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Wheels & Tires

Why it is Important to Check Your Tire Pressure and How to Do it

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mechanic checking tire air pressure

One of the more underrated maintenance measure that most folks neglect is undoubtedly a simple tire pressure check. This is important because, while you may have had the tire pressure corrected recently, tires are by nature porous and let out air pressure gradually over time (generally 1 psi per month dependent on temperature). Your tires keep you on the road, and thus it is crucial that you ensure that they’re functioning optimally.

It is more common for most people to run tires under-inflated, which is basically having less pressure than recommended. The most apparent fault that comes when your tires are under-inflated that your car will operate inefficiently, as an under-inflated tire has more rolling resistance that must be overcome by the drive-train. Less eminent though is the risk of tire overheats. When your tires are under-inflated, the friction between the road and the tire also increases, thus increasing the operating temperature which increases the chance of a tire blowout.

If significantly overheated, the tire sidewall may even deform, causing an irrecoverable tire failure. It’ll also be trickier to steer a vehicle with an under-inflated tire. A telltale sign of an tire running under-inflated over an extended period is more extensive wear on the shoulders of the tire and uncomfortably hot tire sidewalls even after a brief trip.

 

Proper Inflation

On the other hand, over-inflation is essentially the opposite, with contrary ill-effects. An over-inflated tire will have less rolling resistance, which means less traction with the road making your vehicle more prone to skidding. This can prove dangerous, and even life-threatening when you have to deal with it in dubious weather conditions. It can be especially hazardous in the rain, as the tire treads which are designed to expel water efficiently isn’t working efficaciously as they’re not in contact with the ground, causing a high probability of hydroplaning.

Braking performance will also be affected by over-inflated tires. If you notice that your tire is wearing out in the middle, it’s time to get the pressure checked and even replace your tires if advised. In both cases, you may begin to notice your car’s handling and driving characteristics will be odd, and in extreme cases, it may even be unpredictable to drive on the road.

Therefore, it is important to check your tire pressure from time to time. Manufacturers often recommend a monthly period, but it doesn’t hurt to check more often. Ensure that you check it before going on a long trip, however. It’s also worth noting that tires lose pressure quicker during the summer, so routine checks should be conducted more often.

It’s quite a simple process checking tire pressure. Just unscrew the dust cap, located by a stem protruding from the wheel, then plug a pressure gauge into the valve that exposes afterward. Even quality pressure gauges are actually quite affordable and you can purchase one to conduct checks at home. A hand pressure pump would suffice to inflate a tire. If you want to save the hassle, you can always drive down to a local petrol station which would have the facilities provided, usually for free too. These pumps are typically easier to work with, and you can even fix a pressure to inflate to. Many modern cars even have tire pressure monitoring built in, especially if you have run-flat tires. Only check tire pressure when your tires are cool, typically your tires will still be cold during a relaxed drive for 2 miles. If needed, add about 4 to 5 psi to a hot tire reading to compensate. Also, whenever you’re checking your tire pressure, perform a visual inspection on your tire to inspect for tread wear, tire damage, etc.

Typically, manufacturers would provide built-in rated tire pressure at the fuel pressure caps of vehicles for convenient viewing. Other than that, open up the driver’s door and check on your B-pillar for a sticker with the reading on it. The owner’s manual should also have the ideal tire pressure written inside too. Tire pressure will be given in two ratings: laden and minimum weight, and thus should be corrected accordingly. Always be sure to check your spare tire pressure too, if applicable.

A critically under-inflated tire can be visibly so too, as the casing will deform and sag. If you notice that your tire is bleeding pressure too quickly compared to the average relative to other tires, bring it to a local workshop as it could indicate a puncture, faulty valve or bad fitting wheels.

It is that easy to check tire pressure, and it can potentially save you a lot of time and money. It’s imperative that you don’t undermine the importance of frequently keeping on top of your vehicle tire conditions, as these can heavily affect your vehicle’s driving dynamics.

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