Maintaining tire pressure may seem like a low priority, but keeping the correct air pressure in your tires is an important part of vehicle maintenance. It helps in the following areas:
· Optimizing tire performance
· Improving fuel economy
· Improving handling and performance while driving
· Extending treadwear
· Maintaining steering response
· Improving cornering ability and stability
· Improving steering precision
Your tires are properly inflated when they match the pounds per square inch (PSI) listed on your vehicle’s tire placard on your door jam or owner’s manual. They should list appropriate PSI ranges for both the front and rear tires, as they may be different from one another. Many passenger cars need to run on tires inflated to 30 or 35 PSI, depending on the tire. By inflating your tires within this recommended range, you will ensure that the tires wear evenly, provide a smooth ride, and increase fuel efficiency to help save money at the gas pump.
In addition to increasing your savings and safety, proper tire pressure also helps the environment. Most drivers lose as much as 10-50% of their tire tread life due to underinflation. When a vehicle is rolling on underinflated tires, the engine has to burn more fuel to power it appropriately. By maintaining the proper air pressure, there will be a decrease in fuel consumption, helping to preserve natural resources.
Tire air pressure is what actually supports the weight of your vehicle. Proper air pressure has a significant impact on dry weather performance. When your tires are properly inflated, they provide an even distribution of load across the contact patch of the tire, helping stabilize the structure of the tire. Properly inflated tires have a maximized contact patch, meaning the area of the tire that touches the road provides optimum contact for the best possible traction and handling response.
If a tire is underinflated, there is not enough air pressure to support the center tread area or the sidewalls. This will force the shoulders of the tire to support the weight of the vehicle. If the air pressure is low enough that the sidewalls do not have sufficient support, steering response and handling are compromised, and there is even risk of sidewall damage.
Conversely, if the tire is overinflated, the tire will balloon out, shrinking the contact patch and forcing the center tread area to support the weight of the vehicle. When the contact patch shrinks, there is less rubber making contact with the driving surface, reducing the tire’s ability to grip.
Both overinflation and underinflation can cause irregular treadwear, reducing the overall tire life. Overinflation causes irregular wear in the center tread area. Underinflation typically leads to irregular wear in the shoulder areas of the tread. Underinflation also increases rolling resistance, making the tires less fuel-efficient.
You help your vehicle achieve its best performance capabilities by regularly checking the air pressure and accounting for temperature change, which can have a very serious impact on your tire’s air pressure.
When the air in your tire heats up, it expands. When it cools, it compresses. This affects your air pressure.
For every increase of 10 degrees in temperature, your air pressure will increase by approximately 1 psi.
For every drop of 10 degrees in temperature, your air pressure can decrease by approximately 1 psi.
While this may not sound like a drastic difference, it really takes a toll over time, particularly with the temperature changes from season to season. For instance, if you check the air on recently driven tires in the afternoon, by the next morning, the coolest part of the day, the air pressure can have dropped as much as 5-10 psi. This is enough difference in air pressure to impact performance, fuel efficiency, and treadwear. It is very important that you check your tire’s air pressure regularly, particularly during the colder months.
Properly inflated tires evenly distribute the load across the face of the tire, maximizing how much tread contacts the driving surface. This allows the tire to come into full contact with the road, removing water from the contact patch as rapidly as possible.
When a tire is underinflated, the vehicle load isn’t distributed evenly and the center of the tread can’t support the weight of the vehicle. When the center tread area doesn’t support the vehicle load, the shoulders of the tire are forced to pick up the slack, causing the center tread area to lift up and away from the driving surface. Not only can this lead to premature treadwear, it also keeps the tire from sufficiently displacing water, which makes the tire more likely to dangerously hydroplane.
For the best possible wet weather performance, it is recommended that you inflate your tires to the vehicle manufacturer recommended air pressure. This air pressure should provide the best possible contact patch for your tires.
Once the vehicle has been driven, the tires heat up, causing the tire pressure to increase. It is recommended that you check your tire pressure after the vehicle has rested and the tires have had time to cool down. Temperature changes need to be accounted for in other scenarios, as well. For instance, if you live in a colder environment and you have a heated garage, the change in temperature from the warm garage to the colder temperatures outside can cause the tire pressure to decrease rapidly.
Checking your tires air pressure on a regular basis can help save you money in the long run at the gas pump.
Properly inflated tires can increase your fuel efficiency, while underinflated tires decrease your fuel efficiency and can result in extra time and money.
As previously stated, your tires lose air pressure each month due to weather changes and normal use, typically about 2-3 psi. Underinflated tires reduce fuel economy by creating extra resistance as they roll down the road. This resistance makes the engine work harder to power the car, burning more fuel in the process.
It is important to remember that it is the air pressure, not your tires, that supports the weight of your vehicle. This is why proper air inflation has such a big impact on your tire’s handling, traction, and durability.
Maintaining proper air pressure is your tires is critical. Many drivers today, erroneously rely on their vehicle's TPMS sensors(Tire Pressure Monitoring System) to alert them to low pressure. This is dangerously low- 25% below the recommended air pressure, according to federal government regulations. You should get into the habit of periodically checking your tire pressure with a quality air gauge. Remember, if you take care of your tires, they will take care of you!