As a driver, it’s easy to forget to inflate your tires. Cars seem to drive just fine for long stretches after filling up at the pump, so tire inflation doesn’t seem quite as urgent as other forms of regular servicing. However, tire pressure that is even slightly low can be detrimental to your car and to your personal safety. The National Highway Traffic Administration has found that each year 660 people are killed and 33,000 are injured due to complications from a poorly inflated tire. At the same time, they determined that 85% of drivers don’t check pressure levels frequently enough.
Though it may take effort to remember to fit this into your schedule, you should check your tire pressure every couple of weeks and add air to your tires as often as necessary. Here are two major reasons why this is so important.
Maintaining the right PSI goes a long way toward saving gas. PSI, or pounds per square inch, is the unit of measurement used to determine the air pressure in your tires. Experts recommend that you maintain a tire pressure between 32 and 35 PSI. When properly inflated, tires create minimal friction with the road. However, when a tire isn’t filled to capacity, the friction between the rubber and the road greatly increases, creating large amounts of “drag,” or air resistance. Drag works against your vehicle’s forward motion, forcing your engine to work that much harder to compensate and maintain your desired speeds.
An engine working double-duty against drag leads to higher fuel consumption as well as an increased emission of pollutants. Proper tire inflation will save you some gas money while also reducing your car’s carbon footprint.
Low tire pressure is unsafe for several reasons. First, if your tires aren’t filled to the right capacity, you run a greater risk of having a blowout. Proper air pressure in your tire helps keep the tire’s internal steel, rubber, and composites from flexing beyond their limits, while low pressure can cause your tire’s internal parts to weaken from strain and eventually fail. Blowouts are the last thing you want, especially if you’re driving on a crowded San Diego highway.
Second, a low PSI negatively affects your car’s performance in several respects: the friction and drag make it harder to brake and steer, and they reduce your vehicle’s overall handling capabilities. Though you may not notice these disadvantages during day-to-day driving, they can be a deciding factor in causing an accident. Having maximum braking and steering performance is mainly useful to keep you out of danger, ensuring that potential accidents are only close calls. Without the proper tire pressure, your vehicle may not be able to rise to the occasion in more troublesome moments on the road.
At this point, you can probably see that checking your tire pressure is a much more serious aspect of car maintenance than most people tend to think. Don’t let months pass without checking the pressure of all four of your tires. It takes just a little attention to make sure that your car operates at peak performance, ensuring that you and your passengers stay safe.