Some of the easiest-to-ignore things in life are some of the most important to remember.
You probably don’t think about your tire pressure much, but arguably, we all should. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire failure causes about 11,000 crashes a year.
And some of those crashes are deadly.
A tire blowout can be very scary. For instance, in February 2018, a TV station reported a driver whose tire blew out near Kingsport, Tennessee – the driver (who was not injured) lost control of his car, which then went through a median and a cable barrier and dragged the tangled cables behind it across northbound lanes. Incredibly, nobody was injured, but traffic was delayed for hours.
So, you probably don’t need to be convinced that tire safety is important, but if you aren’t sure how to keep your tires properly pressurized, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
Find the proper air pressure. Your tires are designed to be inflated to a certain PSI (Pounds per Square Inch). Generally, the PSI can be found on a sticker in your driver’s door jamb or inside your owner’s manual. Believe it or not, you shouldn’t rely on the PSI that is marked on your tires. That’s because the PSI on the tire refers to the maximum pressure the tire can hold and not the recommended pressure for what that tire should have when it’s in use. If you can’t find your PSI, a technician at your local Milex Complete Auto Care/Mr. Transmission would be happy to look at your car and tell you what PSI you’ll need, and they’ll be glad to fill your tires to the proper air pressure as well.
Don’t overinflate. I understand how you might think, “Well, my PSI is 32. What’s the harm in getting it up to 33 or 34?” Properly inflated tires allow for all of the tread to contact the road. Generally, under-inflated tires will roll on the edges and over inflated tires will roll in the center. If your tread is harder than normal, that means that less rubber actually touches the road, and it’ll be harder to control your car. That’s problematic in any case, but you could really find yourself in trouble if you’re driving on a road and hit a pothole or a piece of trash, either of which could send a car with over-inflated tires in a direction you didn’t intend to go. You’re also putting yourself at higher risk for a blowout. So, yes, a blowout can happen with a tire that has far too little air in it – but also when it has too much air.
Weather can affect your tire pressure. Has the temperature plummeted? Or is the mercury going way up? During the winter, the cold temperatures can cause your tire pressure to drop. In the summer, if it’s hot enough, your tires can actually end up with too much pressure. That’s important to remember if you aren’t in the habit of checking your tire pressure regularly. You’ll at the very least want to eyeball your tires when the weather changes dramatically, and, of course, you may want to check your tire pressure with a tire gauge – or maybe that’s when you’ll want to drop in at Milex Complete Auto Care/Mr. Transmission to have your tires checked out.
Check your tires tread. After driving awhile, as you know, your tires age. The tread, the different groves on the tire that gives your car traction while driving, starts to get worn off. As the tires wear the tread wears off and consequently your tires provide less traction and your tires become weaker or thinner. Older worn tires are much more prone to hydroplaning since the tires ability to move water out of its way is diminished due to the shallow depth of the tread. As your tires wear and age, your tires are more likely to have that blow out or in some cases simply go flat. So how can you check the tread on your tires? Well, look in your spare change and pull out a penny, and we’ll do what tire experts call “the penny test.” See President Lincoln’s hair? Stick the penny with Lincoln’s hair downward, into the grooves of the tread at the top of the tire. If you can’t see part of Lincoln’s head, you still have enough tread on your tires. Do the Penny test across the width of the tire to be sure. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to buy some new tires.
Not having proper inflation can decrease the life of a tire. The NHTSA also says that proper tire inflation can extend a tire’s life by 4,700 miles. That could be another six months or year of driving, or a few weeks, depending how long your commute may be. Checking tire pressure is admittedly not fun. But better to check tire pressure (and tread) now rather than what might happen if you don’t. Tires are the only thing on your car that touches the road. Keep them properly inflated and in good condition and you will be “Road Ready”.