One of our basic needs for survival is air. If you are a driver, this applies not just to your lungs, but to your car tyres as well!

Under inflated tyres

Driving on tyres that are underinflated is not just negligence, it is also very dangerous, being one of the leading causes of tyre failure. When tyre pressure is low, its surface area that touches the road increases. The increased footprint, if left unattended, will increase friction, which can cause overheating. Overheating, in turn, can lead to premature wear, tread separation, and eventually, a blowout. Depending on the severity of the blowout, you could lose control of the vehicle, putting you and other drivers in harm’s way.

The change in the footprint of the tyre also has other repercussions such as longer braking distances which can prove dangerous, and an increase in fuel consumption as more energy is needed to make the tyre roll.

Overinflated tyres

When it comes to tyres and air, there’s also the ‘too much of a good thing’ factor. In overinflated tyres, the sidewalls and tread become harder than normal and the contact patch of the tyre on the road shrinks. This change in footprint can reduce traction and performance, giving you a bouncy ride and affecting the handling of the car. Over-inflation will also cause uneven wear thereby decreasing the life of your tyres.

What’s the right pressure for your tyres?

Tyres inflated to the recommended PSI offer optimum life and performance. The recommended pressure is usually between 30 and 35 PSI – the minimum amount of pressure a tyre needs to support the vehicle’s maximum load-carrying capacity.

Optimum not maximum pressure.

Do not go by the pressure number listed on the tyres, which is the maximum allowable pressure. You need to know the optimum manufacturer-recommended pressure for your tyres.

You will find the recommended pressure in the owner’s manual or the tyre placard, which is usually found in the driver’s door jamb, or on the door of the glove compartment or the gas filler.

Check the pressure of all five tyres – the spare included, once a month and before long road trips, even if they look fine. Because you can’t tell just by looking. Radial tyres can appear to be fully inflated even after losing much of their air pressure. If a tyre does look under-inflated, chances are it is way more out of air than it appears.

pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to keep track as most systems only warn you when the pressure is way below the recommended amount – up to 25% less.

The best time to check tyre pressure

The other important factor is ‘cold’ pressure. Tyres heat as you drive, and take about a half-hour to cool down. So the ideal time to check your tyres is when they are cold, first thing in the morning or after cooling in the shade for a few hours.

Stick by these rules and you will enjoy better fuel economy, reduced tyre wear and most important of all, safe driving.