From a safety and cost standpoint, tire maintenance is one of the most important things you can do for your car. The easiest way to care for your tires is both quick and inexpensive: maintain the correct tire pressure.
What is the recommended tire pressure?
The recommended pressure for tires varies by the type of car and tire. Because maintaining your tires is so crucial to your safety and your car’s overall performance, it’s important to know what tire pressure is correct for your vehicle.
To learn what your tire pressure should be, look for your manufacturer’s recommendation, which is printed on a label inside your car. Depending on the vehicle, this label may be on the edge of the vehicle’s door, on the doorpost or in the glove box. The label will usually give recommendations for the front and rear tires as well as the spare, and it’s important that you stick to those guidelines. Even after you’ve replaced your tires, the same pressure guidelines on your car’s label apply to new tires of the same size.
Pressure recommendations are based on readings taken from a tire pressure gauge. Check the pressure first thing in the morning or wait at least three hours after driving; this provides sufficient time for them to cool back down.1
What happens if you drive with low (or high) tire pressure?
Driving on underinflated tires is one of the biggest causes of tire failure, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And not having enough air in your tires can lead to other problems. Under-inflated tires wear out more rapidly, handle poorly and reduce fuel efficiency. On the other hand, overinflated tires are more susceptible to damage from road irregularities, and they also result in a bumpier ride. Overfilling your tires is just as dangerous as underfilling them, so it’s important you know what is recommended for your vehicle.
How to check tire pressure
Knowing how to check tire pressure is critical to your safety and to keeping your tires in good working order.
Use a tire pressure gauge
When it comes to choosing a gauge, you typically have 3 options:
Stick-type pressure gauges — Have a ruler-like rod that slides in and out of a sleeve to measure air pressure
Dial pressure gauges — Feature a numbered dial with a watch-like hand
Digital pressure gauges — Display numbers on a digital screen
Put the pressure gauge into the valve stem, making sure the gauge is evenly and firmly pressed onto the stem. If you’re using a pen-style gauge, read the number on the rod that pops out of the sleeve. Read dial pressure gauges as you would a watch with one hand. With a digital pressure gauge, simply read the number on the screen. 2
Find Tire PSI
Find your tires’ recommended PSI in the owner’s manual or on a sticker just inside the driver’s side door. The proper PSI is crucial to your safety and the car’s longevity. Underinflated tires can overheat and wear unevenly; overinflated tires can blow out.1
Temperature has a direct effect on your air tires’ air pressure, so for an accurate PSI reading, make sure to check tire pressure when tires are cold. If it’s cold outside, then you can assume your tires are losing PSI and you should check even more frequently. This will help to ensure maximum safety. Take your car to a mechanic you trust for a professional assessment.3
How to check tire pressure without a gauge
If you happen to find yourself without a tire gauge and your car doesn’t have an indicator for low tire pressure, there are several things you can do to figure out whether your tires need to be inflated.
Feel the wheels. Press on your wheels using your hand or foot. Are the tires firm or do they have some give? If your they feel soft, it’s time to add more air.
Eyeball the wheels. Do you see any flattening? If your answer is yes, then your tires probably need more air.
Load weight onto your vehicle. If you see your tires sagging a bit with more weight added to your car, then you probably need to inflate them more.
Pay attention to how your ride feels. Do you notice your rides feeling bumpier than usual lately? Do you hear noise when steering or have difficulty steering? These are signs that your tires may be low on air.4
How to maintain proper tire pressure
Of course, knowing your recommended PSI isn’t enough. You have to ensure you’re checking your tires regularly. Experts recommend you check air pressure once a month.5 Your car’s tire pressure monitoring system TPMS measures the amount of air in your tires to let you know whether your tires are properly inflated.1
Frequently checking your PSI becomes even more important in the fall and winter, when outside temperatures drop and weather conditions fluctuate causing your tires to lose air more quickly. Generally, your tire will gain or lose 1 PSI for every 10-degree change in temperature, which means if you have a sudden drop of 30 degrees, you could lose 3 PSI overnight. If your tires were already low, this could cause tire damage, steering problems or even a flat tire.3
Knowing and maintaining the right air pressure is important to the safety and longevity of your tires. All it takes is a tire pressure gauge and a few minutes of your time.
Once you have the right tire pressure, make sure you also have the right coverage. Learn more about how Nationwide auto insurance can help protect you and save you money.
Sources: 1 https://www.pirelli.com/tires/en-us/car/driving-and-tire-tips/how-to-read/recommended-tire-pressure, Accessed April 2022. 2 https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/tire-pressure-gauges/buying-guide/index.htm#:~:text=There%20are%20three%20types%20of,of%205%20to%2099%20psi., Accessed April 2022. 3 https://www.firestonecompleteautocare.com/blog/tires/should-i-inflate-tires-cold-weather/, Accessed April 2022. 4 https://rxmechanic.com/how-to-check-tire-pressure-without-gauge/, Accessed February 2022.