Tires are often the most neglected part of a vehicle. They should be checked regularly – at least once a month. Tires are your only contact with the pavement. Without good tires that are properly inflated, your vehicle won’t accelerate, brake, or steer properly. Other safety devices such as antilock braking systems, traction control systems, and stability control systems may not function correctly with tires that are not properly inflated. By following a few simple steps, you will increase your own safety. You will also improve on fuel economy and prolong the life of your tires, both of which will help to save energy and therefore reduce your vehicle’s impact on the environment.
The tire and rim assembly is an air chamber that, when inflated to the proper pressure, supports the weight of the vehicle. Since the air pressure supports 95% of the weight, inflation is a critical part of a tire’s ability to perform.
You can’t tell if your tires have enough air just by looking at them. Even though they may look fine, they may be underinflated by as much as 20%. According to a recent study, about 50% of the vehicles on the road in Canada have at least one tire that is either over or underinflated by more than 10%. In fact, 10% of all vehicles surveyed had at least one tire underinflated by 20%. This represents a real safety issue.
Underinflation is the number one enemy of a tire. Operating an underinflated or overloaded tire at highway speeds on a warm summer day is a recipe for tire failure.
Be sure to measure the inflation pressure of your tires, including your spare, at least once a month. While doing so, take a moment to ensure that the tire is securely fastened to the vehicle.
Find the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressures for your front, rear and spare tires. The recommended pressures are printed on the vehicle’s tire information label, which is usually attached to the edge of the driver’s door, the door post, the glove box or the fuel door. If you can’t find the label, check your owner’s manual.
Use a good-quality gauge to measure the pressure of each tire. The pocket gauges sold by automotive supply stores are generally more accurate than those on gas station air pumps.
Measure the pressure when your tires are cold, and don’t forget the spare. Tires will be cold if the vehicle has been stationary for at least three hours or has not been driven more than 2 km.
Remember that tires lose pressure when the air temperature gets colder (about 7 kPa or 1 psi for every 5°C drop in temperature). Tires may also lose a certain amount of pressure due to their permeability (about 14 kPa or 2 psi per month).
Overinflation can be a problem, too. An overinflated tire rides on just the centre portion of the tread. The smaller contact area means reduced grip on the road, leading to a harsh ride, handling issues (such as steering and stopping problems), and increased wear on tires and suspension components.
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