I often talk about cars as a complex piece of machinery that needs some love to run optimally. That love comes in the form of regular maintenance and replacement of the consumables. This ensures that your car performs well, but it’s also something that will keep it running for longer.
Many people disregard many aspects of their cars, and I feel like the tires are the ones that take all the beating. They drive them till they fall apart, and during that time, they don’t pay attention to them. This is unsafe and something you shouldn’t ignore, regardless of what anyone tells you.
One of the many aspects of tire maintenance that people ignore is the tire pressure. If you’re one of those who want to keep your tires at optimal pressure but don’t know how this guide will help you out,
Today, I’ll talk about one of the most commonly asked questions in terms of tire pressure. I’ll explain what the best tire pressure for your tires is, how to identify it, and why you should stick as close to the optimal one as possible.
Spoiler alert: it’s not a unified value for all vehicles on the road, so you’ll need to identify a few things.
How to find the optimal tire pressure for your tires?
Let’s start by identifying the value so that you know what the optimal pressure for your tires is. The car manufacturer does extensive testing during the development process and determines the optimal pressure based on several factors. You have 3 ways to identify this.
The first is usually the simplest one, and you’ll find it on your car, literally. Open the driver’s door and check the sill. Manufacturers put a sticker or a metal piece with the printed values, which is the most convenient way for most owners.
Next up, we have the user manual. The little book contains all the necessary information about your vehicle, including the tire pressure. Most people with newer cars probably keep these around, so they can check it out if they have it.
The last way to check the pressure is to ask your faithful search engine. There are loads of websites with massive databases that contain this information, and you can find that on your phone. Just make sure you’re getting the information from reputable websites to ensure you’re not putting more or less than what the car manufacturer intended.
Regardless of where you find the information, the most important thing to note is that this is the optimal pressure when your tires are cold. When I say cold, I mean ambient temperature. This is why it’s ideal to check and adjust the pressure before you drive your car, or at least let the tires cool down after a drive.
As a rule of thumb, most passenger cars revolve around 30 to 35 psi but double-check before you start to adjust the pressure in your tires.
Why is the optimal pressure important?
I’m always on about tires running at the optimal pressure, but why is that? There are several reasons, and all of them revolve around the tire’s longevity and optimal performance.
Let’s start with the performance side of things. In terms of pressure, there is the optimal one and anything below or above it, which we call underinflation and overinflation. Regardless of which one of these we’re talking about, you’ll be sacrificing performance. If the pressure isn’t the one that the manufacturer specified, you won’t have the most optimal contact patch, which will reduce the grip and traction levels. This is a safety concern, especially if you’re a more aggressive driver.
The second side of this is the longevity. Again, we have under and overinflation, both of which can cause all sorts of problems. The most common reason tires with non-optimal pressure fail sooner than expected is because of uneven wear. An underinflated tire will wear more on the other side, while an overinflated one will wear down the middle. The severity of this depends on how much over or under the optimal pressure you’re driving. It also depends on how long you’ve been doing it. A mile or two will hardly have an impact, but do it for thousands of miles, and you’ll notice some problems.
One thing I have to mention is that between under and overinflation, the second one can cause less damage as long as it’s not too much over the optimal value. Sure, one or two psi may lead to a slightly stiffer ride, but it won’t destroy your tire. With that said, if you’re not sure what you’re doing, stick to what the sticker says, and don’t experiment with something like this.
Why are there multiple values for the pressure of my tires?
You checked the sticker on your door or looked at the manual and found multiple values, so which one is the one to use? This is a tricky situation, and you’ll need to know what to look for. Also, there are several values depending on multiple factors.
The most common one is seeing multiple values with different measurement units. In the US, the go-to unit is psi or pounds per square inch, while the rest of the world uses bar or kPa. You should be interested in psi.
Now, let’s talk about different pressures for different tire sizes. Most cars come with multiple tire sizes, which depend on the trim level or the engine output. Different tire sizes on the same car mean each size will have a different pressure. If you don’t know what tire size you’re running, you can check the size on the sidewall or the user manual based on the specific model you have.
Another aspect worth mentioning is cars with staggered setups. This is where the front and the rear tires aren’t the same, and you’ll find this often in rear-wheel-drive cars and maybe a few BMW or Audi models with xDrive or Quatro. As I mentioned, different tire sizes will need to work under different pressures, so you should expect to see a few psi more on the rear tires.
Finally, we have speed as a factor which most people are confused about. When driving at normal speeds, the tire deals with the normal loads, so there’s no need to tinker with the pressure. For higher speeds, car manufacturers recommend increasing the pressure to combat a little thing called deflection.
As the speed increases, so does the load on the tires, and they squat on the area where they’re in contact with the road. This isn’t good, which is where the pressure can help. Increasing it will help keep the footprint optimal, and you won’t risk damage to the tire. Keep in mind that going at the higher pressure, you’ll experience a slightly firmer ride.
Why should you check the tire pressure?
With everything surrounding identifying the tire pressure out of the way, let’s discuss why you should monitor it. As I said in one of my previous guides, tires lose a bit of pressure over time. Some do it faster, while others do it at a slower rate, but they all deflate a bit.
You probably had them installed at a tire shop and the technician inflated them per spec. After a while, you’ll have an underinflated tire because tires lose pressure over time, which can lead to all sorts of problems. This is why it’s important to monitor the pressure.
How often do you check the tire pressure?
When it comes to the interval, there is an industry-standard that says to check the tires once a month. That’s fine, but it’s not something that’s written in stone, so your mileage may vary.
You can try with the 1-month rule, but shorten or extend the interval depending on how often you drive your car. For the most part, I’d recommend shortening it if you notice your tires deflating a lot each month.
How do you check the tire pressure?
You have multiple ways of checking the pressure. If you have a newer car with TPMS that gives an exact readout, you don’t have to do anything. Get in your car, glance at the values, and see if they’re optimal. The rest of us need to work a bit.
People without TPMS or the older ones that don’t give an exact readout need a gauge, which is the most convenient way. They don’t cost too much, and you can check them whenever you want in front of your building or house. Another option is to go to a gas station or a tire shop, which means you’ll need to wait for the tires to cool down.
Car owners need to understand that the better they take care of their car, the more it will serve them. With longevity aside, a well-maintained car will also keep them safe. The same goes for the tires.
One of the many things people tend to ignore about tires is the pressure. Some people install new tires, forget about the pressure, and drive them until they fail. This isn’t what you want to do if you want a safe experience and tires that will last a long time.
This is why you should be mindful of the pressure and ensure it’s always as close to the optimal one as possible. The car manufacturer sets the value, and in today’s guide, I explained where to find it and why it’s important.
If you read this guide and remember that it’s been a while since your last tire pressure check, don’t procrastinate; check those tires and adjust the pressure to optimal!