When was the last time you checked your tire pressure? If you’re like most drivers, you’re having trouble remembering. Because it’s said that most Americans wash their cars more often than they check their tire pressure. But here’s a disturbing fact: the federal government estimates that improperly inflated tires cause about 660 highway auto accident fatalities and 33,000 injuries every year.
And here’s another: in the age of galloping prices for gasoline, under-inflated tires can cut your fuel economy by as much as 6 percent. That’s like paying $3.18 per gallon when the pump is charging $3.00.
What’s the problem?
According to tire experts, under normal driving conditions air-filled tires can lose from 1 to 2 pounds per square inch of pressure every month. When you’re at the wheel you may not notice an immediate effect, but bad things are happening.
Over time, lower tire pressure contributes to the following problems:
• Rapid tread wear.
• Poor emergency handling.
• Increased risk of blowouts. Which can cause auto body damage if you collide with other vehicles or objects in the surrounding.
Lower pressure puts more of the tire in contact with the road on each revolution of the wheel, making the treads wear out faster. The increased friction means your engine has to work harder to maintain your speed, which cuts your gas mileage (by nearly half a percentage point for every pound below specifications in all four tires).
Finally, today’s tubeless tires hold in their air by forming a tight seal against a vehicle’s wheel. When the pressure is lower, the seal becomes looser, and eventually lets all the air escape when, say, you hit a bump or pothole or you make a very sharp turn.
The cure: monthly pressure maintenance
Experts recommend that you check the pressure in your tires at least once a month. To be sure you’re maintaining the correct pressure, check your owner’s manual or the sticker on the inside of your car’s driver door. DO NOT FILL TO THE PRESSURE PRINTED ON YOUR TIRE: that is the maximum allowable for the tire, and not the optimal pressure for operating your vehicle, which is set by your vehicle’s manufacturer.