Maintaining your car can seem like a major pain in the butt, but it’s also vitally important since most of us spend a lot of time in our cars and/or have plans to get every mile we can out of our cars (see our tips to get your high mileage beauty in our recent blog post). In the same way, keeping your tires in peak condition so you can get every mile possible out of them may seem inconvenient, but is vitally important both for the life of your tires and your safety. Getting every mile you can out of those tires starts before you even buy your tires by selecting the right tire for your car and driving style and ends when you tires show signs that it’s time for tire replacement.
So what do you do in the middle of the process to keep those tires in good condition and you safe? There are a few things you can do, including checking for alignment issues, regular tire rotation and checking your tire pressure on a regular basis.
Why is tire pressure important?
- Safety. Tires with improper tire pressure can cause handling and traction issues, which are dangerous especially during our Wisconsin winters. In addition, overinflated or underinflated tires are both vulnerable to unpredicted flats, which can cause you to lose control of your car or leave you stranded on the side of the road.
- Saves money. An underinflated or overinflated tire can accelerate the tread wear of your tires. With an overinflated tire, less of the tread is touching the road wearing parts of your tire tread more quickly. An underinflated tire does the opposite: more of the tire is wearing down faster. Either way, a tire not wearing properly leaves you vulnerable to blown tires and more frequent tire replacement.
- Smooth ride. Tires with too much pressure guarantee a bumpy ride. Underinflated tires give you a softer ride, but can cause handling problems.
- Gas mileage. Underinflated or overinflated tires can actually cost you more over the life of your car. That’s right. Tires with too much pressure or not enough decrease your gas mileage, making you stop at the pump more often.
How do I check my tire pressure?
You can’t check tire pressure by looking at them; some tires may be down 10 pounds of air pressure and you can’t tell! The best way to check your tire pressure is by using a tire pressure gauge, or by asking your mechanic to check your tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge. Don’t forget to check your spare tire, in addition to all four tires.
- Get a tire pressure gauge. The good news: tire pressure gauges are pretty cheap, depending on the type you buy. (We’ve also found this great video as a reference for checking your tire pressure.)
- Remove the cap from the tire stem. (The tire stem is a small rubber piece sticking up from your tire.)
- Insert the tire pressure gauge into the tire stem. You will feel the gauge fit in there correctly. (If you have a gauge with a knob for deflation, you will know if you are using the right end if you DON’T hear air escaping.)
- The end of your tire pressure gauge will register a number electronically or the white numbers will rise at the other end of the tire pressure gauge.
What is the proper tire pressure for my tires?
Good question! A common misperception is that the tire pressure is on the tire. Not true! The proper PSI (pounds per square inch-tire pressure) is in your car’s owner manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame on the driver’s side.
How often should I check my tire pressure?
Tires can actually lose or gain pressure with the seasons. Check your tire pressure seasonally, or ask your mechanics to check your tire pressure at every oil change appointment. Another opportunity is to check your tire pressure when you take your car in to the shop to have tires rotated (if you don’t know how often that is, read our blog post).