutes and should be done once at least once a month, more often if you drive your vehicle a lot. It not only might save you money at the gas pump, but could potentially put your comfort and safety at risk if you don’t.