Tires rank right up there with brakes, seatbelts, and airbags when it comes to vehicle safety. You wouldn’t want any of the other three to be performing at sub-optimal levels, so why would you expect any less from your tires? When one or more of your tires is not inflated properly, it can lead to a few big potentially hazardous situations that put you and your loved ones safety at risk:
- Under-inflated tires experience added friction, which means added heat, and failure risk.
- Under-inflated tires can lead to an uneven driving experience, and potentially lead to other vehicle damage.
- If your tire is losing air pressure more quickly than normal, it can indicate a bigger problem, such as a nail or screw puncture or rim leak.
Fuel Efficiency & Other Cost Savings from Proper Tire Inflation
If safety isn’t a big enough concern, perhaps money-loss will be. Low tire pressure can be costly. The government estimates that under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. It’s not uncommon to be 10 psi below spec, if you’re not careful, which would waste 3 percent more fuel and result in significantly higher tire wear.
- Under-inflated tires can wear irregularly, leading to the need to replace one or more before the others. And you should always replace all four at once so that tread is even. And that’s not cheap
- Under-inflated tires result in increased friction, overheating, and wear – and a shorter tire life. More frequent tire replacement = $.
- Under-inflated tires result in increased friction, leading to less fuel efficiency than properly inflated tires.
Learning how to change your car’s air filter can also have positive fuel efficiency results.
What Should my Tire Pressure Be?
The first step is knowing what your tire pressure should be. You can find out what your vehicle’s tire pressure should be by looking in your vehicle owner’s manual or on the little sticker on the inside of your driver’s side car door for the recommended psi.
How do I Check my Tire Pressure?
This is beautifully simple and cheap. The only tricky part is doing it at the right time. To get the most relevant tire pressure, you need to check when the tires are cool, just before you head out for the day, or hours after your vehicle has been idle. Tires that have been used recently will have a higher pressure due to the heat from use.
- Pick up a cheap tire pressure gauge (like this one) if your car does not have built-in monitoring with digital readout out on your driver information display. EVERYONE who owns a vehicle should have one.
- Screw the cap off of your tire.
- Apply the tire pressure gauge to get the tire pressure.
- All four tires should be at the recommended tire pressure level and at an even pressure.
How to Inflate your Car Tires
- You need air. I always go to a gas station or tire shop that has free air, but there are other ways to get free air for your tires. Some will charge you for air (which is ridiculous). If they do, go elsewhere. Or, pick up a portable air compressor like this.
- Inflate your tires to the recommended levels. I always go 2-3 PSI over because I have driven to fill the tires and they are hot from use.
- If you go too much over, deflate the tires by tilting the valve stem until you hear the sound of air escaping the tire.
Check Tire Pressure Video
For those who like visual examples, here’s a simple video from Edmunds.com on how to do what I’ve described.
Getting in the Habit of Checking your Tire Pressure
This is probably the hardest part of keeping your tires properly inflated. I always visually look over my tires when filling up my gas tank. It gets me in the habit of checking, plus I’m right at a station with air hopefully, so I can fill up if need be. I’d also recommend throwing it on your calendar to check once a month when the tires are cool.
Tire Pressure Discussion:
- How often do you check your tire pressure?
- What do you do to remind yourself to check tire pressure?
- Do you own a tire pressure gauge? Digital or old fashion?