Why You Should Check Your Tire Pressure At Least Once Per Month
Your tires are where the rubber meets the road. Any problem with your tires can affect the stability and safety of your entire vehicle. Checking your tire pressure at least once a month is an important part of safely maintaining your car, truck or motorcycle. Fortunately, the task is pretty easy. Here’s what you need to know about tire pressure:
What is the Optimal Tire Pressure for Your Vehicle?
Tire pressure is measured in pounds per square inch, abbreviated as PSI. Generally, the tires of most passenger cars require a PSI between 30 and 35. You can find the exact number for your vehicle both in the owner’s manual and on a placard located somewhere on the vehicle. Common spots for the placard are on the edge of a vehicle door, inside of a gas cap or inside the glove compartment.
Some vehicles will list a specific PSI while others list a range. You always want to follow the recommended air pressure guidelines exactly. They’ve been carefully set by the manufacturer to ensure the best performance for your vehicle.
Check the guidelines carefully. Many vehicles require a different pressure for the front tires than the rear ones.
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How Often Should You Check Your Vehicle’s Tire Pressure?
Keeping your tires properly inflated is actually an on-going process. Even tires in perfect working condition will lose air pressure gradually due to permeation. This is a natural process where air escapes through the rubber sidewall.
Because tire pressure will always drop over time, you want to check the pressure regularly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 71% of drivers check their tire pressure less than once a month. That’s not often enough to maintain an accurate assessment of the pressure level.
Instead, you’ll need to check the tire pressure at least once a month. Many experts recommend checking the tire pressure after every other trip to the gas station, a strategy which makes a lot of sense. Pressure levels drop in relation to vehicle use. If you’re also buying a lot of gas, you’re also driving a lot, so your vehicle will need more tire pressure inspections.
Weather also plays a significant role in retaining the correct tire pressure. Generally, internal tire pressure will drop about one PSI for every 10-degree drop in outside temperature. You’ll always want to check your tire pressure after any cold spell.
Potential Problems (and Dangers) of Improperly Inflated Tires
Both under and overinflated tires can cause a variety of performance and safety issues.
Most importantly, underinflated tires are dangerous. Underinflation increases the risk of tire failure, blowouts and even serious accidents. Low tire pressure causes the tire’s surface area to be too large against the road. Friction builds up against the tire, which leads to excessive wear, tread separation and – eventually – a blowout.
Blowouts can cause vehicle damage and loss of control. Not only are they a danger to you and your passengers, but the unexpected control loss puts every other person on the road in danger.
Underinflated tires also cost you money. Even just slight underinflation increases wear and tear on the tires. If your tires are underinflated more often than not, your car can burn through a new set of tires in about a year.
Plus, properly inflated tires help you save on gas. The Department of Energy estimates having the proper tire pressure improves your gas mileage an average of 0.6%. Gas mileage is lowered by 0.2% for every one PSI drop below the vehicle’s recommended inflation levels.
Tire pressure which is too high also causes lots of problems. Too much tire pressure wears down tires and impairs handling. The overall ride will be substantially harsher and more jarring.
Tires are typically overinflated by mistake. The sidewall on any tire will list that tire’s maximum pressure. This is the most pressure the tire can physically withstand – which is different than the recommended PSI for your specific vehicle. You should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for tire pressure exactly.
Don’t Trust Your Eyes, Trust Your Tire Gauge
By the time you can physically see that a tire is underinflated, it’s at a point dramatically below the recommended level. Even a vehicle’s built-in monitoring system will only send out a warning when pressure is 25% below the recommended amount.
Nails, screws and other small objects can puncture your tire but be practically impossible to see with the naked eye. Objects which become stuck in a tire create a slow leak.
Using a digital gauge, checking your tire pressure is easy and fast. So you’ll want to monitor your tire pressure at least once a month, or ideally after every other fill-up at the gas station. Maintaining the proper tire pressure on your vehicle is an easy and effective way to improve handling, gas mileage and, most importantly, overall safety.