Keeping your tires inflated seems like it should be simple — and that’s likely the reason a lot of people overlook it. It’s a small act that keeps you on the road, and it’s definitely something to stay on top of. Maintaining proper summer tire pressure requires special considerations. Here are some quick tips to ensure your tires are always ready for the road.
One of the most important things to know is that tire pressure changes with temperature. Hot air expands and cold air contracts, so the hotter it is outside, the more pressurized your tires will be. It’s not unusual for your tire pressure to be higher in the afternoon than in the morning. Ambient temperature aside, tires heat up the more they’re driven, as friction produces heat. Follow a few key tips and tricks to account for all of the factors that dictate tire pressure:
1. Check Air Pressure When Tires Are “Cold”
This doesn’t mean check the tires when they’re actually chilly. Rather, check them in the morning before driving on them. Taking the measurement in the afternoon or after you’ve been driving gives an incorrect baseline inflation, which could potentially lead to under-inflation problems.
2. Don’t Inflate to the Max
The sidewall lists a maximum pressure, but you really only need to pay attention to the pressure guidelines in the owner’s manual. That number takes normal daily fluctuations into account. You should also find appropriate pressure guidelines for hauling extra-heavy loads in your owner’s manual.
3. Check Regularly
Check your tire pressure once a month at least, but more often is better. This way, you stay on top of changes caused by temperature, and can also catch a slow leak before it catches you.
4. Don’t Forget the Fifth Wheel
There’s a spare under there! In an emergency, you might have to rely on it. Do “future you” a favor and keep it properly inflated, too.
There are different consequences for over- or under inflating your tires. Over inflation leads to a rougher ride and wears the middle of the tread more quickly, which can literally halve the intended life of the tire. Over-inflated tires also provide less traction and burst easier when driven over sudden holes, bumps and obstacles. On the other side, under-inflated tires reduce fuel economy and increase rolling resistance (friction), which can produce too much heat, and tread separation or blowouts can occur.
It’s so easy to keep an eye on tire pressure, and doing so can safeguard your vehicle from a lot of damage. This simple check can save you on everything from fuel costs to a new set of tires — and potentially a blowout. No one wants to be stranded on the roadside, so take a few minutes to check your tires before your next summer drive.
For more information on summer tire pressure, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.