How (and when) to inflate car tires

How (and when) to inflate car tires

Providing the correct air pressure to your car’s tires is one of the simplest but most overlooked aspects of routine car maintenance. If your tires aren’t properly inflated, it won’t help if you have the most powerful engine, the most responsive steering system, or the biggest brakes. The situation can deteriorate very quickly.

If your tires are underinflated (which is a much more common problem than overinflated), your car’s ride, handling, and performance will suffer, the life of your tires will be shortened, your fuel economy will be reduced, and in the worst case scenario, you could be at risk of a serious accident. Matt Edmonds, executive vice president of Tire Rack, the largest online tire sales marketplace in the U.S., said, “The important thing for people to remember is that the air in your tires actually powers your car. Tires are an important part of the car because everything the car does – from accelerating to braking to steering – goes through the tires as they steer away from the car and onto the sidewalk.

If your tires are underinflated, it can affect the way your car drives, affect steering accuracy, and even reduce fuel mileage. This is because underinflated tires have larger contact points (where the tire makes contact with the pavement), creating more friction between the tire and the pavement.

Conversely, over-inflated tires can cause some of the same problems, especially when the vehicle is moving quickly or reacting to an emergency.
Changes in time and temperature can affect the air pressure in your car’s tires, sometimes with sudden, dramatic results.” Every 30 days, your car loses a pound of air pressure. This is completely normal. So even if you live in a nearly stable climate, you still need to keep an eye on your tire pressure.


However, rapid weather changes and seasonal temperature fluctuations can have a much quicker impact. For every 10 degrees the temperature goes up or down, your tire pressure goes up or down by 1 pound,” Edmonds says.

Extreme temperature fluctuations like those recently experienced in some parts of the U.S. can decrease or increase air pressure by 4 to 5 pounds per tire in 24 to 48 hours,” he adds. That’s why cars’ electrical systems failed when it was very cold this winter.