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Tire Pressure

Read on for tire pressure tips that can help keep you safe on the road.

Pencil-style tire pressure gauges can be inaccurate, and drivers are better off opting for dial-type or digital options. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Pencil-style tire pressure gauges can be inaccurate, and drivers are better off opting for dial-type or digital options.

When it comes to safety on the road, tire pressure is an important consideration. Car owners should check tire pressure once a month using a tire-pressure gauge. Having the right tire pressure is important for vehicle performance and for the safety of the driver and passengers in the car.

Next to the brakes, the tires are a car's most important safety factor. Incorrect tire pressure compromises braking, cornering and vehicle stability. In a worst-case scenario, it can lead to tire breakdown and a serious accident. Aside from safety considerations, having incorrect tire pressure will result in lower gas mileage, faster tread wear and poor handling of the vehicle.

Effects of Incorrect Tire Pressure

According to CarTalk, if the tire pressure is too high, less of the tire will touch the road surface. As a result, the vehicle will "bounce" instead of being firmly on the road. Bouncing compromises traction and stopping distance and makes passengers uncomfortable.

Tire pressure that is too low is also dangerous. Best RV and Truck Supply, LLC explains that not enough tire pressure causes too much of the tire to touch the road surface. This can cause tires to wear out prematurely and to possibly even overheat -- a serious problem that can lead to tread separation. Tread separation -- especially when traveling at high speeds -- can cause a blowout. A vehicle with tread separation may be impossible for the driver to control and may crash or roll over. If tires squeal when the vehicle is driven around corners, tire pressure may be too low.

How to Check for Correct Tire Pressure

Before drivers check tire pressure, they need to determine what the appropriate pressure should be. Drivers should look for the air-pressure specifications for their car's tires. These are usually located on a sticker, which may be on the driver's side doorjamb, in the glove compartment, or in the trunk. Drivers can usually also find the specifications in the owner's manual. Tire pressure is also printed on the side of a tire -- but the tire pressure listed on tires is the maximum allowable pressure and not the recommended tire pressure for the vehicle, which is usually lower.

Once drivers determine the correct tire pressure, they can use a tire-pressure gauge to check the pressure. Certain gauges, such as the pencil-style gauge, can be inaccurate. Drivers can get the most accurate readings if they use a dial-type gauge or a digital gauge. While drivers can check tire pressure at any time of day, they should only check it when the car hasn't been driven for a while. If the car has been driven recently, the reading won't be accurate. In addition, drivers should check all four tires. Having three tires with the right pressure doesn't necessarily mean that the fourth one has the correct pressure. Lastly, experts recommend that drivers even check the pressure of spare tires, so they are ready to use when needed. Drivers should be aware, however, that the appropriate pressure for a spare tire may be different from the other tires. The maximum pressure for the spare tire can be found on the side of the spare.

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