Tire Pressure Tips: According to a recent study about transportation safety and tire inflation conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Report No. DOT HS811 086), “In order for a vehicle to handle safely and use fuel economically, proper tire inflation, as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, needs to be maintained in a vehicle’s tires. Pressure below the recommended pressure (i.e., underinflation) can cause high heat generation that in turn can cause rapid tire wear, tire blowout, and loss of vehicle control that may cause a crash.”
Interestingly, the study found that overinflation tends to be an even bigger problem than underinflation in vehicles with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) on board.
Of course, we don’t need a study to tell us that the number of accidents related to improper tire inflation increase significantly during bad weather. We already know that coupling improperly inflated tires with bad weather can be a lethal combination. Many accidents are caused by the loss of maneuverability due to under or over-inflated tires.
In a world of wall-to-wall traffic, impaired drivers, and unpredictable weather events it is comforting to know that there are some very simple things that you can do in order to minimize the risks of becoming a statistic. These simple things are indeed easy, doable, and very practical.
Five Golden Rules of Tire Pressure Maintenance
- Be a Safe, Proactive, and Defensive Driver: This means before anything else you always make it a point to check the condition of your tires. Following the next four golden rules is the bare minimum to be a safe and defensive driver
- Don’t Just “Trust Your Gut” On This: Do not rely with your visual acuity alone in detecting pressure. Use a good quality tire pressure gauge in measuring the PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) at least every week or so. Make it more often during bad weather, or when it is excessively hot or cold outside.
- Use an Accurate Tire Pressure Gauge: There are several types; the traditional pencil-type tire gauge with the measuring stick that pops out, the gas station tire pressure gauge on the air pump at your local service station, and various forms of digital tire pressure gauges. The digital tire gauge offers the most precision, when it is accurate, because it will give a precise reading. The best way to check accuracy is to test it against one or more tire gauges known to be accurate like the one your trusted mechanic keeps on hand.
- Take internal and external temperature into account: Because heat expands air pressure and cold contracts, it is best to measure the tires when they are cold. A good time is when the vehicle has been idle for at least 3 to 4 hours or it has not been driven for more than 2 miles or so.
- Know the Recommended Pressure for Your Tires: Just to be sure, refer to the vehicle placard located usually in the driver’s doors, glove compartment, or door post. These placards list the information of correct pressure level for each tire.
Advantages of Regular Tire Monitoring
There are many advantages of checking our tires regularly, even with just the help of simple tools like the tire pressure gauge. Along with avoiding potential accidents or the trouble of being stranded along the roadside, we can enjoy the following benefits:
- We can reduce fuel consumption, thereby saving money on fuel expenditures
- We can extend the life of our tires thus also saving a fortune in premature tire replacements
- Our cars and trucks handle more efficiently and safely, especially on curves and around obstacles like potholes and debris in the road.
- We can help the environment because it will also lower our emissions.
ConclusionGetting into the habit of checking tire pressure and condition every time we fuel up our vehicle has no downside. We can save fuel, wear and tear, and money. We even stand a very good chance of saving a life or two, although we may never know it. Depending totally on a Tire Pressure Monitoring System is not a good idea. At a minimum, manually checking tire pressure at least once or twice a month is recommended.