Correct tyre pressure is vital to your safety on the road. Under-inflated tyres affect handling and grip, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable vehicle behaviour. They are also much more likely to suffer from a dangerous blowout, especially on high-speed motorway journeys.
By keeping your tyres at their optimum pressure, your running costs are also reduced. Under-inflated tyres require a bigger force to make them turn, so your car uses more fuel. Additionally, tyres which are not set to their correct pressure wear out more quickly.
So, to benefit from lower fuel bills, longer tyre life, increased safety and reduced CO2 emissions, make sure you check your tyre pressures at least once a month and before a long journey.
Experts agree that keeping the correct air pressure in your tyres is as important as giving your engine a tune-up. In fact, the economic benefits may be even greater. With the right amount of air pressure, your tyres wear longer, save fuel, enhance handling, and prevent accidents. Failure to maintain the correct air pressure can result in poor gas mileage, reduce tyre life, affect vehicle handling, and cause vehicle overloading. If you consider these factors, then the need to routinely check your tyre pressure is even clearer.
Check Air Pressure Routinely Because tyres do so much without appearing to need attention, it’s easy to forget about them. However, tyres do lose pressure each day, through the process of permeation. In cool weather, a tyre will typically lose one or two pounds of air per month. In warm weather, it’s common for tyres to lose air at an even higher rate. Tyres are also often subjected to flexing and impacts that can diminish air pressure as well. So it’s important to realize that refilling your tyres is as important as refilling your gas tank. In fact, associating the need to refill your tyres with the need for refilling your fuel supply can also be a useful reminder. Check the air pressure in your tyres every other time you stop to fill up at the petrol station. That interval will allow you to check your tyre pressure consistently enough to maintain recommended air pressure. Another good time to check air pressure is when the tyres are rotated. Many vehicles have different tyre pressures on the front and rear axle, so remember to have this adjustment made. Also remember to have the pressure in your spare tyre checked. The space-saver type spare requires a much higher air pressure level than other tyres, and is virtually useless (due to overloading) at lower air pressure levels.
The correct air pressure may be found in the vehicle owner’s manual or on the tyre placard (attached to the vehicle door edge, doorpost, glove box door or fuel door). The placard tells you the maximum vehicle load, the cold tyre pressures and the tyre size recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
In addition to routine air checks, other circumstancescause visits to the air pump. Seasonal changes or altitude changes create a rise or drop in air pressure (for every 10 degrees change in temperature, tyre air pressure changes 1 psi). Perhaps the most overlooked factor is vehicle loading for trucks and RVs. Since these vehicles can be configured and loaded in many ways, actual tyre loads should be used to determine the proper inflation pressure. This is best determined by weighing the vehicle. Keep in mind that vehicle loading can change from trip to trip.
Sometimes a small nail, screw or other object will puncture a tyre and then act as an inefficient plug. Air pressure drops slowly over a matter of hours or days, undetected by the driver. Your best defense in this circumstance is to be alert to the symptoms of this. Be aware of any pulling or vibration that seems unnatural. Listen for any ticking sounds, which will be especially audible at slow, parking lot speeds. If you detect this, get off the road and inspect the tires on the side of your vehicle where the pull, vibration or unusual sound is occurring. A bulging sidewall and/or excessively hot tyre indicates a slow leak. Put on your spare tyre and have your tyre dealer repair the punctured unit. Ask the repair technician if any sidewall damage has occurred (a powdery residue inside the tyre indicates this condition). If sidewall damage has occurred, you will need to have the tyre replaced.
Checking tyre air pressure properly requires an accurate air gauge. Many people believe that they can check air pressure just by looking at the tyre and judging the sidewall appearance.; tht just does not work with radial tyres. Also, many people use air meters at service stations, which can be grossly inaccurate due to exposure or abuse. Invest in a quality air gauge; you can buy them from retailers like Repco and Supercheap Auto at quite low prices.
When checking your vehicle’s tyre pressure, make sure the tyres are “cold”. Cold air pressure means that the vehicle has not yet been driven 2 kms. Remember that driving on a tyre increases its temperature and air pressure. If you must drive more than 2 kms for air, check and record the air pressure in all your tyres before you leave. Once at the tyre dealer, measure each tyre’s inflation again and then note the difference. Inflate the tyres with low pressure to a level that is equal to the recommended cold pressure plus the difference at the higher temperature. Finally, after completing the pressure check, make sure that the valves and extensions are equipped with valve caps to keep out dirt and moisture. Remember to replace the valve assembly when you replace the tyre. It’s your best assurance against a sudden or consistent loss of air pressure.
How can routine air pressure maintenance impact our environment? We estimate that most drivers lose from 10% to as much as 50% of tyre tread life due to underinflation. That’s a significant statistic. Now consider the extra fuel we burn to push cars along on soft, underinflated tyres. Tyres do require extra energy to roll if they are underinflated. While the statistics vary widely and can be somewhat inconclusive, the implications are staggering. Maintaining tyre pressure may seem like a low priority in our busy daily routines, but it adds up to big environmental consequences. We must all take action to do the right thing