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Everything you need to know about checking your tire inflation pressure
When it comes to our vehicles, we have a pretty set checklist of to-do items. We know to check and replace our oil regularly, monitor and replenish fluid levels, and get our yearly inspection sticker. But, many of us forget about our tire air pressure, which should actually be checked more frequently than most other maintenance tasks. Tire inflation pressure is essential to the performance and safety of our automobiles.
At VIP, we believe that smart advice is one of the best ways to extend the life of your vehicle. While we are known for having one of the biggest selections of tires in New England, we also have exceptional staff and ASE certified technicians that give you the knowledge to maintain your vehicle in the best way possible. Since air tire pressure is critical for safe and smooth driving, VIP wants to make sure you have the key information and tips that every driver should know.
What is correct tire pressure?
Unless we have a flat tire, or need new tires, we may not pay much attention to our tires. As long as they support the car, and get us to where we need to be, they are doing their job, right? First and foremost, tires don’t actually support your vehicle. This is the job of the air tire pressure. If you have low tire pressure, your tires will not have the traction, strength, and handling that you want and need. Low tire pressure is also one of the leading causes of poor gas mileage – wasting nearly 150 million gallons of gas each year. If you want that extra money back in your wallet, it’s time to pay attention to your tire air pressure.
Before you grab your air tire pressure gauge, you need to know what to look for. First, head out to your car. If your car was made in 2003 or later, check out the driver’s side doorjamb, more technically known as the B-pillar. If your car doesn’t have a B-pillar, look on the rear edge of the driver’s door or an inward-facing surface next to the driver’s seat. There you will find the placard that specifies the Original Equipment tire sizes, tire air pressures (for the spare, too), and vehicle weight capacity. If your car was produced between 1969 and 2003, you may have some alternate pressures (based on speed and/or load), but not always. If you have an older car, earlier placards may also be located on the fuel filler door, rear passenger doorjamb, glove box, center console door, or engine compartment. Finally, for the most thorough information on your tires, look to your owner’s manual. It will include details about tire labeling, recommended tire inflation pressure, glossary of tire terms, tire care, and vehicle load limits.
For even more tips, visit our Recommended Tire Pressure page.
When to check tire inflation pressure
If you are unfamiliar with tire air pressure, you might be amazed at how much it is impacted by the weather. With every tire inflation pressure check, you need be aware of thermometer, times of day, and even seasonal shifts.
When you look at your vehicle placard, you need to realize that these figures are based on cold tire inflation pressure. If you want an accurate read of your tire air pressure, you should do it in the morning before you drive, and before the temperatures rise . The sun’s radiant heat will affect your air tire pressure numbers, so make sure to eliminate any outside factors that could decrease accuracy.
Did you know with every 10° Fahrenheit change in air temperature, your tire's inflation pressure will change? In hotter temperatures, the tire air pressure will go about 1 psi, and will decrease by 1 psi in colder temperatures. Most people will see a difference of 20° Fahrenheit between daytime temperatures and cooler night temperatures, so if you were to set your air pressure in the afternoon, you’d likely be 2 psi short in the morning. Keep this in mind when you park directly in the sunlight or in the shade, too. Additionally, there is about a 50° Fahrenheit difference between summer and winter temperatures in many places throughout the United States, and especially for our New England customers. This means that our drivers may be at a 5-psi loss when winter hits, which is a massive impact to the handling, strength, and durability of even the highest quality tires. To stay safe, you need to check your tire air pressure weekly in the winter. It may seem excessive, but low tire pressure negatively impacts your critical braking ability in inclement weather.
While keeping the maximum psi tire air pressure recommendations in mind, you can also look at these variable recommendations:
Temperature variation between indoor and outdoor environments: If you store your vehicle in a heated room (i.e. warm garage, service shop) you may want to inflate the tires 1 psi higher than placard recommendations for every 10° F difference between the interior parking spot and outside climate.
Afternoon temperature increase: If you are installing new tires, or if your car has been parked in the shade most of the morning, set your tire air pressure 2 psi above the cold tire inflation pressure recommendations outlined on the placard to handle afternoon temperature increases.
Heat generated from driving your vehicle: Your tire heat will increase once you drive. If you were travelling 45 mph (or under), set your tire air pressure at 4 psi above the cold tire inflation pressure recommendations.
Heat generated from highway or high speed driving: If you were traveling faster than 45 mph, your tires will be even hotter. So, set your air tire pressure at 6 psi above the cold tire air pressure recommendations.
Remember, check your tire pressure often (weekly in winter months), so you have a good read on what is normal and what isn’t. This will help you determine if you have an outside problem, like a small tread puncture, that could be causing low tire inflation issues.
How to check tire air pressure
You may think it’s easy to spot a tire with low tire pressure, but it is often impossible to tell with a quick visual inspection. To get an accurate reading, you must use a quality air gauge. If you are going to do this yourself, here are three simple steps to take:
Many newer vehicles today have tire pressure monitoring systems (in both direct and indirect systems options) that signal low air pressure to the driver. This is mandated by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, some experts argue that the notification system may not warn about the pressure loss early enough. Thus, it is good to know how to check tire air manually as well. That way you are taking all the necessary steps to maintain your vehicle safety.
Getting the correct tire pressure with VIP
If you need help measuring or correcting your tire air pressure, VIP is happy to help. We will make sure you have the proper tire inflation to give you better fuel efficiency, boost vehicle performance, improve your braking ability, and help improve your car’s overall handling. If you discover that you need new tires, we have tires and wheels from over 28 different manufacturers that are all backed with our VIP 30 Day Ride Guarantee and an optional VIP Road Hazard Replacement Guarantee if you need it. We have an unbeatable Lifetime Tire and Alignment package and we will match any lower competitive price and give you back double the difference with our 200% Low Price Tire Guarantee. Call or visit VIP today!
The Car Care video content on this site is derived from the Car Care Council Library to help you better understand how to take care of your car. If you'd like to suggest a topic, please contact us!