With The Correct Tire Pressure, Your Car Handles Better And Your Tires Last Longer
Checking your tire pressure regularly is a habit worth having. I like to do it every 1000 km (600 mi) or so at one of my fill-ups. I use the same place each time for gas and air, close to my home, so my tires are still cold.
A front tire low on air can be harder to steer at slow speeds and can pull unexpectedly to one side during hard or sudden braking. This could result in an accident.
Rear tires, low on air, may go longer without being detected. The effect on the ride is more subtle. It often has the feel of the car ‘swimming’ back and forth in tiny movements. There is an unnatural softness, or sentimentality, to the ride.
Keep in mind that a soft tire also has less traction.
Letting Others Know
I see many under-inflated tires in my travels. When I can do it safely, I get beside the driver at a light or stop sign from letting them know. If necessary, I will use my horn to get their attention. A quick tip on the horn is usually enough.
Then I make a circular motion with my hand to indicate opening the window while lowering mine. This usually gets them to open their window, and I can let them know they need air in their (driver’s side or passenger side/front or rear) tire.
Make the communication short and clear, using the above phrases.
Tire Wear Patterns
Whenever I get up close and personal with my tires, I use the opportunity to check for any visible signs of uneven wear. Of course, if there is uneven wear, then this is a more advanced problem than the tire being just a little low on air.
And it’s probably been a long time since I checked my tire pressure.
Over-inflated tires will wear more on the center treads of the tire. Under-inflated tires will wear down the outer treads first, on both the tire’s inner and outer sides.
If only one of the inner or outer treads is worn, it is probably an alignment issue. Have your mechanic look at it.
Correct Tire Pressure
I make use of my tire pressure gauge to check my tires as I don’t trust the garages. Those can be dirty, hard to read, and stuck or frozen in winter. You also have no way of knowing their accuracy.
It occurred to me, though, that I also had no way of knowing my own tire gauge’s accuracy.
One way to test the gauge’s accuracy is to check your tires with your gauge and then another one. Compare the two readings. If both meters read within a few pounds of each other, they are probably accurate enough.
You can also buy tire pressure gauges that can be calibrated. This means that they can be checked against a pre-set standard.
I use a pencil type gauge and keep it in the glove box, where it will not get banged around.
Check your owner’s manual or door panel for proper tire inflation for your car. It was not as high as you see on the tire. The number on the tire is the maximum pressure.
Since pressure increases inside the tire as it heats up from driving, never fill your tires to maximum when they are cold. You will risk blow-outs.
Most gas stations have air pumps somewhere around the outside of the driveway area. Some are free.
If the pump is not free and you are a regular customer, or you’ve just bought some gas, they may turn it on for free if you ask nicely.
The easy way is to get the mechanic to check your tire pressure for you when you get your car serviced. That, however, may not be often enough to check your tires.
Check your tire pressure regularly, visually, and with a gauge. Then it will be evident to you when a leak is new and needs immediate attention. This is the best insurance you have that you’ll be able to get to a garage in time to get a tire leak fixed.
Often it will be a nail or some other sharp object that you picked up accidentally.
I make sure I’m by a pump when I check my tires so I can top up right there if I need to. It should also be close to your starting point for the day (under 10 minutes) so that your tires are not yet warmed up.
7 Easy Steps To Proper Tire Pressure
- Pull up to the air pump so that you can reach all four tires from one spot.
- Take some paper towel or a rag from the car to use on the valve caps as they will be dirty from road tar and such stuff. Wipe them before taking them off so that your fingers and pockets (if that’s where you put them) stay clean.
- If a tire is at the correct air pressure, put the cap back on right away. If the tire needs a top-up, put the lid in a pocket or set it beside the tire where you won’t knock it out with the air hose.
- Once all tires have been checked, remove the hose from the holder and start the pump.
- Fill the tires that need it, occasionally checking with the gauge so as not to overfill.
- If you do overfill, use the protrusion on the back of the gauge’s head to depress the stem inside the valve and let some air out to reach the correct tire pressure.
- When all tires, including the spare, are at the proper air pressure, put all the valve caps back on tightly.
- Return the hose to the pump winding it around the holder so that it is off the ground.
- In cold weather, a hose left lying on the ground can take in water and freeze, making it useless for filling tires.
Take a minute to leave things ready for the next customer. It just might be you.