Checking Tire Pressures Regularly is Important for Saving Money and Being Safe on the Road
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Checking Tire Pressures Regularly is Important for Saving Money and Being Safe on the Road

Improperly inflated tires contribute to more than 600 traffic fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year, not to mention a lot of wasted money on fuel and tire wear

April 21, 2021

How often do you check the air pressure in your vehicle's tires? It's a simple thing that you can do that can have significant impacts. But most of us probably don't think about tire pressure until the tire light turns on. Checking your tires weekly to ensure they are properly inflated saves a lot fuel, reduces wear and tear on the tires, and reduces your risks of a crash caused by tire problems.

Only one of six vehicles is good

A recent report from the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the national trade association for tire manufacturers, revealed that only one of every six vehicles on the road today has properly inflated tires. Even more surprising, only about 15 percent of drivers knew how to correctly check their tire pressures. That's a statistic that needs to change since the tires are the only part of your vehicle that makes contact with the road.

600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries annually

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, improperly inflated tires contribute to more than 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries annually in the United States. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that under-inflated tires waste more than 1 billion gallons of gasoline every year.

Improper Inflation is dangerous

Tires that are not properly inflated are an extreme safety risk. The tire pressure your vehicle manufacturer has set for your vehicle is based upon a lot of data and takes into account the optimal fuel economy, tire wear and vehicle handling. Any vehicle that has improperly inflated tires will not operate as well as a vehicle that has tires inflated to the proper specifications due to loss of traction.

Additionally, improperly inflated tires will wear out prematurely and will wear unevenly, which can negatively affect handling over time. It also affects fuel economy.

Underinflation

Underinflated tires can cause a lot of problems. Tires that are underinflated lose shape from the lack of pressure, which means more rubber is making contact with the roadway. While this may seem like a good thing, it's not. It causes a significant increase in tire wear, a reduction in fuel economy, poor cornering, and a bumpy ride. Additionally, underinflated tires heat up much more quickly, which means they can be highly susceptible to blowouts.

Overinflation

Overinflating tires isn't a good thing, either. The tires become too stiff, which reduces the amount of rubber in contact with the roadway. This means that it's harder to control your vehicle. You'll also have a much higher risk of tire and wheel damage from potholes, bumps or debris on the road. It could also blowout depending upon the tire condition and the extent of any damage. Also, contrary to popular believe, an overinflated tire won't really get you better fuel economy. The tire will also wear unevenly, with much or most of the wear occurring in the center of the tire and little wear occurring across the majority of the treads.

You can do it at home

Checking the air pressure in your tires is a relatively easy process and can be performed by most anyone. Tire pressure gauges are relatively inexpensive, including digital gauges with easy-to-ready illuminated readings. So buy one and use it to check your tire pressure weekly. While you're at it, buy an inexpensive portable air compressor so you can inflate the tires to the proper pressure on the spot. The kind that plug into an outlet in the wall is better than the kind that you plug into your car. The small investment you make on a gauge and an air compressor will pay off enormously.

Always check it cold

Checking the pressure and inflating tires before the car has been driven is crucial to getting an accurate reading, which is why the tire pressure specifications on your vehicle's tire label is the cold tire pressure. As soon as you start driving, the tires warm up from the friction on the roadway. The heat, which will vary based upon tire condition, road conditions, and outside temperature, can quickly cause inaccurate pressure readings. Ideally, check the tire pressure after the vehicle has been sitting in shaded conditions for at least eight hours. \

don't use the pressure on the tire

Every tire manufactured today has a variety of information on it, including treadwear, speed rating and temperature rating. But they also include a maximum tire pressure. When checking and inflating your tires, it's important that you don't use this number. This number is only the maximum safe pressure for the tire, which is usually much more than the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. You can find the ideal pressure for your tires printed on the sticker on the inside panel of your driver's side door or on the door frame.

don't trust the gauge at the service center

There's nothing wrong with using an air pump at a service center or gas station. But you shouldn't rely on the gauge that may be part of the pump. There's no way to know how accurate the gauge is or whether any damage has occurred to it from frequent use by so many people. Always check the tire pressure with your own gauge, even if you're just verifying the reading from the pump's gauge.