When you’re cruising down the highway in your vehicle the only thing connecting you to the road are 4 round pieces of rubber. It only makes sense that you take good care of these pieces of rubber, and one very important part of that is keeping them filled with the proper amount of air. Generally speaking the average person has no idea whether or not they have the proper air pressure in their tires. Having the wrong pressure in your tires can cause poor handling, reduced fuel mileage, uneven wear, or worse.
So How Often Should You Check Tire Pressure?
This is often up for debate among car enthusiasts and mechanics. Some say to check it once a week, but in my opinion that’s probably more than is necessary. I would suggest you check the air pressure in your tires once a month and SaferCar.gov agrees with me. Why once a month? Well there are a couple of reasons. The first is that realistically people just aren’t going to do it every week. The main reason however is that your tires will lose approximately 1 to 2 pounds of air pressure each month. That means if you are checking the pressure monthly, you can catch any low pressure issues before they become a real problem. 30% of cars on the road today have tires that are under inflated by 8psi according to the NHTSA. Under inflated tires cause wear issues and can really hurt your fuel mileage. Severely under inflated tires can cause a blowout leading to a serious accident.
There are however, some other events that may prompt you to check tire pressure. Once a month is a good habit, but there are some other factors that can affect tire pressure in between your scheduled check ups. You should check your tire pressure if any of the following things occur:
- If the temperatures drop dramatically for an extended period (tires lose 1 psi of air for every 10 degrees the temperature drops)
- If a tire suffers an Impact, such as running hard into a curb or a large pothole. (impact can cause the tire to lose pressure)
- If the tire looks soft (If the tire looks soft chances are you are already 15 psi or more under inflated)
How do you know how much air you need in your tires?
The best thing to do is consult the owner’s manual for your car. It will list the proper size, load rating, speed rating, and pressure for your tires. If you don’t have your manual (or can’t find it like me) don’t worry, there’s another way. On most cars there’s a sticker either on the driver’s side door, or the door jamb with some important information on it. Often times the information includes towing capacity and even paint codes, but almost always the sticker will tell you what size tires your car runs and at what air pressure you should inflate them. The sticker will resemble this one pictured to the left.
When is the best time to check tire pressure?
Believe it or not, it makes a difference on when you check your tire pressure. You’ll get the most accurate reading if you check tire pressure when tires are cold. Tires will heat up as you drive them and take 30-60 minutes to cool down. So it’s probably easiest to check the tire pressure in the morning before you go anywhere. Always checking the tires cold will ensure you are consistent with the measurement. If your tires are low on air, you want to get them back up to pressure to avoid problems. The same goes for an overinflated tire, which doesn’t happen as often but can still be dangerous.