Getting ready for seasonal driving | Tire pressure

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Tire Pressure Gauge

Checking your tires for proper inflation is an important part of vehicle maintenance. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

When you are preparing your car for driving in the summer, there are a wide range of systems you should check out. One that is often overlooked, though, is tire pressure. The tires on your vehicle are where the rubber meets the road, so they are worth spending a little bit of time on. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your tires.

Checking your tire pressure

The basics of checking your tire pressure are relatively easy. Though your vehicle may have a built-in tire pressure sensor, you will always want to manually check your pressure on a regular basis. Tire pressure sensors use indirect pressure monitoring – measuring the rotation of the tire. Instead, use a stick, dial or digital tire pressure gauge to check the pressure on all five tires, including your spare. Check the tire pressure while your tires are cold, not after you’ve driven 20 miles to the gas station.

Properly inflating your tire

The proper pressure in your tire could vary according to the conditions you are driving in. The number printed on the tire sidewall is the maximum tire pressure. This is NOT the recommended tire pressure. Depending on the air temperature and driving time, the pressure in your tires could go up or down by a full 10 pounds per square inch. Check your owner’s manual for the vehicle for the recommended tire pressure for your car. If you inflate your tire to the maximum pressure while it is cold, then the increase in pressure as it heats up could explode the tire.

Traction versus fuel efficiency

The inflation of your tire has two separate effects on the operation of your vehicle. A low-pressure tire can get you more traction, which is useful in the winter or on slippery roads. A properly inflated tire, however, can improve your fuel efficiency. Unless road conditions are very unusual, you should keep your tires inflated to the recommended level.

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