Some 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.
Even if they aren’t fatal, you feel may feel like you just lost a few years off your life after having one. 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 not injured) lost control of his car, which then went through a median and a cable barried 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 supposed 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 the tire should have when it’s on your vehicle.
If you can’t find your PSI, a technician at your local Milex Complete Auto Care would be happy to look at your car and tell you what PSI you’ll need. They’ll be glad to fill your tires to the proper air pressure as well if your tires need replacing.
Don’t overinflate. One could see how you might think, “Well, my PSI is 32. What’s the harm in getting it up to 33 or 34?” Maybe you’ll get lucky, and there won’t be any harm, but the danger of over-inflation is that your tire can become stiff, and its tread – the rubber that meets the road – can be affected. 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, like a soda can or a piece of somebody else’s old tire – any of which could send a car with over-inflated tires in a direction you don’t want to go.
You’re also putting yourself at risk to getting one of those aforementioned blowouts. 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 air can cause your tire pressure to drop, and for the tires to have less air in them. In the summer, if it’s hot enough, your tires can actually end up with more air inside. 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.
And check that tread. After driving awhile, as you know, your tires age. The tread – the rubber that gives you car traction while driving – starts to get worn off. As that happens, and your tires get less traction, your tires become weaker or thinner. At some point, with every passing mile, your tires are more likely to have that blow out or simply go flat.
So how can you check the thread? 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 (it doesn’t mean you couldn’t still change them, but if you want to hold off, you probably can). If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s definitely time to buy some new tires.
It admittedly isn’t fun, having to remember about tire pressure. But better to think about tire pressure (and tread) now rather than later stressing about your tires when you’re on the side of a freeway, working on fixing a flat or waiting for a tow truck.