As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Tire pressure is one of the considerable required factors affecting your vehicle’s performance, safety, and fuel efficiency. Driving with low pressure can have serious consequences, such as increased tire wear, reduced handling, and increased risk of blowouts. But how long can you go with low tire pressure before it becomes problematic? And how can you check and maintain the proper tire pressure for your vehicle? This article will answer these questions and provide tips for avoiding driving with low tire pressure.
What is Tire Pressure, and Why is it Important?
The amount of air inside your tire is known as tire pressure. Typically, pounds per square inch (PSI) measure pressure. The manufacturer determines the recommended tire pressure for your car. The owner’s manual or the driver’s side door jamb may have a sticker. If you need help finding it, contact the manufacturer, car dealer, or a trained tire specialist.
Tire pressure is essential because it affects how your tires contact the road surface. When you properly inflate your tires., they have the optimal contact patch with the road, which means they can provide better traction, handling, braking, and cornering. Properly inflated tires also reduce rolling resistance, using less energy to move and improving fuel economy.
When your tires have low air pressure, they have a larger contact patch with the road, creating more friction and heat. Low tire pressure can lead to several problems, such as:
Increased tire wear: Underinflated tires wear out faster and unevenly, especially on the edges. Low air pressure can reduce the lifespan of your tires and compromise their performance.
Decreased fuel efficiency: Under-inflated tires increase rolling resistance, which requires more energy to move, resulting in lower gas mileage and costing you more money in the long run.
Reduced handling: Underinflated tires have less responsiveness and stability, which means they can affect your steering, braking, and cornering abilities. Lower handling response can make your vehicle harder to control and increase the risk of skidding or losing control.
Increased risk of blowouts: Underinflated tires generate more heat due to friction, which can weaken the tire structure and cause it to rupture or explode. This risk can result in a sudden loss of air pressure and control, which can be dangerous and lead to accidents.
How Long Can You Drive with Low Tire Pressure?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, such as how low your tire pressure is, how fast you are driving, how much load you are carrying, what kind of road conditions you are going in, and what kind of tires you have. However, as a general rule, you should not drive with low tire pressure for more than a few miles or minutes.
Generally, you can drive 50 miles safely on low tire pressure if your tire is 5 to 10 PSI below the recommended level. However, this is only true for paved roads under ideal circumstances. If driving on rough terrain, high speed, or extreme weather, you should not go more than 10 miles or 20 minutes with low tire pressure.
According to some experts, driving with low tire pressure for more than 10 miles or 10 minutes can cause significant damage to your tires and reduce their lifespan by up to 25%. Driving with low tire pressure for more than 50 miles or 50 minutes can cause irreversible damage to your tires and increase the risk of blowouts.
Therefore, if your tire pressure is low, you should stop and check it with a tire pressure gauge as soon as possible. If it is below the recommended level, use an air compressor or a portable inflator to inflate it to the proper level. If you don’t have access to these tools, you should drive slowly and carefully to the closest gas station or service center, where you can fill up your tires with air.
How to Check and Maintain Tire Pressure
Checking and maintaining tire pressure is a simple and essential task that you should perform regularly. Here are some steps on how to do it:
Start with cold tires: Vehicle manufacturers specify tire pressure, assuming tires are cold. Consider tires as cold when the vehicle has parked for three hours or more or if the vehicle has driven less than a mile at a moderate speed. Checking tire pressure when tires are hot can give you inaccurate readings.
Check the manufacturer’s suggested PSI: Look at the door jamb on the driver’s side. Or your owner’s manual to find the suggested cold tire PSI for front and rear tires. If it is not visible, consult your vehicle dealer, manufacturer, or a qualified tire professional.
Check tire pressure with a gauge: Remove the valve cap from one of your tires. Then, place the tire pressure meter on the valve stem and press down hard enough so the hissing sound disappears and your meter provides a reading. With a standard meter, the tire pressure will push a little bar out from the bottom of the indicator. Measurement units etched into the bar. A digital meter will show you the reading on a screen. Write down the task and repeat this process for all four tires.
Fill to the suggested PSI: Use an air compressor or a portable inflator to refill any tires with low pressure. Many air pumps are different, so read directions carefully to be sure you’re using them accurately. If you’re using the air inflators at a gas station, park so the hose will reach all four tires. Insert the change into the machine until you hear the motor running. Place the hose end over the valve stem to fill a tire and depress the lever. Recheck the pressure with your gauge and adjust accordingly. Don’t forget to replace the valve caps when you have completed the task.
Check tire pressure regularly: You should check your tire pressure at least once a month or more often if you drive frequently or in extreme weather conditions. You should also check your tire pressure before any long trips or when you carry heavy loads. You can also operate a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to alert you when your tire pressure drops below a certain level. However, it would help if you did not rely solely on the TPMS, as it may not be accurate or timely. It would enable always using a tire pressure gauge to confirm your tire pressure.
Driving with low tire pressure can negatively affect your vehicle’s performance, safety, and fuel efficiency. It can also damage your tires and increase the risk of blowouts. Therefore, you should only drive with low tire pressure for a maximum of a few miles or minutes. You should regularly check and maintain your tire pressure and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Doing so can lengthen your tires’ life, improve your driving experience, and save money on gas and repairs.