Proper tyre inflation is absolutely critical for safe handling, lower tyre wear, improved fuel efficiency and avoiding blowouts. But with so many variables like load, speed and temperature, how do savvy Aussie drivers know what tyre pressure to aim for? Here's a straightforward guide to finding and maintaining your vehicle's optimum tyre PSI.
Why Proper Inflation Matters
Under-inflated tyres flex too much, causing excessive heat and rapid uneven treadwear on the outer edges. Low pressure also reduces traction and control. Over-inflation causes harsh ride, uneven wear in the centre of the tread, and makes tyres more prone to road hazard damage.
The repercussions of running tyres at incorrect pressures include:
- Poor braking distances and handling
- Premature and uneven tyre wear
- Reduced fuel economy
- Wheel damage from tyre scrubbing
- Overheating and potential blowouts
Clearly, keeping pressures set to the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations is crucial for performance, safety and maximizing tyre life.
Finding Recommended Pressures
Ideally, the correct tyre inflation for your vehicle is listed in the owner's manual or on a placard in the driver's door jamb. If not, a reputable tyre shop can look it up through your make, model and tyre size.
As a general guideline, most passenger vehicles need around 30-35 PSI for proper inflation. But don't rely on the basic rule of thumb - always check the specifications for your exact vehicle.
Pressures may be listed as a PSI range - for example, 32-35 PSI. Inflate to the higher end of the range when carrying heavier loads or towing to support the additional weight.
Adjusting Pressure for Loads
With heavier vehicle loads, tyres must operate at higher pressures. Excess weight squeezes the tyre more, which generates additional heat through flexing. More air volume is needed to maintain the proper casing shape and keep temperatures in check.
If the recommended pressures are for solo operation, add 10-15% extra PSI per tyre when loaded up. Then reduce back down when unladen.
Driving on under-inflated tyres with heavy loads is extremely hazardous - it causes overheating and sudden tyre failures. Running properly inflated tyres reduces this critical risk.
The Effect of Temperature on Tyre Pressure
Most drivers understand cold vs. hot inflation levels in theory. But in Australia's extreme climate, vigilance is required. Tyre pressures fluctuate significantly based on heat - a difference of 10°C changes inflation 1 PSI.
On hot days, tyre pressures may build up 10 PSI or more above cold readings. Let air out to stay near the recommended pressures, even if it seems too low.
Always measure and adjust tyre pressure when the tyres are cool - before driving or at least 3 hours after stopping. Warm tyres will read higher.
How to Accurately Measure Tyre Pressure
Investing in a high quality, calibrated gauge is smart - it removes the guessing game of inflation levels. Test gauges periodically to ensure their accuracy.
When checking pressures:
- Remove valve caps and press gauge straight on without twisting to get a tight seal
- Measure when tyres are cold before driving for the day
- Check all tyres including the spare for pressure drops
- Inflate any under-pressure tyres to achieve evenness across the axle
- Recheck with the gauge after inflating to confirm proper PSI
- Replace valve caps to keep out dirt and moisture
Signs of Over and Under-Inflation
Recognizing the visual clues of improper inflation allows quicker action to correct:
- More wear on tyre shoulders than centre
- Frequent punctures and damage
- Uneven wear with feathering or cupping
- Wheel rim damage from tyre scrubbing
- Excessive heat after driving, warm sidewalls
- Wear focused on tyre centre tread
- Harsh ride and handling
- Reduced wet weather grip
- More road hazard impacts and damage
Maintaining Correct Tyre Pressures
Check inflation at least monthly and before long road trips. Use a pressure gauge - don't just eyeball it. Measure when tyres are cold, adjust to recommended PSI, and verify pressures across all tyres are even.
Monitor the spare tyre too - proper inflation ensures it's ready to safely use if needed.
Rotate tyres as specified and get regular wheel alignments. This encourages more even wear at correct pressures.
Proper inflation is easily one of the most important tyre maintenance steps. Take the time to get it right and keep tyres pumping at their recommended PSI. Your car - and your hip pocket - will thank you.
Let the Experts Check and Correct Pressures
Maintaining optimal tyre pressures ensures you get the longevity, safety and performance designed into your tyres. The technicians at Darra Tyres stay up to date on all tyre and vehicle specifications. Trust them to inspect your pressures and adjust inflation correctly during tyre services. Investing just a few minutes now saves money, prevents problems, and gives peace of mind down the road.