The Importance of Tire Pressure
Most people don’t think about tire pressure until they have a problem, or the warning light illuminates on the dash. Tires in general are an essential part of any vehicle. They impact how a car turns, stops, and accelerates. Proper air pressure allows everything to operate just as it was designed.
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If you think about it, the tires are literally what connect you to the road. No other part of a vehicle touches the asphalt. That makes tires supremely important for safety. They directly affect braking, cornering, and acceleration performance.
Low tire pressure allows the sidewalls on tires to flex more than usual. This leads to a mushy feel as you go through turns. That sidewall flex generates heat in the tires, which can lead to a blowout when driving at highway speeds.
When the tire pressure is low, your car takes longer to stop. The middle portion of the tread doesn’t touch the road like it does when tire pressure is at the correct level, reducing traction. That loss of traction means the vehicle skids further before coming to a stop in an emergency situation. In especially close calls, tire inflation could be the factor that causes a collision.
Another factor that’s impacted by tire pressure is the life of the tread. You’ve already learned that underinflated tires cause the center of the tread to not contact the road surface as it should. This means the sides of the tread take the full load of the car, causing them to wear down quicker.
If your tires are overinflated, the exact opposite will happen. The full weight of the vehicle rests on the center of the tread instead of the edges, causing that section to wear faster. You should know this is less of an issue than underinflation, thanks to modern tire technology. Still, chronic overinflation will cause your tires to not last as long.
Nobody wants to buy tires more often than necessary, considering they’re a fairly expensive item. Checking the tire pressure will help the tires last longer, so you can spend your money on other items.
While most modern cars have a tire pressure monitoring system, you usually only get a warning once the tire pressure is dangerously low. That makes relying on this aid as your sole resource a bad idea.
You should be checking the tire pressure on your car about once a month. Handheld tire pressure gauges make this a quick and easy process. All you need to do is unscrew the valve cap, put the gauge on the stem, and check the reading. Remember to check the pressure when the car’s been sitting for a few hours, since tires that have been driven on heat up, increasing the pressure slightly.
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