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How to check your tire pressure

how to check tire pressure
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The importance of checking tire pressure

It is vital that your tires are kept to the correct psi as instructed by the manufacturer for many reasons. Not only is it a critical part of maintaining your safety while driving, but also tires which do contain the correct amount of air will have a greater life expectancy, saving the driver money on tires. The inflation of your tires also impacts the comfort, braking, handling and cornering of your vehicle to name just a few things. 

The dangers of under inflation

Under inflating the tires can have several large impacts on the driver and vehicle. Too little tire pressure will cause the handling and manoeuvrability to be greatly reduced and along with braking distances being increased, could result in a serious accident if an emergency stop manoeuvre must be performed to avoid a collision. Additionally, low tire pressure allows for extreme flexing of the sidewalls of your vehicle, which could lead to high amounts of tire tread wear or even a blowout due to the varying temperature of heat that will be created. In addition, under inflated tires have a greater rolling distance, which will not only negatively impact the fuel economy of the car, but also wear away the outer tread of the tire far quicker, resulting in a more frequent need to buy new tires for the vehicle. 

The problem with over inflation

Meanwhile, over inflation of tires also presents its own set of problems. Due to the rigid state of the tire if over inflated, this causes it to become more susceptible to any hazards on the road surface such as potholes, debris and larger rocks. Additionally, over inflation causes uneven tread wear, as the central band of the tire tread is worn far quicker, once again leading to tires having to be replaced more often. 

The easiest way to check tire pressure

Some drivers will check their tire pressure at a gas station, and while that's very easy and convenient, it's not the best way to do it. Tire pressure should be checked when the vehicle has not been driven for several hours, thus allowing the tires to cool down. Anyone who remembers science class will know there is a relationship between pressure and temperature, so the best way to measure pressure is at a normal temperature. With a pressure gauge from a local auto shop or dealer, this will allow an accurate reading whether the gauge is a traditional stick type device or an automatic battery powered one. The caps of the valve stems on the tires should be carefully removed to avoid misplacement, with the pressure gauge being connected to the valve to get a tire pressure reading. You should then use this reading to compare to the recommended psi of the tires declared by the manufacturer. You can usually locate these either in the owner’s manual or the inside of the driver’s door near the pedals. Once you have compared the two numbers, you should either see that your tire Is underinflated, meaning the correct amount of pressure can be added, or the tire is overinflated and some air should be let out. This process should be completed with all four tires and the spare.

How often should tire pressure be checked?

It is recommended that you check your tire pressures on all four tires and spare at least once per month. While it is perfectly fine to perform these checks more than once per month, failing to check them after a 30-day period could result in significant damage to the vehicle. 

What is a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)?

A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is a formality in any new car. It is a system which can be either direct or indirect. At its core, a TPMS gives the driver a warning that their tire pressure is below the manufacturer’s recommended psi level. A direct TPMS means there is a physical sensor on either the valve, inside or rim of the tire. However, an indirect TPMS system uses the anti-lock brake system (ABS) to judge the wheel speed of each tire, to the use this information to establish any tire that has a psi which is 25% lower than the recommended figure. This can be a downside however, as if all four tires have a 25% cut from the psi they should be, an indirect TPMS will not pick this up as a problem and no warning light will be displayed to the driver which could cause safety problems.