Driving on under inflated tires is one of the leading causes of tire blowouts and tire-related accidents. Creating awareness of the dangers is important because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nearly one-third of drivers may be driving with at least one low tire at any given time. Safety should never be compromised in an automobile because it not only puts your life in danger but the lives of passengers and other motorists on the road.
In the best-case scenario, you will wear out the tires prematurely and merely be taxed for your negligence. However, blowing out a tire and waiting in inclement weather for a tow truck can just as easily occur. This is especially dangerous when you are stranded in remote areas and cellphone service may not be available. Let’s consider the problems associated with under inflated tires below.
#1: Heat Buildup
Tires operate at the ideal level when the tire pressure is dialed into the manufacturer’s recommendations. If the tire is overinflated, it will feel nervous and skittish on the roads because there is not enough friction and grip. However, when your tires are underinflated, they will produce too much friction and heat energy. This can lead to premature tread wear, tire tread separation, and even blowouts. This becomes even more dangerous as tires age because the rubber changes at a molecular level and can deteriorate more rapidly.
#2: Stress On Other Components
If your motor vehicle is not sitting evenly on tires of appropriately rated air pressure, the tires will affect the overall stance of the vehicle and put excess pressure on the steering geometry, suspension, and chassis when it rolls in hard cornering. The rims can also be damaged, along with brake parts like calipers and brake lines.
#3: Poor Handling Response
When your tires are not properly inflated, handling in the corners can become clumsy and unpredictable. Although running on overinflated tires makes your vehicle feel nervous and like it is on stilts, underinflated tires will make the handling feel mushy and unpredictable.
#4: Trauma Handling Loads
If you have ever looked at the doorjamb of your vehicle, you will see that there are different recommended PSI ratings for different loads. If you are hauling materials or have a full family in tow, you may have to inflate your tires more than usual to compensate for the additional stressors. If your tires are seriously underinflated, the risks of suffering a catastrophic failure increase significantly if you add heavy loads onto those tires.
How to Prevent Low Tires
Many new automobiles are coming with tire pressure monitoring systems that alert the driver when a tire is low. If you don’t have a tire pressure monitoring system or you feel mushy and unresponsive handling that alerts you to a malfunction, it is best to check your tires with a gauge. Yet, you should never rely on the air pressure gauges at a gas station or many inexpensive digital models that are experimental and lack accuracy. The best air pressure gauges are the simplest ones that are available for a dollar or so at any auto parts store.
In order to prevent the catastrophic failures that lead to accidents, you should replace your tires every 5 years even if they look fine. Although they may be safe even at 8 years, you should negate the risks by changing them sooner. Tire manufacturers also recommend that you change your tires out even if they look fine, no later than the 8-year mark. And as always, it is important to rotate your tires, ensure that you have a proper alignment, and to pull over and check them if your car doesn’t feel like it is handling properly.