How to Check and Maintain Proper Tire Pressure
Making sure your tires are consistently inflated to the correct pressure keeps you safe on the road, ensures better vehicle performance and extends the life of your tires. Tires are one of the most important factors in automotive safety, so it’s important that you take proper care of them — including maintaining proper tire pressure.
Tire maintenance can include having them rotated, aligned and balanced and making sure the wear on the tread is sufficient. But a regular tire pressure check is an effective and affordable way to ward off avoidable incidents and expenses.
What You Need to Know About Tire Pressure
If you’ve ever noticed the “low tire” light on your dash, you might think that’s all you need to alert you when your tires need air. But the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light wasn’t designed to replace regular tire pressure checks; it was created to let you know if there’s an unsafe situation with your tires. In fact, the light doesn’t even come on until one of your tires is 25% below the recommended level of inflation, which means by the time it comes on, you’re well past the point of needing to add air to your tire.
Just as you wouldn’t use your oil light indicator to inform you when it’s time to get an oil change, you shouldn’t use your TPMS light as a way to inform you when it’s time to add air.
Tire pressure matters for several reasons, including:
- Not having enough air in your tires makes it harder to steer and reduces your tires’ traction on the road
- Insufficient tire pressure is one of the most common causes of tire blowouts
- Having your tires properly inflated can save as much as 11 cents per gallon of gas
- Properly inflated tires will last as much as 4,700 miles longer than tires that are not kept properly inflated
When to Check Tire Pressure
Tire pressure checks should be done regularly; at least once a month is sufficient, but if you have trouble remembering, you can also make it a practice to check your tire pressure every time you wash your car. (If you drive your car multiple miles a day, such as for a sales job or a long commute, it’s probably a good idea to check your tire pressure once a week.)
You can find the recommended tire pressure on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door or in your print or online owner’s manual.
During fall and winter months you’ll need to check your tire pressure more frequently, as you will lose about one PSI of air for every 10 degrees that the temperature drops. So if your tire was already a little on the low side, and a dramatic cold snap occurs overnight, you could start your day with a flat tire.
Once you get in the habit of checking your tire pressure regularly, you can monitor how well your tires hold air. If you find you have a slow leak in a tire, you may need to take it in to a company that offers tire pressure service and have them locate the problem to safely resolve it — or let you know if tire replacement is recommended.
Tire pressure should also be checked as part of your vehicle’s regularly scheduled maintenance. Many tire problems can be resolved if they are caught early and addressed immediately. They certainly aren’t going to get better or go away on their own.
Checking Tire Pressure When Traveling
If you plan to hit the road for a vacation or long drive, have your tires checked for overall safety and adequate pressure before you go.
Just for safety’s sake, check your tire pressure more frequently when you’re traveling long distances. The few minutes it takes to make sure you have the right tire pressure is well worth saving the time and expense of a flat tire (or worse) when you’re miles from home.