When it comes to attesting car performance, tires are just as important as the engine. In particular, the way you drive significantly affect your tire’s life. You slammed them on speed bumps and potholes. You brake at the last minute. You haul a lot of stuff into the vehicle. You might be torturing your tires more than you know it. And not to mention the seasonal temperature changes that affect the pressure within them. For these reasons that we need to check on our tires regularly.
Today we will go back to the basic, namely keeping your tire pressures on the beam.
JUST HOW IMPORTANT ARE PROPERLY PRESSURED TIRES?
Maintaining optimum pressure is one way to prolong the usage of the tires and make the most of your vehicle performance and mileage. Apart from good maintenance, a properly inflated tire keeps you and your vehicle safe on the road. Tires that under-inflated or have low pressure leads to a flatter tread, resulting in blowouts and poor vehicle control. On top of that is an acceleration on wear and loss of fuel economy.
Just like under-inflation, tires will also wear at a faster rate if there is too much air on them. Uneven wear and bulging on the center of the tire tread could be an indication of an over-inflated tire. This can result in a rigid, poor contact of the driving surface that will eventually lead to a rough ride.
To say the least, ensuring a correct pressure on your tires translates to a better and safer driving alongside longer-lasting tires and efficient fuel consumption.
The thing with improperly inflated tires is that it is almost impossible to recognize them just by looking at them. Squeezing them won’t cut it as every car has a recommended pounds per square inch (PSI) which basically is the standard tire pressure level set by its manufacturer for the car tires to efficiently and safely function. The most accurate way to determine if your car meets the specified PSI level is by using a tire pressure gauge.
WHAT IS A TIRE PRESSURE GAUGE?
A tire pressure gauge is a simple sensor device that gives reading on the amount of air or pressure within the tires. Newer car models have a built-in tire pressure gauge known as the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that additionally alerts the driver if their tires are under or over-inflated.
If your car is not equipped with TPMS, or even if it comes with it but does not display indıvidual pressure reading, you could benefit from a handy tire pressure gauge. Luckily you can easily avail it from almost anywhere; from car shops, auto-part stores, gas stations, and online market stores. You can find tire pressure gauges in different types with varying shapes and designs. Below are the common type of tire pressure gauges.
Dial: Also known as the analog gauge, this type of pressure monitoring device has a round shape with a needle. The appearance can be likened to the face of the clock, only that it shows the units of PSI. Once the device is attached to the tire, the needle stops on the level of existing pressure. Dial gauges are touted to be more accurate than the stick model gauges and easier to read.
Depending on the brand, a dial gauge may present additional features and accessories such as extension hose, additional dial (dual-scale) and bleeder valve and a shock-resistant cover.
Digital: This type is the most advanced among its counterparts and also the most popular. An LCD screen that displays the PSI level digitally is the prominent feature of this tool. For this reason, digital gauges are easier to read as compared to gauges that give dial readings. Digital gauges and easier to maintain as they are very resistant to damage and dirt.
Most digital gauges are powered by batteries. Some advanced models like the Accutire MS-4350B Setpoint Tire Gauge have backlit that allows readability in low light places. The additional bonus of this particular gauge is you can program the front and rear tire into the factory-recommended PSI settings.
Stick / Pen: Stick-type gauges are the most portable and compact. The gauge has about the same size as a pen. The only thing with pen-sized gauges is they don’t give the precise reading although many would argue they just needed to be lubricated for better accuracy. Many would still keep at least one pencil gauge in their glove box, perhaps as a back-up because they are cheap and the reading still within the range of the real pressure level.
CHECKING THE TIRE AIR PRESSURE USING A PRESSURE GAUGE DEVICE
Regardless of the types, using a tire pressure gauge is relatively easy. It only involves a few basic steps which consist of the following.
- Take the cap of the tire valve. To do this you need to unscrew the valve stem or the black extension near the hubcap disk on the wheels.
- Attach the gauge. As to how to connect the instrument to the tire may slightly vary depending on what type of gauge you are using. For dial gauge, attach the valve end of the over the valve press system. If its a stick gauge, you need to take the open end of the stick gauge first before you can attach it to the tire’s valve.
- Press the gauge against the tire nozzle. Do make sure no hissing sound is heard. Otherwise, this translates to air pressure escaping which could result in an inaccurate reading.
- Wait for the reading. If you are using an analog dial gauge, you need to wait until the pointer or needle stops to a certain number, much like a compass. Some models of digital gauge have a button you need to press in order for the gauge to give the reading. On the other hand, metered stick gauges should give you an automatic reading.
- Replace the valve cap. The valve stem cap has a rubber seal designed to trap dirt and moisture away from the valve stem core that holds the air for your tires. Without the valve cap, air pressure escapes out of your tire and you’ll end up with a flat tire.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you use a pressure gauge. Make sure to repeat the process on the other tires. If the reading is not in accordance with the manufacturer’s PSI then you need to inflate or adjust the air as needed. Remember both under and over-inflate car compromised tire performance so you need to make sure that your tire is properly inflated
FEW MORE TIPS AND REMINDERS
- The best time to check tire pressures is when it is well-rested, preferably in the morning before you use it. You will not get the correct reading if the car has just been driven.
- Always inflate your car in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. Recommended pressure can be found in the owner’s manual or the placard. There is also a pressure listed on the tire sidewall BUT note that this measurement is not the recommended air pressure but rather the maximum pressure the tire can hold.
- Adding a few PSI is only applicable if you use your car for heavier load or for longer mileages. The aim is to offset the added weight. Once you unload, you can reset back the pressure to tires’ standard PSI.
- A tire pressure gauge can either read up to 60 to 100 PSI settings. Heavy-duty cars with high-pressure tires need a gauge with the highest reading.
- Always keep your gauge at room temperature settings as both high and low temperatures can impact the performance.
- Do also inspect your spare tires. Because even unused tires lose pressure gradually over time as the air expands and contracts together with temperature changes between and daytime.
- Make it a habit to inspect tire pressure as the season change. Tire pressure drop in cold weather and increases with warm weather.
PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
Checking on tire pressure is one of the most neglected car maintenance, not unless you pulled your car over to a flat tire. We advised that you keep on practicing on how to properly use a tire pressure gauge before you encounter any emergency situation. But even if you do, it will be much easier for you to measure the tire pressure and make the necessary adjustments even you are on the side of the road, for as long as you know how to use a tire pressure gauge.