Using the correct tire pressure is crucial. Having too low tire pressure may lead to lower gas mileage and even dangerous situations. Moreover, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving with underinflated tires is the biggest cause of tire failure.
If your tires don’t have sufficient pressure on them, you may need to fill a tire or adjust the pressure – so can you find out what is the correct pressure to use?
How to find out what’s the right tire pressure?
To check the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle, look for a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door. It will display the correct tire pressure for your car.
The pressure is stated as PSI, which stands for Pounds per Square Inch.
If you can’t find a sticker, you can also see your vehicle manual or calling a local dealer to find out what is the correct tire pressure.
Usually the sticker or owner’s manual will tell you if you need to have different pressure on front and rear tires, or if you should have higher pressure with heavier load.
There is also pressure listed on the tire sidewalls. Do NOT use this pressure to inflate your tires – it’s the maximum pressure the tire is able to hold, NOT the pressure it should be used with.
You should not overinflate the tires, as this will lead to decreased grip and weirdly behaving car. Moreover, overinflation will cause premature wear on the tires.
Why using the correct tire pressure is important
Using proper tire pressure can make a big difference in terms of safety and how your vehicle handles on the road. Following the car manufacturers’ recommendations for tire pressure also means better fuel efficiency.
Lower than recommended pressures mean that your car can’t handle well, especially in rainy or snowy weather conditions. On the other side, over-inflating will negatively affect tire wear and may affect handling negatively.
Using incorrect tire pressure is also dangerous since it reduces the vehicle’s stability, braking efficiency and cornering performance.
Moreover, overinflated tires may burst on high speed, while under-inflated tires increase chances for hydroplaning.
Tire pressure should be checked regularly
On older cars without TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system), you had to check your tires manually by using a gauge. Today’s cars are equipped with TPMS sensors that constantly monitor the tire pressure levels and alert the driver when it is necessary to adjust or fill them.
Most car manufacturers recommend checking tire pressures at least once each month, especially before long road trips.
Driving with under-inflated tires also reduces vehicle’s fuel economy and tire tread life. If your TPMS warning light is on, then you should immediately stop and check your car’s tires pressure.
If you are ready to make an investment in a tire pressure gauge, the best models cost about 30 dollars. The key factors when choosing a good model are comfort and accuracy.
It is important to use a high-quality tool that is easy to read and designed for your car’s specific requirements.
You can find many different types of analog and digital tire pressure gauges on the market.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) uses a pressure sensor to measure the aerodynamic air pressures of all tires on your car and transmits information about one or more individual tires by using radio frequency signals.
When the tire pressure is too high or low, an alert light will turn on to indicate that you should adjust it. When the system indicates low pressure, you should definitely stop and check your tires.
Tire pressure monitoring systems are becoming more common on new cars. As of today, about 36% of the new vehicles are equipped with TPMS devices, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
How to check tire pressure
If your car doesn’t have TPMS, it is necessary to check tire pressures manually (by using a manual gauge) at least once each month.
Follow these steps:
1. Park the car on flat surface and turn off the engine.
2. Remove the cap from your valve stem, then use your tire pressure gauge to measure air pressure in every tire on your vehicle. (Do not press the gauge against the wheel rim or tire valve, because it can cause a faulty reading).
3. If any one of the tire is below the recommended pressure level, add air by using an air compressor or hand-pump until you reach the recommended levels.
4. Check all four tires again to make sure they are at the recommended pressure. Remember to check spare tire as well!
How to adjust tire pressure
If your tire pressure monitoring system indicates that the pressure in one or more tires is low, you should immediately stop and check the air levels.
You can use either air compressor or hand-pump to adjust lower than recommended tire pressures.
If needed, make sure to add enough air until reaching the correct pressure levels. If it is not possible to reach the recommended tire pressure, then you should replace the affected tire(s) with a spare one.
In order to reduce risk of damage to your tires and wheels, it is very important to lower the pressure in them gradually.
You can also avoid excessively low pressures by monitoring your car’s tire wear patterns over time. If your car starts to consume more of your tire’s tread, you probably need to adjust their air pressure.
How low can you go?
Tire pressure should never be lower than the recommended minimum level printed on the tire’s sidewall. If it is necessary for you to add air when your low-pressure warning light is on, then stop after reaching that level.
Tire pressure should also never be above the maximum level printed on its sidewall, because this can damage your tires.
Hopefully you now have a better idea about what is the correct tire pressure for your car and how to check it using a manual or TPMS gauge.
How to maintain proper tire pressure
Maintaining the recommended tire pressure in the long-term is crucial for the tire life. Moreover, it also gives you the best gas mileage.
With new cars maintaining the correct pressure is relatively easy due to TPMS. In older cars the best way is to check the tires visually before every drive, and check & adjust the pressure monthly.