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Tire Pressure Hype – Just a Bunch of Hot Air?

Elvis Elvis

You should check your tire pressure regularly. Why? Well, let’s see.

The best reason is the difference between life and death.

You want to protect your family in every way that you can, right? This is probably one of the easiest ways to protect them. An under-inflated or over-inflated tire could cause an accident. Many blow outs and flat tires can be avoided by simply checking that your air pressure is at the optimal level.

The next two reasons involve the subject you all came here for … SAVING MONEY!

    • When your tires are under-inflated, you will notice increased wear. This means you will have to replace your tires as much as a year earlier than normal. I don’t know if you have checked tire prices lately, but that means you will be spending roughly $400 or more a year early! Yuck!!!
    • Under-inflated tires will also kill your gas mileage! The increased resistance caused by low tire pressure makes the engine work harder to move your vehicle along the road. The U.S Energy department estimates you can improve your fuel economy 2.5% by keeping your tires properly inflated. Wow!! That’s $2.50 per $100.00 spent. Doesn’t sound like much but when calculated over a year it adds up. In my home, we operate 3 vehicles spending about $3000.00 on gas each year. I could save $75.00 each year, about 3 fill-ups, just by keeping my tires properly inflated.

You’ve never checked tire pressure before? Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a mechanic to check and correct the pressure in your tires.

Tire Pressure Hype   Just a Bunch of Hot Air?

First, you need to get an accurate tire gauge. There is a large variety of types and styles available at any auto parts store. If you’re looking to save money, you will be fine with a manual style for just a few bucks. But if you are going for more accuracy or your just the type that likes bells and whistles you could go with a digital style for as little as 10-15 dollars(you could spend a lot more, but that kind of defeats the purpose).

Second, you need to check your owner’s manual or the tire  manufacturer’s website for the optimal PSI(pounds per square inch) ratings. On most vehicles this can also be found on a sticker inside the door jam of the driver’s side door.

Tire Pressure Hype   Just a Bunch of Hot Air?

Third, make it a habit to check your tire pressure regularly. Once a month is probably often enough, but I have a hard time remembering a set time. If your like me, I recommend doing it every time you fill up your gas tank. It’s more often than necessary, but I never forget that way! By the way, if you think you can tell when your tire is low by looking, you are wrong! If your tire looks low, its actually extremely low.

Okay, we have a tire gauge, we know what the optimal PSI is, and we know how often to check. But we still don’t know still don’t know where to stick that gauge thing and how the heck do we read it?

Well here we go, step by step:

    1. It is best to check your tires when they are cool. Due to road friction, the tire heats up when driven and will not give the correct reading. Note: if you are checking your tire pressure when the tires are warm, it will read approximately 3 pounds high.
    2. Find the valve stem and remove the valve cap. I recommend putting the cap in your pocket, otherwise you will probably lose it.
    3. Following the instructions for the gauge you purchased, press the gauge to the valve stem. There will be a slight hiss as you press down and again when you release. It should only take a second or two to get an accurate reading. Note: If the hissing is continuous, you have not got the gauge on properly and you are releasing air from your tire! (STOP IT!!)
    4. Read the tire pressure on your gauge(follow the directions for the gauge you purchased). I recommend writing these readings down as you work your way around the vehicle so that you don’t forget and have to start over.
    5. Now compare your readings to the manufacturer’s recommendations. If your readings are low, you need to fill the tires with air.

So your PSI is a little low. No problem.

You can find an air compressor at almost any gas station and at some auto parts stores. These usually cost anywhere from 50 cents to $1.00 to use and are set on a timer. If you use this method, park as close to the compressor as possible. *HINT* Before you insert your money, make sure you can reach all of your tires with the hose and remove all of the valve caps. This will insure you get the most air for your money.

Tire Pressure Hype   Just a Bunch of Hot Air?

You can also purchase a small portable air compressor that will plug in to your cars 12V power outlet (commonly known as a cigarette lighter). These units can be purchase for less than $20.00. More expense up front, but will save you money in the long run.

It’s okay if you happen to slightly overfill your tires, especially if you are using one of the paid air compressors, to make sure you got enough air.

Now you need to recheck your pressure, following the steps outlined above. If you overfilled the tires, you can release some of the pressure by pressing the gauge in just enough to cause that hissing sound. Use caution, the pressure goes down fast so recheck often.

Replace the valve caps when you have reached the optimal PSI according to your vehicle’s manufacturer’s recommendations.

That’s all folks! Now you can enjoy the savings of better fuel economy and reduced tire wear and know that you have taken one more small step to protect yourself and your family.