Tire Maintenance from the Cars.com website
By Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com
As vehicles have become increasingly trouble-free, motorists have increasingly ignored their tires. Tires have improved markedly over the past few decades in terms of performance and wear, but they still require more attention than most of the car — much more than they tend to get. The most important steps car owners can take are to keep the tires properly inflated and to rotate them on schedule. The proliferation of tire pressure monitoring systems — required on all new cars since the 2008 model year — has been a mixed blessing: They might prevent catastrophic failure, but experts say the simplest types are too liberal and the technology makes some owners think they never have to check their tires again.
Proper Tire Pressure: Why it Matters
Driving on underinflated or overinflated tires compromises any or all of the following.
Stopping distance: Properly inflated tires maximize tread contact with the pavement, and traction along with it. Improperly inflated tires extend stopping distances — meaning it takes more distance to stop the vehicle in an emergency situation. Unfortunately, the tires may feel and perform no differently under normal driving. By the time the problem is evident, it’s too late.
Ride and handling: When the tires have too much air, they’re overly rigid, which means they don’t absorb as much impact, so the car rides rougher and suspension components wear faster. An overinflated tire’s tread may crown, allowing only the center portion to contact the pavement, which decreases traction. When the pressure is too low, the ride might be softer, but the tread may not meet the road uniformly, and steering responsiveness is diminished because of greater flex in the tires’ sidewalls.
Fuel economy: Underinflated tires greatly reduce fuel economy. For example, a Honda Accord with tires inflated 6 psi below the recommended spec suffers a 5 percent decrease in fuel economy. In an efficient car, this amounts to whole miles per gallon.