The Importance Of Proper Tire Inflation

AAA Auto Repair Article
By AAA Automotive
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Keeping your car’s tires properly inflated to the automaker’s recommended pressures is a critical element of tire maintenance. Tires that contain the specified amount of air pressure last longer and contribute to vehicle safety.

Dangers and cost impact

Low tire pressures affect braking distances and provide less responsive steering and handling. This can be especially dangerous when an emergency stop or sudden evasive maneuver is needed to avoid a collision.

In addition, low pressures allow tire sidewalls to flex excessively, which generates heat. While moderate heat simply accelerates tire tread wear; high heat can lead to loss of tread segments or even blowouts.


Check tire pressures at least once a month. (AAA image)
Underinflated tires also have higher rolling resistance, which reduces fuel economy. And, they wear more rapidly at the outer edges of the tread, which means replacement will be necessary sooner than with properly inflated tires.

Overinflated tires are less of an issue. Modern tires can easily withstand pressures that exceed those recommended for normal driving. However, consistently overinflated tires provide a less compliant ride and suffer more rapid wear in the center of the tread, which again means replacement will be necessary sooner than with properly inflated tires.

Determining proper tire pressures

Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual or the tire specification decal on the driver-side doorframe. For older model cars (prior to 2003), tire inflation information may be located inside the glove box door, fuel filler flap, or trunk lid. Do not use the pressure molded into the tire sidewall. This indicates the pressure needed to meet the tire’s full rated load carrying capacity, not the pressure specified for your particular vehicle.

Vehicle manufacturers provide basic tire pressure specifications that may vary from front to rear, and also when the vehicle is fully loaded or used for extended highway driving. Higher pressures increase load capacity and reduce heat buildup.

Some pickups and sport utility vehicles have light-truck tires marked as “LT” on the sidewalls. The recommended inflation pressure for light-truck tires can vary significantly depending on a vehicle’s load and usage.

Tire inflation tips

  • Check tire pressures regularly. Once a week is best, but no less than once a month and always before any long road trip.
  • Use a quality pressure gauge. Dial and digital gauges are more accurate and cost $10 to $20.
  • Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressures and not the pressure molded into the tire sidewall.
  • Check the pressures before driving when tires have been at rest and are not hot.
  • An increased pressure reading (typically 2 to 6 psi higher) is normal when tires are hot.
  • If recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, increase tire pressures for towing, carrying heavy loads, or extended highway travel.
Additional Tire Maintenance

To equalize tread wear and extend tire life, rotate the tires at the intervals specified by the vehicle manufacturer. If the car pulls to one side, or the tire treads exhibit unusual wear patterns, have the wheel alignment checked and adjusted as necessary.

Finding Quality Auto Repair

AAA recommends that you plan ahead for vehicle service by finding an auto repair shop and technician you can trust before you need them. AAA.com/Repair provides information on nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities that have met AAA’s high standards for appearance, technician training and certification, insurance coverage and customer satisfaction. AAA regularly inspects every Approved Auto Repair facility and surveys their customers to ensure ongoing performance. In addition, AAA members receive special benefits that include auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and AAA assistance in resolving repair-related issues.

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