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Understanding tire pressure

Nothing is more important than proper inflation when it comes to the safety and performance of your tires. Overinflating or underinflating your tires can lead to different problems, such as premature wear and dangerous driving. So, learning how to keep your tires properly inflated is extremely helpful for their longevity and performance. Let’s get started.

Tire Inflation pressure and why it’s so important

Tires can’t perform their best unless they’re properly inflated. With the correct amount of inflation pressure and proper vehicle maintenance, your vehicle and your tires will work in harmony for a great drive. Keeping your tires properly inflated means:

  • Safer driving
  • Longer tread life
  • Improved vehicle fuel economy

Handling, towing and hauling are also affected by the inflation pressure of your tires.

The problems of overinflation and underinflation

Every vehicle has a recommended tire inflation pressure level for its tires, given in pounds per square inch (psi) or kilopascals (kPa). You can find this recommendation on the vehicle’s tire placard, certification label or in your vehicles owner’s manual. If you go over or under the recommended tire inflation pressure, it’s going to affect your tires and your drive.

Underinflation causes excessive heat build-up that may lead to tire failure, including a tread/belt separation. Also, driving on underinflated tires can wear out the outer tread shoulders faster than normal.

Overinflation is more likely to lead to cuts, punctures or damage to a tire caused by sudden impact with a pothole, curb or debris. Overinflation will also cause the center of the tread to wear faster than it should.

Check your inflation pressure to prevent problems

The key to maintaining proper tire inflation pressure is regularly inspecting monitoring your tire. It’s a good idea to check your tire inflation pressures, including your spare, at least once a month and before going on long trips. Here are a few things to know about checking your tire inflation pressure:

  • Check your tire inflation pressure when your tires haven’t been driven on for several hours and have had time to cool down
  • Tire inflation pressure will increase by several PSI during driving and a period of time after driving while the tires cool. Checking the tire inflation pressure at this time can give misleading pressure readings
  • Tires will also lose inflation pressure due to colder weather conditions. A drop in temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit will result in a loss of 1-2 PSI in your tires.

Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)

Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems offer convenient ways to measure your tire inflation pressure, but you don’t want to rely solely on a TPMS. Some monitoring systems have limitations, such as:

  • Detection: some systems only monitor inflation pressure differences between tires. So, it might not detect low inflation pressure if the air in your tires decreases at the same rate.
  • Low Inflation Warning: some systems might fail to warn you that your tire inflation pressure is low and can fall to 25% below vehicle manufacturer recommendations before it tells you.
  • Rapid Pressure Loss Warning: some systems may fail to warn you of rapid inflation pressure loss in a single tire.

Due to the limitations listed above, you should check your inflation pressure of all your tires, including your spare at least once a month with a tire gauge.