When was the last time you checked the air pressure in your tires?
Too many people neglect the recommended tire pressure in their cars. The tire pressure matters if you want to be a safe driver, get a better fuel economy, and prevent larger repair expenses in the future.
But how do you know what the right tire pressure is? What happens if you leave it too high or too low? Can it actually cause damage?
Keep reading to learn all about why keeping the correct tire pressure is essential.
Table of Contents
What Tire Pressure Is Too High or Too Low?
The only way to know whether your tire pressure is too high or too low is by checking the owner’s manual of your vehicle or tires. All cars have different tire inflation specifications, and you can’t assume that the appropriate tire pressure for your previous car is the same as your current car.
As a general rule, the ideal tire pressure is between 30 and 35 PSI (pounds per square inch), but not all cars are alike. While you should always stay within this range, you should also never be below 20 PSI, or over 50 PSI, or you risk serious tire damage (more so than with standard overinflated or underinflated tires to a lesser degree).
Your car may have different ideal tire pressures for the front and rear axles. That’s okay, pay attention when you get your tires rotated to make sure that you remember to check your pressure later.
So what if you don’t have your owner’s manual anymore? Sometimes when we get cars used from a lot or as hand-me-downs, the manual has long been lost or thrown away.
You have options. Many vehicle manuals are online now, making it easy to check as long as your car is new enough.
There should also be a decal (or tire placard) on the inside of your car, near the bottom or side of the driver’s seat, that tells you how much pressure your tires should have. It also gives you the proper dimensions of the tires that you need.
What About The Pressure on the Tire Itself?
Some tires will have a number on them that shows maximum tire pressure. While this can be a helpful guide if you have no other information about your car’s appropriate pressure, it’s not the best way to go.
When you’re able, always rely on the information about your specific vehicle.
Is It Bad to Overinflate Tires?
Overinflating tires may seem like the way to go if you’re uninformed. As you drive for long periods of time, your pressure lowers. Why not overinflate a little bit to compensate for that?
Here are the risks of overinflating your tires.
Wear and Tear
Overinflated tires may result in less wear and tear than underinflated tires, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t wear down more quickly than tires that are inflated to the right tire pressure.
When your tires are overinflated, they have less surface area coming into contact with the road. The tread in the center of the tire wears out faster.
Because of the increased pressure and firmness of the tires, they’re more likely to receive damage from any debris, cracks, or potholes in the road.
Replacing tires is expensive. Fixing your tire pressure is cheap. The math says that you should fix them.
Tire wear and tear put you at risk of total tire failure. When your tire is overinflated, it takes less damage to puncture it after the preexisting wear.
One wrong move could result in a blowout, and a blowout on the road is dangerous. You risk your life and the lives of others by not keeping proper tire pressure.
While some people think that overinflated tires make it easier to drive, this isn’t true. Because of the reduced surface area and increased firmness, the tires don’t grip the road as well as they would if they were inflated to the right pressure.
Reduced grip puts your car at increased risk when you’re on fresh roads, wet roads, or icy roads.
Can You Drive on Low Tire Pressure?
When you’re talking about whether or not you can drive on tire pressure that’s not right for your tires, the answer is yes, for short periods of time before you’re able to adjust your tire pressure and inflate your tires. Should you, though? Absolutely not if you can avoid it.
There are several reasons to making sure that your tires are properly inflated matters. Here are some dangers associated with underinflated tires.
Expensive Repairs In the Future
When you drive for too long on underinflated tires, you’re setting yourself up for future costs. The cost of refilling your tires on your own at a gas station or car wash ranges anywhere from free to a few dollars, and it takes only a few minutes. Why risk spending a lot of money to repair your car?
Underinflated tires put more stress on certain parts of your car, including your vehicle suspension and chassis. They can also impact or wheels, fenders, rotors, and even your brake lines. Damaged brakes are a huge safety hazard.
All of these fixes can cost you hundreds of dollars. By trying to save a few cents on fixing your tire pressure, you’re actually hurting your walled.
When your tires have the right tire pressure, handling is a breeze. You get that “fresh off the lot” feel on smooth roads.
When your tire pressure is too low, though, the handling becomes difficult. Turning gets harder, making it difficult to make smooth transitions off the highway, avoid dangerous drivers or hazards on the road, and turn tight corners. You’ll also have a harder time stopping.
When you’re unable to control your vehicle, you put yourself at risk of collisions (which also cost a lot of money and can be dangerous).
Increased Fuel Costs
When your tires aren’t inflated correctly, the car is less efficient. Low tires result in worse rolling resistance or the ability of your car to resist the factors that try to stop its forward motion.
When your tires have to compete with that, they use more gas to compensate, costing you more money.
Low tire pressure results in increased tire wear. This is because when more of your tire is in contact with the road, it can overheat.
When tires wear, you need to replace them to avoid tire failure (another huge expense). When tire failure happens, it results in a blowout while you’re driving. This can cause accidents or just an unpleasant visit to the side of the road while you wait for roadside service.
Is It Better to Overinflate or Underinflate Tires?
As you can see, both overinflating and underinflating result in tire damage. Both are unsafe and may result in unsafe driving conditions, making your car more difficult to handle.
Ideally, your tires shouldn’t be overinflated or underinflated.
That said, there are things to be said for both of them. Overinflated tires may result in better gas mileage, though there are varied opinions on this, and different testers have gotten different results. Take this with a grain of salt.
Overinflated tires have less risk of causing damage, but the previously mentioned risks still apply, especially if you have extreme overinflation.
Underinflation, if it’s mild, isn’t too harmful so long as you’re able to catch it in time and get to a tire pump as soon as you can. Many people drive on tires that are slightly underinflated without issue. It’s when they’re so underinflated that it’s noticeable that there’s a problem.
Overall, underinflated tires are more dangerous than overinflated tires when the difference is extreme. Either way, make sure that you check tire pressure and adjust it as necessary to fit the recommended guidelines.
Does Recommended Tire Pressure Change In Winter?
Many people wonder whether or not their tire pressure should change during the winter. Colder weather and altered road conditions call the previous pressure numbers into question.
You should never overinflate or underinflate your tires on purpose, but overinflation during the winter, if it’s mild, isn’t always a bad idea. Keep in mind that overinflated tires have less traction, so the slippery roads that often come alongside winter are more dangerous.
The reason that overinflating your tires during the winter to a small degree may be acceptable is that your tires lose pressure with the drop in temperature.
When temperatures are lower, molecules move slower and clump together. This means that your tire pressure goes down. You can lose anywhere between 1 and 2 PSI every time the temperature drops by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Overinflating your tires before a cold snap where you won’t be driving your car (like over the holidays or a cold weekend) may keep your tires at an appropriate pressure when it’s time to drive again.
One change that you should make when the temperatures drop is that you should check air pressure more often and inflate your tires when necessary.
You don’t want tires that are too low when the conditions of the road are already bad. Don’t put yourself at risk.
How Can You Check and Correct Tire Pressure?
New drivers often don’t understand the importance of checking their tires, so they neglect it. If this sounds familiar and you don’t know how to check your tires or refill them, don’t be embarrassed.
Some cars come pre-installed with a tire pressure monitor, though these are usually new models. If your car doesn’t have one, you can buy a tire pressure monitor online to install. These monitors use information from sensors placed on the tires to determine when to fill them or let the air out.
You can also check your tire pressure with a cheap tire pressure gauge (and these gauges are also often at gas stations where you fill your tires, though you won’t be able to measure your tires cold). You insert the gauge into the valve stem when your car is cold (before you drive or three hours after), and it tells you how full they are.
If you truly don’t know how to fill your tires, feel free to visit an auto shop or mechanic. Many of them will fill your tires for a low fee (if not for free). You can watch them and see how they do it if you want to do it on your own the first time.
If you’re ready to try it on your own, get to a gas station. Remove the valve stems on the tires that you’re inflating and keep them somewhere safe. You don’t want to leak air when you lose them.
Put coins into the machine until it turns on. Hold the air valve against the tire valve until you can hear the air going into the tire.
Some modern air tanks come with a setting for your ideal tire pressure. You can enter it in, and the machine will make a noise when it’s reached the right number. If not, check every so often with your gauge. When you’re done filling, check again to be sure.
If you put too much air in your tires, press down onto the tire valve with a fingernail to release pressure. Replace your valve stems, and you’re done.
Are There Precautions You Should Take?
If you’re worried about potential tire damage, there are a few things that you should do before you get on the road.
First and foremost, make sure that you have good car insurance. Anyone can end up in a car accident or blow a tire due to someone else’s mistake. Having good car insurance can get you roadside assistance and take some of the costs out of road and car problems.
It would help if you also kept a tire pressure gauge in your car. When something feels “off,” pull over and see if your tire pressure is the problem.
Finally, always keep a spare tire. Don’t forget to replace that tire when you use it.
Keep Your Car Safe With the Right Tire Pressure
Using the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is an easy way to keep you and your car safe from damage. You save money, you save time, and you may even save lives.
Are you unsure if your tires have the right pressure in them? Go check today! It might be time to fill them up.
Whenever you’re managing car difficulties, it’s best to have reliable auto insurance. Do you need new car insurance today? Contact us at LoPriore so we can discuss your needs or get a quote today!
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