Underinflated tires have been the cause of many car accidents, especially during the winter months when it gets colder outside.
As the temperature drops, so does the air pressure in your tires – and if you aren’t careful, you could end up with dangerously overinflated tires that can blow out at any time and leave you stranded on the side of the road.
Tires are designed to work best at the pressure levels recommended by the vehicle manufacturer and stamped into the sidewall of the tire (or sometimes on the door frame or glove compartment of the car).
Overinflated tires can lead to various issues from decreased gas mileage to premature wear and tear on your tires and your suspension system. None of these sound particularly exciting do they? That’s why you don’t want them.
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How Do You Tell Your Tires Are Overinflated?
If your vehicle bounces more than usual when driving on a smooth road or the steering wheel vibrates, these may be signs that your tires are overinflated.
Overinflated tires will also use more gas because of the extra weight and friction, which can decrease fuel efficiency. You can also check the tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge.
The recommended pressure is usually listed on a sticker inside the driver’s door. If the pressure in your tires exceeds the recommended amount, let some air out until it reaches the proper level (but make sure not to release too much!)
Is It Better To Over Or Under-Inflated Tires?
Over-inflated tires may look fine, but they can be pretty dangerous. Excessive pressure can cause the tire to break suddenly, leading to a loss of control.
It can also make the ride much harsher, increasing wear and tear on the tires and the suspension.
On the other hand, under-inflated tires will lead to a decrease in fuel efficiency and increased wear on the tread. Ideally, you want your tires inflated at 30 PSI for hot weather and 25 PSI for cold weather.
Tires with worn treads should not be driven because they will not provide as much traction in inclement weather conditions. After all, you don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road do you?
For any significant change, it is best to consult your owner’s manual or local service center before adjusting anything yourself!
What Can Happen If My Tires Are Overinflated?
You’re probably thinking, what can go wrong if your tires are overinflated? To put it plainly, it wouldn’t be much fun. So let’s have a look at how, shall we? If your tires are overinflated, it can cause several problems such as:
- Premature Tire Wear
- Make Your Car More Difficult To Handle
- Loss of Traction
- Increase Fuel Consumption
- Increase the Risk of a Blowout
Let’s take a closer look at each.
1. Premature Tire Wear
The increased air pressure on the inner surface of the tire (called scrubbing) will accelerate wear on the tread, causing premature wearing and reducing their lifespan.
Plus, when you hit a bump in the road with an over-inflated tire, the higher air pressure may cause excess movement inside the tire that could lead to the puncture of internal elements like belts or wires that have been stressed by too much stretching.
2. Make Your Car More Difficult To Handle
Overinflated tires can make your car a pain to steer and control because they transmit excessive vibrations through the steering wheel.
And since more rubber is touching the ground than necessary, braking distances are also lengthened. Car manufacturers build their vehicles with a target tire pressure in mind.
When you drive with over-inflated tires, you reduce their rolling resistance and increase their fuel efficiency.
If you notice your vehicle becoming less efficient than it used to be, check your tire pressure first before turning to other solutions.
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3. Loss of Traction
If your tires’ grip is drastically diminished, this is one of the first signs that they are overinflated. Because tires make contact with the road surface, they must function well to provide your vehicle with the necessary grip.
When your tires are underinflated, the middle section bulges, and the contact patch shrinks, resulting in only a tiny portion of the tire contacting the road and decreasing overall traction.
Loss of traction also impairs your braking distance and cornering, giving your car the sensation of sliding.
In addition, a Popular Mechanics experiment discredited the misconception that overinflated tires are more stable and excellent for increasing fuel efficiency. Their research revealed that the vehicle’s handling is harmed when tire pressure is too high.
As a result, if you see your tread becoming sloppy, it’s time to check your PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) to ensure that your tires are correctly inflated.
4. Increase Fuel Consumption
One of the main contributors to gas mileage when driving at highway speeds is rolling resistance—the energy lost due to tires pushing against bumps in the road.
More air in your tires means greater rolling resistance and fuel consumption.
5. Increase the Risk of a Blowout
There’s nothing worse than losing control of your vehicle due to a flat tire caused by improper inflation.
Overenthusiastic inflating leads to heat buildup in the tire, making it more susceptible to being punctured by sharp objects on the road.
How Temperatures Affect Tire Pressure
Although air temperature doesn’t directly affect tire pressure, it does affect how much heat is generated as your vehicle rolls down a road.
As you drive, a thin layer of water from moisture in the atmosphere combines with road friction to create heat inside your tires.
If they’re underinflated, they may not be able to dissipate that heat quickly enough—resulting in higher tire temperatures.
This increased heat can cause further damage to your tires, including accelerated tire wear and tread separation.
Because of these dangers, it’s recommended that you check your tire pressure monthly or at every oil change.
Tires need to be checked when they’re cold because temperature causes their pressure to rise, making them appear properly inflated even when they’re underinflated.
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How To Check If Your Tires Are Properly Inflated
Now that you know how temperature affects your tire pressure, how do you check to ensure your tires are always properly inflated? It’s quite simple!
There are two main ways that you can check to see if your tires are properly inflated.
1. Using a Tire Pressure Gauge
Step 1: Insert the gauge’s nozzle into the valve and press down on the lever until it is fully seated. The reading will be shown in PSI.
Step 2: Pressing on the tire with your fingers: If it feels flat, it is under-inflated; if it has some resistance, it is likely properly inflated.
Step 3: Placing the palm of your hand against the sidewall of the tire while holding it at arm’s length: If you can’t tell if it is over or under-inflated, this technique may help.
2. Visually Inspecting Your Tires
The other main way to determine if your tires are correctly inflated is by visually inspecting them.
Look for any bulges or uneven wear that could signify an air pressure issue. Another sign would be excessive tire noise as you drive, which could indicate a need to inflate your tires.
Checking your tire pressures is essential for safety reasons and because it can save you money in gas mileage due to decreased drag from improper inflation.
At What PSI Do Tires Explode?
Tires are engineered to withstand a certain amount of pressure, usually between 30 and 35 PSI. Your tires will typically begin to explode if they’re overfilled to about 40 PSI, though if your tire is new or a more durable model, your tire may explode at 45 PSI.
The reason tires explode from being overinflated is because the air inside the tire is trying to escape, and the more pressure there is, the harder it is for the tire to contain it.
If your tires are overinflated, you should let some of the air out until they’re at the recommended PSI. If this doesn’t work, the next step would be to contact a mechanic or automotive technician about getting new tires.
What Happens If You Drive On Overinflated Tires?
Your car’s performance may suffer, it might feel unstable when going around corners, and your gas mileage could drop by 1-2 miles per gallon. Driving with overfilled tires could also damage other parts of the vehicle, including suspension, brake components, transmission, axles, and shocks.
In addition, turning with overfilled tires causes excess friction on the brakes and wears down the tread faster. Under these conditions, cars have also been known to hydroplane more easily. Overfilling your tires isn’t worth risking these potentially expensive consequences – don’t do it!
Is 40 PSI Tire Pressure Too High?
Yes, that’s too high. You need to adjust your tire pressure to be no higher than 36 PSI. First, you’ll need to measure the current PSI on each tire with a digital pressure gauge.
Once you know how much air needs to be removed from each tire, use an air compressor pump or remove the valve cap on each one. Then, turn the wheel slowly while removing as much air as possible.
Is It Safe To Drive On Overinflated Tires?
It may not seem like such a big deal to keep driving when your tires are overinflated, but it can lead to severe damage or even an explosion. Safe to say, it’s not a safe option at all, so just don’t do it. It isn’t worth being stuck on the side of the highway at three in the morning (trust me, I’ve been there – it’s not fun).
If your tires are overinflated, it can lead to several problems. For one, it can throw off your car’s alignment, leading to premature wear on your tires.
Additionally, overinflated tires can make your car less stable and more difficult to handle, especially in emergencies, increasing your risk to yourself and others.
They can also increase the risk of a blowout, which could be extremely dangerous. If you’re unsure what the proper tire pressure is for your car, consult your owner’s manual or ask a professional.