How Much Air Should I Put In My Tires?
If you’ve recently noticed that your car has started to handle differently or worse, you have probably considered that your tires are a potential culprit for your woes.
Filling your tires with more air is an easy fix for many of the most common problems with your car handling differently than usual — but if you aren’t well-informed about how much air your tires need, filling them may do more harm than good.
In this article, we’ll discuss in-depth how much air you should put into your tires so that you can keep your tires healthy and your vehicle handling at its best. If you’re an expert auto mechanic, you might learn something too.
What Does Air Do For Your Tires?
Understanding what air does for your tires requires first understanding the way that your car’s tires work. As you may know, your vehicle’s tires are not rubber balloons which are packed to the brim with pressurized air.
Instead, your tire has a large rubber body which surrounds a small internal cavity which can be filled with pressurized air. Filling the inner frame of the tire with air has several advantages over a tire without an internal air pocket.
Specifically, the air is much lighter than rubber, which means that tires with an internal air pocket deliver better gas mileage. Air is also less expensive than rubber, meaning that the overall cost of each tire is lower when the tires have an internal air pocket.
Thus, pressurized air in your tires mimics the springiness and firmness of rubber without using any additional rubber.
You may be interested in: Our guide to the best tire repair and sealant kits
The Risks Of Under-Inflation
If there is an air pocket in your tires, however, the air can escape if the tires are damaged. When the air pocket inside of your tires starts to deflate, there are several consequences for your vehicle.
Your tires can’t retain their ideal shape when the internal air pocket is not filled to the proper level with pressurized air. Each tire is rated for a narrow band of air pressures which are created by forcing more and more air inside of the pocket.
When the amount of air in the tire’s pocket is less than what the tire is rated for, the edges of the tire sag downward as a result of gravity.
While the part of the tire on the “top” of the axel rests on top of the axel when there isn’t enough air, the same is not true of the parts of the tire which would typically not be touching either the ground or the axel.
As the edges of the tire sag, the amount of rubber in contact with the road becomes more extensive than average.
When the amount of rubber in the tire contacting the road becomes larger than average, your vehicle does not handle as smoothly because turning the position of the wheels is more difficult due to the friction between the additional rubber and the road.
In short, if your tires aren’t inflated to their optimal level, you will have a much harder time turning. Thus, we suggest that you inflate your tires at least to the lower boundary of what your vehicle’s manufacturer prescribes.
In general, this means that you will need slightly more air pressure in your tires for the more massive your vehicle is.
The Risks Of Over-Inflation
Over-inflating is a concern that equals under-inflating. When the air pocket inside of your tires is forced to take on more pressurized air than it is designed for, the edges, sides, and top of the tires will bulge outward.
The amount that they bulge is unlikely to be noticeable by a spot inspection. Instead, you will find that your air pressure gauge will be on the high end, potentially beyond the safe-rated level depicted on your dashboard.
When your tires are overinflated, they typically have more than 35 pounds per square inch of tire pressure. This fact means that your tires have less rubber in contact with the road.
Aside from causing higher amounts of wear and tear on your tires, overinflation changes the way your car handles. Overinflated tires may have less rubber in contact with the road.
Because overinflated tires have less rubber in contact with the road, they may seem to respond too jerkily when you turn the wheel. In other words, when you overinflate your tires, you experience the opposite effect of underinflating them, which can be similarly dangerous.
Inflating to Perfection
Most vehicles are rated for somewhere between 30 and 35 pounds per square inch of pressure. If you want to put the “correct” amount of air into your tires, there is a very high chance that the number you are looking for is in this range.
The only way to be sure that you are providing the correct amount of air into your tires is to look at the manufacturer’s manual for your vehicle. Then, you’ll need to head down to the local mechanic’s shop to pump air into your tires directly.
Most people find that it is easy to replace the air in their tires using one of the free or coin-operated machines at their local mechanic.
Because there is typically a short delay between when the tires are inflated to their ideal level and when you disconnect the air pump from the tire, you may want to overinflate your tires by 5% to 10%.
When you overinflate your tires by a tiny amount, you ensure that the air lost when you are removing the tube will not leave your tires underinflated.
You’re ready to inflate your tires to their ideal level. Now, the only thing left is to keep an eye on your tire pressure gauge while you’re driving. React to what you read and fill the tires whenever it’s necessary.
Remember to consult the manual before starting. Pay attention to the way your vehicle is handling before and also after getting some extra air. Have safe travels, and don’t forget to get your tires replaced at a regular interval.