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Do You Know if Your Tires are Properly Inflated?

Driving on underinflated tires is a leading cause of tire failure. The NHTSA estimates that fully a third of all vehicles on the road today are riding on underinflated tires. Here’s a little tip from a personal injury lawyer. In most states, driving on underinflated tires is considered negligent driving and that can be bad news if you are in an auto accident.

Safety is the number one reason you should be checking your tire pressure on a regular basis and that’s too bad. In America, land of the indestructible, safety is a subjective thing. How many decades did it take to get people to simply buckle up? Do we really think that the threat of a tire blowout, failure in emergency braking or maneuvering will really inspire people to get out of the car, bend down and unscrew the valve cap and check the tire pressure? Probably not.

On the other hand, money is not subjective. It is objective, and you can count it. Running on under inflated tires can cost you. You’ll be shelling out greenbacks for repairs, replacement, and gasoline that you could have avoided. So, if preventing a life endangering accident isn’t enough motivation to check your air pressure, may saving some bucks on the cost to run your ride will be.

The Cost of Under Inflated Tires

Your tires are the only part of your ride that touches the pavement and they lead a hard life in the best of times. When they are under inflated, bad things happen to them:

  • Under inflated tires cause a bigger footprint which cause more heat and plays havoc with the tread. Under inflated tires can expect to see tread deterioration along the outside treads and the more extreme damage of cupping. Tread damage means less grip for braking and maneuvering.
  • Under inflated tires will cause the sidewalls to bow outward slightly. The additional heat generated by the larger footprint can damage the structural integrity of the sidewall and potentially cause a sidewall blowout.
  • When there is more tire touching the pavement, the tire’s rolling resistance is increased meaning it takes more energy (fuel) to turn than a properly inflated tire. Goodbye fuel efficiency.
  • All those expensive high tech features you have like torque vectoring, lane keeping, and adaptive cruise control will not work as efficiently if your tires are not filled to manufacturer’s spec.
  • Under inflated tires don’t take bumps or pot holes well and can potentially cause damage to the suspension or cause a need for an alignment.

The net result is you can expect to be buying new tires more frequently, possibly spending more on suspension repairs, and for sure spending more on gasoline. If you would prefer to avoid those costs, and drive more safely, then all you need to do is keep your tires properly inflated.

Finding the Right Tire Pressure for Your Car or Truck

Do you know what your tire pressure should be? Most people don’t. So here are a few tips on how to find it:

  • Don’t use the number located on the sidewall of your tire. This number represents the maximum pressure your tire can accept when the vehicle is carrying its maximum load.
  • Do use the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. If your car was made after 2003 you’ll be able to find the proper tire pressure on a placard located on the door jamb of the driver’s side door behind the seat. You can also find it in the owner’s manual. If you have an older car, the tire pressure is usually on a placard located inside the glove box or attached to the inside of the trunk lid.
  • Exceptions. If you own a pickup or SUV, there may be different pressures for the front and rear tires. There will definitely be different pressures if you are towing a load. Use your owner’s manual to determine the correct tire pressure for both front and rear.
  • Another Exception. Many winter tire (snow tire) manufacturers recommend 3 to 5 psi more pressure than your standard all season tire. Winter tires operate in colder climates and do not “heat up” like standard tires. Consequently, the air in a winter tire does not expand like that in a standard tire.

Now the hard part. At least once a month and definitely before you start a long road trip, check the pressure in each tire. You can get a dial type or digital tool for about $10 to $20. Most modern vehicles are equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that will alert you to low tire pressure. Don’t ignore the warning, you may have a tire that is going flat.

Keeping your tires properly inflated will save you money, and more importantly, help keep you and others using the roadway, safe.