Properly inflated tires are important for several reasons. Ride quality, safety, and fuel economy all benefit from having your tires at the right pressure, which can save you time and money. First up, how can you find out what pressure your tires should be inflated to? Well, you know that manual in your glove box that you’ve likely never looked at? Check it, because there will be a section on your tires. You can also check the driver’s door, out on the end where the door latch is. Usually there will be a sticker there telling you information about your tires.
So, let’s say it’s recommended you keep your tire pressure at 32psi. You’ll need to get out and check them manually. To do this, park on a nice even surface and get out your trusty tire gauge. Don’t have one? You can find one just about any where; from your big box stores to autoparts stores. They generally cost a dollar or two. Next, go to one of your tires and remove the valve stem cap. The valve stem is the little black thing sticking out from your rim. It’s about an inch and a half long and as wide as a pencil. There should be a cap at the end of it that screws off. If any of your caps are missing, get some new ones which cost maybe a dollar a pack and replace them. Why replace them? Because it’s important to keep dirt and grime out of your valve stem. Ok, with the cap off push your pressure gauge onto the end of the stem. You will hear some air rushing and your gauge should pop out. Pull the gauge off the stem and check the reading. If it’s too low you’ll need to add air, and if it’s too high you’ll need to release air by pushing on the end of the stem with the round part of your tire gauge.
When filling the tire it’s important to go in small increments so you don’t over-fill. So, add air for 5-10 seconds and then check with your gauge to see where you stand. Continue doing so until you’ve reached the desired pressure. It’s very important to not trust a visual check of the tires to know if you are over or under inflated, because depending on the outside temperature and the surface your car is resting on, looks can be very deceiving. Always use your gauge.
Now that you know how to get your tires to the right pressure, we should talk about why you should want to keep them there. The biggest reason is fuel economy. According to a Carnegie Mellon, your fuel economy decreases by half a percent for every PSI of pressure your tires are under inflated. That may not sound like a lot but it means if you drive 12,000 miles a year in your average family car, you could end up using an extra 144 gallons of fuel. That means you could be throwing away 400-500 dollars every year.
The second reason is safety. Your car or truck is designed to run its best on properly inflated tires. Over inflated tires can have severe grip problems, meaning they do not turn corners as easily, or stop as quickly under braking. Under inflated tires can have similar problems because too much rubber is hitting the road and dragging. These problems can become even worse in wet or icy conditions.
Lastly, poorly inflated tires lead to much greater tire wear, which can be dangerous and cost you a lot of money. Like everything else, tires today are becoming more expensive, and it’s getting harder and harder to find a set for under five hundred dollars. For sports or luxury vehicles that use bigger or higher performance tires that cost can easily double or triple.
You should check your tires weekly, and especially in the fall and spring as the temperatures are changing. Five minutes of your time once a week can save you a bundle of money and make your car much safer on the road.