I was driving cautiously as I always do when the car in front of me swerves quickly to avoid a pothole the size of Lake Michigan and before I can avoid the beast it almost swallows my tire whole but I make it out the other side. Instantly an icon of a flat tire appears on the dashboard warning me of “low tire pressure”. I find myself asking: How much does tire pressure affect my car anyway? Does it decrease my fuel efficiency? Low tire pressure just makes for a softer more comfortable ride, right? How do I know how much pressure I should have in my tires? Questions swirl about my brain.
Separating Myth From Fact
Information is available at our fingertips and nowadays everyone seems to be an expert on fuel efficiency, but the reality is something as simple as maintaining the manufacturers recommended tire pressure (PSI) can not only save money but save lives as well.
That may sound a bit extreme but the truth is our tires are the only part of the vehicle in contact with the road. The engine can purr like a kitten but without tires that kitty is stuck in the garage. With that in mind let me explain why maintaining proper PSI helps your vehicle perform at an optimal level.
Low tire pressure means that too much off the tire is contacting the road resulting in increased friction and decreased fuel efficiency. Every PSI below the recommended level equates to a 4% decrease in miles per gallon. The increased friction created by underinflated tires generate excessive heat which can lead to tire blowouts.
On the other hand overinflated tires don’t contact the road enough and do so ununiformly, generally bulging at the center significantly decreasing power and control of the vehicle. These overinflated tires will wear unevenly and need to be replaced sooner than properly inflated ones.
As you can see tire pressure not only affects fuel efficiency but many other aspects of your vehicles overall performance. It is recommended that you check PSI after filling up with gas, most gas stations have free air pumps available.