Are your tires properly inflated? Tires are your vehicle’s only link to the pavement and affect so much of how your vehicle handles on the road, so this is an important question to answer. Because air pressure constantly fluctuates, it’s a good idea to check and adjust tire pressure at least monthly, if not weekly.
Here are four things that the loss of just a few PSI can affect, most of which are interrelated and some of which may not seem so obvious.
1. Fuel Economy
You probably know this one already, but insufficient tire inflation will reduce your vehicle’s fuel economy and cause you to spend more time at the pump. The worse the underinflation, the more fuel you’ll waste getting from place to place.
Not only does this waste time and energy, but it adds more harmful emissions to the atmosphere than necessary. Even environmentally friendly cars, like PZEVs (partial zero-emissions vehicles) and hybrids, could be wasting more fuel than advertised, simply for lack of tire maintenance.
Softer tires are more likely to “roll over” when cornering or changing lanes, as the sidewalls are extremely poor at providing traction. Low pressure also increases the chances of hydroplaning in wet conditions and increases braking distance.
Any way you look at it, reducing traction increases your chances of losing control of your vehicle. Keeping tires at the proper pressure ensures consistent tread contact with the pavement, particularly when cornering, braking and accelerating.
This is the primary reason that tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are mandated in all production vehicles. Preventing tire blowouts could prevent thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities every year.
4. Tire Life
Low tire pressure increases tire wear and reduces the lifespan of your tires significantly. If you drive around with underinflated tires consistently, you’ll be faced with replacing them well ahead of schedule.
Manufacturing new tires also adds to a vehicle’s impact on the environment. Producing carbon black, a critical component of tire rubber, requires crude oil and generates carbon dioxide emissions in the process.
Even if you’re accustomed to performing maintenance tasks like regularly changing your vehicle’s oil, these generally only happen every few months, while tire pressure can fluctuate weekly — even daily. Take 10 minutes a week to check and adjust your tires, and you’ll save more than a few visits to the fuel pump and tire store. You may even avoid calls no one wants to make — to tow trucks or even ambulances.
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Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.