Checking the air pressure in your tires may seem like a low priority in your busy daily schedule, but keeping the correct pressure in your tires is an important part of vehicle maintenance, as it helps with:
- Safety on the road
- Optimizing tire performance
- Extending the life of the tire tread
- Improving fuel economy
- Improving handling, cornering, steering and stability while driving
Your tires are properly inflated when their pressure matches the pounds per square inch (psi) listed on your vehicle’s tire placard or owner’s manual. The placard or manual should list the appropriate psi for both the front and rear tires, as they may be different from one another. Most passenger cars’ psi requirement will be between 30 to 35 psi, but several vehicles fall outside of that range and every vehicle will have specific requirements. By inflating your tires as specified, you will ensure that the tires wear evenly, provide a smooth ride, and increase fuel efficiency.
In addition to increasing your savings and safety, proper tire pressure also helps the environment. Most drivers will reduce their tire tread life due to underinflation, some as much as 50%. Keeping your tires properly inflated extends their lifespan, meaning that fewer tires end up in landfills. 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. Drivers need to be aware that tires are routinely exposed to stress and impacts that can reduce air pressure.
- Your tires continually lose pressure due to permeation, a natural process where the air escapes from the tire’s solid rubber sidewall (roughly 1-2 psi of air a month).
- Weather can affect inflation pressures; your tire pressure reduces by about 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in the outside temperature.
- Seasonal or altitude changes can also cause a drop in air pressure.
- Road debris like small nails, screws, etc., can puncture and embed in your tire tread and then act as an inefficient plug. While still embedded, air pressure could drop slowly at a rate that you might not even notice.
- Underinflated tires pose additional risks in relation to the load (the amount of weight) your vehicle can carry. Learn more about overloading and underinflation.
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
We’ve defined how regularly checking the air pressure in your tires is important, yet often overlooked. To ensure you’re maintaining the recommended air pressure, 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. And keep in mind that some vehicles may require different air pressures on the front and rear axles.
- Learn more about how to check your tires’ air pressure.
Don’t put off tire pressure maintenance until it is too late. You could be forced to deal with a flat tire, blowout, or even tread coming completely off of a tire.
With all modern vehicles now equiped with TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), many drivers feel they can simply wait until the TPMS alert is illuminated on their dashboard before airing up their tires. However, TPMS should not be relied on for routine tire maintenance. Unfortunately, these alerts don't activate until the tires are 25% below their proper air pressure, though the negative effects of driving on underinflated tires can begin with as little as 5% underinflation.
- Learn more about TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System).
Learn how to properly inflate tires
Here are some tips to simplify checking your air pressure and refilling your tires:
- Invest in an accurate air gauge and keep it in your vehicle. 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 an important function. 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. As previously mentioned, weather and altitude changes can cause psi fluctuations. As a general rule, every 10-degree temperature difference changes tire pressure by 1 psi.
- Develop and stick to a routine for checking your air pressure. As described above, a good rule of thumb is to 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. Remember to also check your spare tire so you're not caught with an unusable or unsafe spare in an emergency.
We will check your air pressure and inflate your tires for you
Need some help making sure your tires are properly inflated? If you are not sure about how to check your air pressure, feel free to drop by your local Discount Tire store for a free air check. Just pull into our designated air check area and we'll get you taken care of.