Today we bring before you, one of the most important articles on, “How often should you check your tire pressure?”. Well, tire pressure is the volume of air in a vehicle’s tires. It is one of the key factors that contribute to the general safety of your vehicle on the road.
Normally, tires lose pressure daily. This is also factored in by different climatic changes. It is difficult to notice this gradual loss and when some people notice they still tend to ignore it.
This does not only put your life in danger but also other road users. Therefore, a regular check-up is recommendable. And by the end of this article, we are going to answer the question: how often should you check your tire pressure?
Tires are the only parts of a vehicle that touches the surface. Two essential activities, that is, running and stopping, depend entirely on the tire’s grip on the road surface.
As the tire pressure changes, the shape of the tire changes accordingly. Tires that are too tightly rounded, similar to bicycle tires, will not come in contact with the road surface enough.
On the other hand, the flat tires with slightly concave shapes, the center of the tire will not effectively contact the road. This is the reason why the tires must be inflated with the correct pressure.
What is the Right Tire Pressure for My Car?
Tire pressure capacity varies from one vehicle model to another. In most vehicles, both front and rear tires have different pressure capacities.
You should follow the recommendable pressure for your vehicle when filling tire pressure to avoid under-inflation or over-inflation.
You can find a sticker attached either on the inside of the driver’s door, on the fuel door, or the glove box door. The recommendable tire pressure for most vehicles ranges between 30- 40 pounds per square inch (PSI).
If your vehicle’s tires are worn out and you intend to change them, you will continue using the same tire pressure guidelines on your vehicle’s sticker or the manufactures user guide.
This is applicable where the tires are of the same size. Where tires are larger than the stock models of your vehicle, you can get information regarding the appropriate tire pressure from your tire dealer.
‘’Avoid inflating your tires to the pressure capacity indicated on the tire surface because that is the maximum capacity of that tire and not the recommended tire pressure’’
Over-inflation happens when your car tires are inflated beyond their tire pressure capacity. It is likely to cause negative effects on your vehicle performance and tire wear.
In this situation, the chances of tire blowout are high. You can easily lose control and cause a crash. You will also have a bumpy ride experience. Your vehicle is likely to lose balance on the road.
Over-inflation can also lead to a distorted shape of the tire. It can reduce traction and increase wear and tear.
Under-inflation happens when the tire pressure goes below the recommendable capacity. This is one of the main causes of tire failure. It has an equal measure of consequences as over-inflation. It brings us to another question as seen below:
What is the Lowest Tire Pressure You Can Drive On?
The manufacturer’s recommendation is to have a regular check. Many drivers will still ignore it until the tires are too low to an extent of being noticed.
Therefore, it is important to note that the lowest tire pressure that you can drive on is 20PSI (Pounds per Square Inch).
Any tire pressure below this is extremely dangerous. It also puts you at risk of a potentially devastating blowout. Also, driving on under-inflated tires increases friction since too much of the tire is touching the road.
In return, this makes the tires overheat. This can result to tread separation, blowouts, and premature wear. It also affects vehicle handling and reduces fuel efficiency.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
When the tire pressure reaches 25% and below the manufacturer’s recommendable PSI, the low-tire pressure warning light will display on the dashboard.
The technology behind this is called Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). This is an electronic system designed to monitor your tire pressure.
It uses sensors on the vehicle to determine when the tire has low pressure. It alerts the driver with a warning light so the tires can be checked out.
If your vehicle has reached this point, treat the warning sign with urgency. It requires before things get out of hand. Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) can either be direct or indirect.
Indirect Tire Pressure Monitoring System
An indirect tire pressure monitoring system is mostly used on non-luxury vehicles. It shows the driver a fundamental alert if a tire has lost pressure.
It uses the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) wheel speed sensors in comparing the rolling speed of one tire against the others.
A tire that is low on pressure will rotate at a different number of revolutions per mile compared to the other three hence informing the vehicle’s onboard computer.
Disadvantages of using Indirect Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Indirect TPMS is cannot produce accurate and reliable readings and it can fail to warn you when all four tires lose pressure simultaneously
They are unable to notice slow leaks. This means that the driver will only be informed when all the pressure is lost and the tire is flat. At this point, replacing the tire will be the only option left. Expensive right?
Direct Tire Pressure Monitoring System
It is commonly found in luxury vehicles. In a vehicle with a direct Tire Pressure Monitoring System, tire pressure sensors are fixed on the vehicle’s wheels.
An-inside vehicle receiver alerts the driver when the pressure in any tire drops below the recommendable level, usually below 25% of the recommendable tire pressure.
The advantage of using Direct TPMS is that they are more reliable and accurate and most of them can signal the particular tire that is under-inflated.
The disadvantage of using Direct TPMS is that maintaining a tire with a direct tire pressure monitoring system may be a bit expensive compared to indirect TPMS.
This is because the tire pressure monitoring system sensors and the direct tire pressure monitoring system may require more testing and labor to maintain in good condition.
However, if you are not keen enough, you may fail to identify the low tire warning light on your dashboard for both direct and indirect TPMS.
This is evidence that there is a likelihood of having a high number of drivers on the roads unaware of a potentially serious safety issue.
Therefore, the only sure way of maintaining optimum tire pressure on your vehicle is by checking your tire pressure more often.
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) may also malfunction. If the light comes on and all your tires are within the recommended tire pressure range, there is a possibility that you have a malfunctioning TPMS.
You can book an appointment with your mechanic to have it fixed to avoid further damages to your vehicle.
‘’Tire pressure can be lost without a tire appearing to be under-inflated or flat. Therefore, simply because a tire seems to be ok, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is ok’’
What are the Causes of Low Tire Pressure?
Having known the recommendable tire pressure for your vehicle and having understood what is the lowest tire pressure you can drive on? You can now comfortably check the tire pressure for your vehicle.
You can only understand this question if you know, what is the lowest tire pressure you can drive on? Here are some of the causes of low tire pressure.
Tire damage – This may be as a result of an invisible crack or a hole in the tires. Tire damage can be caused by general wear and tear. The best solution is tire replacement.
Change in Temperature – Tire pressure fluctuates with the outside temperature. This is not necessarily a problem but a rule of nature.
According to the rule of thumb, tires generally lose a pound of pressure for every 10°F decrease in temperature. This is common for most passenger vehicles. Tires are likely to deflate during cold seasons and over-inflate during hot seasons.
Normal Tire Pressure Loss – Normally, the tire losses at least a pound of pressure monthly.
”You don’t have to wait until your tires are flat. Fixing your tire pressure is cheaper than replacing the tire”
How Often Should You Check Your Tire Pressure?
Tire pressure check-ups should be conducted regularly like once per month. It should be done when the tires are cold, that is, early in the morning or after the car has stopped for some hours.
This is because, when your tires have been in constant motion, there is friction which generates heat increasing both air pressure and the temperature.
Your tire pressure can be checked by your professional mechanic, your favorite auto-part store, gas stations, and you can as well do it for yourself.
In a situation whereby it is you who is conducting the tire pressure check-up, you will require a tire pressure gauge and an air compressor.
Follow the following steps for a successful tire pressure check-up and how you can fix over-inflation or under-inflation:
Ensure your vehicle has rested enough to avoid the heat from the friction of the last drive.
Open the valve cap. Press the tire gauge onto the valve system hard enough until the hissing sound disappears.
By now your readings have displayed as long as the pressure gauge is connected properly. Note down the readings and repeat the process on other tires. This is because different tires may have different pressure capacities.
Compare the readings of all the tires with the recommendable tire pressure of your vehicle.
If you find a tire is under-inflated, use the air compressor to fill your tires to the recommendable tire pressure.
If you happen to fill your tires when they are hot fill them 3-4 PSI above the recommendable PSI and check again using your gauge when they are cold.
If you find that you have over-inflated, press the gauge harder on the valve system to release pressure until you achieve the correct readings.
”You don’t have to wait until your tires are flat. Fixing your tire pressure is cheaper than replacing the tire”
The Impacts of Tire Pressure on Vehicle Performance
Maintaining your tire pressure at optimum increases your tires’ lifespan. Just a loss of 1 pound per square inch (psi) of tire pressure, can decrease the life cycle of your tires by 25%.
Just a slight under-inflation on your tires can add your fuel economy up to 5% and more.
Under-inflated tires affect the stopping distance at normal speeds by increasing it by more than 8 meters. This is even more severe during wet and windy weather conditions. The speed tends to increase even more when the vehicles are heavily loaded.
Under-inflation is also a pioneer for tire failure. This is due to the friction created when more of the tire’s surface is touches the road. This friction can cause the most extreme blowouts, tread separation, overheating, and premature wear.
The center tread on over-inflated tires tends to wear out faster. The fragile qualities of an over-inflated tire minimize the chances of safe cornering. Since the tire is more rigid and stiffer, it is more likely to suffer damage from striking curbs or hitting potholes.
Particularly, over-inflation decreases tire lifecycle too. In the long run, excessive wear and tear will cost you more.
Now that you know what is the lowest tire pressure you can drive on? And the question how often should you check your tire pressure?
Has been answered, you are in a better position to maintain your tire pressure at optimum. It is, therefore, recommendable that you check your tire pressure regularly. Especially before a heavy loading driving or a long drive.
It will save you unnecessary maintenance costs. And you will enjoy the full performance of your vehicle. Protect yourself, your vehicle, and other road users by ensuring that your vehicle is properly inflated.
Daniel Bass, owner of Best Vehicle Parts, leverages 8 years of auto parts expertise to author insightful blogs sharing his automotive knowledge.