Tire Air Pressure
Maintaining correct tire air pressure is an important part of vehicle maintenance.
Maintaining tire pressure may seem like a low priority in our busy daily schedules, but keeping the correct air pressure in your tires is an important part of vehicle maintenance, as it helps with:
- Optimizing tire performance
- Improving fuel economy
- Improving handling and performance while driving
- Extending treadwear
- Maintaining steering response
- Improving cornering ability and stability
- Improving steering precision
Your tires are properly inflated when they match the pounds per square inch (PSI) listed on your vehicle’s tire placard or owner’s manual. The placard or manual should list appropriate PSI ranges for both the front and rear tires, as they may be different from one another. Many passenger cars need to run on tires inflated to 30 or 35 PSI, depending on the tire. By inflating your tires within this recommended range, you will ensure that the tires wear evenly, provide a smooth ride, and increase fuel efficiency to help you save money at the gas pump.
In addition to increasing your savings and safety, proper tire pressure also helps the environment. We estimate that most drivers lose as much as 10-50% of their tire tread life due to underinflation. Keeping your tires properly inflated extends their lifespan, meaning that fewer tires end up in landfills or as litter. When a vehicle is rolling on underinflated tires, the engine has to burn more fuel to power it appropriately. By maintaining the proper air pressure, there will be a decrease in fuel consumption, helping to preserve natural resources.
Underinflation vs. Overinflation
Avoid driving on underinflated or overinflated tires. Both scenarios can reduce the performance of your tires and cause them to wear quicker.Underinflation causes poor handling, fuel inefficiency, and an increased risk of tire failure. Tires are routinely exposed to stress and impacts that can reduce air pressure. Sometimes a small nail, screw, or other object can puncture your tire and act as an inefficient plug. This could cause the tire to gradually lose air at a rate that you might not even notice. Your tires also continually loses pressure due to permeation, a natural process where the air escapes from the tire’s solid rubber sidewall. Weather can affect inflation pressures as well. Your tire pressure will be reduced about 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in weather.
Overinflation causes tires to suffer adverse effects, including a harsh ride, poor handling, and irregular wear. Overinflation occurs when tires are inflated with pressure exceeding the recommended PSI. Some drivers may even mistakenly overinflate their tires after reading the maximum pressure listed on the tire sidewall. This number represents the tire’s maximum pressure, not the vehicle’s recommended PSI range. Remember to always check the owner’s manual or tire placard for your vehicle’s correct tire pressure.
Check Air Pressure Regularly
Regularly checking the air pressure in your tires is an important task, yet many drivers frequently overlook it. The need for tire pressure maintenance is often put off until it is too late and a driver could then be forced to deal with a flat tire, blowout or even tread coming completely off of a tire.
Drivers need to be aware that tires lose small amounts of air pressure each day through a process called permeation. Some factors that contribute to air pressure loss are as follows:
- Cooler temperatures can cause the air in your vehicle’s tire to contract (roughly 1-2 psi of air a month)
- Seasonal or altitude changes can cause a drop in air pressure (for every 10 degrees change in temperature, tire air pressure changes 1psi)
- Road debris like small nails, screws, etc. can puncture a tire and then act as an inefficient plug. In this situation, air pressure could drop slowly and may even go undetected
We recommend that you get into a routine of checking your tires—including your spare tire—every other time you fill up your gas tank in an effort to maintain their recommended air pressure. Keeping in mind, some vehicles may require different air pressures on the front and rear axles.
How to Properly Inflate Tires
Need some help making sure your tires are properly inflated? Here are some tips to help you both check and refill your tires.
- Invest in an accurate air gauge. Some people mistakenly believe they can determine proper air pressures simply by looking at the tires. Others rely on air meters at service stations, but these can be grossly inaccurate due to abuse or environmental exposure. Instead, achieve consistent and accurate readings by using a quality air gauge
- Using an air hose, fill your tires slowly and evenly to avoid overinflation. During inflation, you should occasionally remove the hose from the valve stem and recheck the air pressure. Try to slow down as you approach the tire’s recommended PSI level. In case of accidental overfill, you will need to gradually release air by pressing on the small brass needle in the center of the valve
- Always replace your valve stem caps after refilling your tires. Despite their small size, these caps perform important functions. They keep your valve stems safe and clean, preventing air leakage as you drive
- Check your tire pressure after any sharp increase or decrease in temperature. Weather or altitude changes can cause PSI measurements to become innacurate. As a general rule, every 10-degree temperature differential changes tire pressure by 1 PSI. To prevent these factors from altering your tire pressure, monitor it during seasonal changes
- Develop and stick to an air pressure check routine. As a general rule, you should perform an air pressure check every other time you fill up at the gas station or at least once a month. This interval will allow you to check the pressure regularly enough to maintain the recommended air pressure. You should also conduct an air check every time the tires are maintained. Remember to also check your spare tire, since you certainly don’t want an unusable or unsafe spare in an emergency situation