When Was The Last Time You Checked Your Tire Pressure?

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Our world has changed, thanks to technology, to ‘set it and forget it’. Our vehicles are no different. Knowing when it was time for an oil change or service used to require keeping a notebook in the glove box (did anyone ever keep gloves in there?) or writing it down in our owner’s manual. Now have so many systems in place to help remind us – we no longer think about it.

We should.


When was the last time YOU checked your tire pressure?

If you are like most drivers today, you don’t check it at all or very often. There is no need when you have that nice little warning light that comes on telling you when it’s time.

Since 2007, all light motor vehicles where mandated to have a tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) to alert drivers to under inflated tires. – Wikipedia

TMPS isn’t however, a replacement for routinely checking tire pressure. It’s designed as a failsafe and a warning when tire pressure drops too low. The TPMS is designed to prevent the most serious issues resulting from under-inflated tires. Too often, drivers today rely on the system.

You still need to check your tire pressure every week, or at least every time you fill up your gas tank.


Why shouldn’t you rely on TPMS?

The TPMS system alert warns you when your tire is twenty percent below the factory recommendation. If the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure is thirty five pounds per square inch, the TPMS warning won’t come on until the pressure is at twenty eight pounds. That’s significantly under-inflated. It’s designed primarily to prevent more catastrophic tire failure.

Even before your tire pressure drops by 20%, there can be consequences. The worst is tire failure. A severely under inflated tire can overheat and fail.

The primary reason the use TPMS was mandated followed a Firestone Tire recall in the late 1990s. The recall stemmed from more than 100 deaths due to rollovers of the Ford Explorer following tire tread-separation. Ford setting a lower tire pressure, 15% lower than Firestone felt was recommended, was a potential contributing factor in the tire separations.

Low tire pressure affects how your car handles. Handling can degrade to the point you may not be able to steer out of trouble. Under-inflated tires wear out faster and they waste fuel. It’s costly to not stay on top of proper inflation.

Think how hard it is to walk in sand compared to pavement. You have to work harder to overcome the resistance. Lower air pressure dramatically increases a tire’s rolling resistance. It simply takes more gas to get from point A to point B. The same applies for handling. Again, consider our sand example. How much harder it is to stand on your toes and pivot on sand versus pavement. Lower air pressure creates a similar effect. It simply becomes harder to steer and brake.

The added stress from low tire pressure when steering, braking and simply driving can adversely affect the rest of your suspension, brakes and other systems. This could lead to increased maintenance costs and other failures.


What’s the practical value of the TPMS system then?

If the systems only serves as a warning for sever under inflation and possible extreme failure, why mandate them?

1)  Not all tires loose air slowly. A TPMS can alert you when your tire is losing pressure due to a puncture or a bent rim.

2) Tire pressure is affected by temperature change. A large drop overnight can lead to a sudden drop in pressure. If the pressure in your tires was already low, a drop could trigger the TPMS warning.

3) While not designed as a reminder, we are all human. We do forget to check pressure for ourselves. The system provides a backup in the event we forget.

The TPMS is a safety system. It’s a great backup for when we forget.

Our best advice – pay attention to the TPMS warning light as an indication of a more serious issue and get it check immediately. Keep an air pressure gauge in your glove box and check your tire pressure weekly or at every fill up. You’ll find a sticker on the inside of your driver’s door with the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.

If you are unsure about checking tire pressure or prefer not to get dirty, come in and see us. There is no charge. We simply want to make sure you, your loved ones and everyone on the road stays safe.


Scott Welsh is the owner of Courtesy Auto Service and Tire of Tacoma


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