How tires can save your life
"Many drivers underestimate the importance of checking their tire pressure", says Kelly Williams, race car driver, safety advocate, TV personality and spokesperson for Car Care Canada.
There are 4 good reasons for maintaining correct tire pressure:
- Longevity. With the right pressure, your tires will last longer.
- Safety. “Under-inflated tires will compromise any evasive manoeuvres performed when trying to avoid an accident,” she says. “Steering will be sluggish and your tires will get hotter quicker, which means you’re more likely to have a blowout.”
- Fuel-efficiency. If your tires don’t have enough air, you’re wasting about 15% of your fuel. Not only is that more costly, but more emissions mean more damage to the environment.
- Comfort. Over-inflated tires make for one bumpy ride.
Tires come with a recommended PSI (pounds per square inch of air pressure) for maximum performance. The maximum air pressure the tire can handle is printed right on the sidewall, but it doesn’t take into account the make and model of your car.
“It’s better to use the recommended PSI that’s printed on your car,” says Ms. Williams. “It will be inside your car door, the gas lid or the trunk.” This listed PSI is determined by engineers for the particular make and model of your car. You’ll also find the recommended PSI in your owner’s manual.
You can’t determine PSI with a visual check. You need to use an electronic (digital) or manual tire-pressure gauge. “Do note, however,” says Ms. Williams, “that gauges found at gas stations aren’t the most reliable.”
If your tires are under-inflated, you may be surprised to learn that air isn’t your only option. “Repair shops offer nitrogen, which is differentiated with a valve stem with a green cap,” says Ms. Williams. “Nitrogen has been used by the racing industry for years and is more steady and cleaner than air. But it will cost you money.”
Nifty new monitoring systems
The U.S. has legislated that by September, 2007 all new cars come equipped with automated tire-pressure monitoring systems. Models sold in Canada will also include this nifty device. “A light on your dashboard will show you that one tire is low,” Ms. Williams explains. “Some tell you the pressure in all four tires.”
There are 2 types of systems:
- Direct systems have a sensor in the actual tire valve.
- Expert tip: “With this type of system, do not use foam to fix a flat tire in a pinch, or you could wreck the sensor – worth about $70.00,” Ms. Williams says.
- Indirect systems measure the speed and rotation of each tire to determine its diameter. If the diameter decreases, the system warns you.
Still not convinced? Kelly Williams might change your mind: “Approximately 90% of drivers have at least one under-inflated tire and are likely to face problems.” Chances are, you are one of them.