Tire pressure

Running a car

Why it’s important to have the right tire pressure

Having the right tire pressure can make the difference between having a safe trip and having to stop in the middle of the expressway.

It’s easy to overlook your tires when considering safety, but regular upkeep and a few simple checks can help you steer clear of dire tire trouble. So here are 5 questions you should be asking about tire pressure.

  1. Why is correct the tire pressure so important?

    Correct tire pressure is vital for braking, grip and maximizing the life of your tires. You'll find the correct tire pressure for your car in your car owner’s manual, which should be in your glove compartment.

    If you don’t have that, open your driver-side door and look on the inside groove for a label with the tire info. If that’s missing too, search online for your tires.

    You should be checking your tire pressures at least once a month.
  2. What affects tire pressure?

    Proper tire pressure is related to load, speed, temperature, and the way you drive.

    If you check your owner’s manual, you may find the manufacturer gives you 2 pressures - one for when your car is in normal use and one for when your car is weighed down with passengers and luggage. Bear this in mind and adjust your tire pressure accordingly, especially if you’re loading up for a long journey!

    Cold winter weather could also cause your tire pressure to drop, while warm summer weather may cause an increase in pressure. It is especially important to check the pressure when seasons change - particularly in Canada’s extreme winters.

    Don’t forget the spare! When you check tire pressure at the gas station, take a moment to check the fifth one in your trunk.
  3. What happens if my tires are a bit flat?

    Long-term under-inflation causes all sorts of problems for tires.

    They can overheat, which increases the chance of them bursting. They’ll also be more susceptible to wear and tear so you’ll need to replace them sooner.

    Not only that - under-inflated tires will affect how you handle the car as they can impact the steering. Limp tires also increase the rolling resistance (the friction that happens when an object rolls,) so you’ll use more fuel to maintain the same speed.

    BAD NEWS: Driving with just one under-inflated tire can reduce the life of the tire by 15,000 km and can increase your car’s fuel consumption by 4%.
  4. And if they’re over-inflated?

    Over-inflation will not only give you a bumpy, uncomfortable ride, it’ll reduce the surface area of tire in contact with road, which in turn reduces grip - especially dangerous in bad weather.

    Too much air will also speed up tire wear and make your tires more susceptible to damage from impact.

  5. When should I check my tire pressure?

    It's best to check your tire pressure when the tires are cold: when the car has been stationary for a while, not straight after a long drive. Pick a gas station that is closer than 2km so your tires are still cold when you get there. This will give you a more accurate reading. You can check your tire pressure and pump your tires at most gas stations.

    While you’re checking pressure, also look for signs of uneven wear and tear, and for embedded pebbles and glass in your tires. Catching a problem early can save you from an unexpected flat tire.


Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. She started learning to drive last year, at the age of 24.