April 19, 2011

Tire pressure gauges
Photo by Jim Ruen
I started using a digital gauge to check tire pressure in order to ensure accuracy.

With the rising price of gas, the inevitable news stories will remind us to check our tire pressure to save fuel. 

Underinflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every psi below the recommended pressure for your tires. The fact is, of course, that this doesn’t amount to the cost of a cup of coffee at a truckstop, much less a Starbucks or even a McDonald’s cup.

A much bigger reason for proper tire inflation is life of the tire and safety. Underinflating tires by only 6 psi can reduce tire tread life by 25 percent and lead to tire failure.

Too much air can be a problem, too. Overinflated tires are more easily damaged by potholes or debris in the road. They also reduce traction and increase the distance needed to stop.

The real problem is knowing when you have your tire properly inflated. While I’ve always used the information on the side of the tire, Michelin says to follow the car maker’s recommendation. You can find that in your manual and on a sticker on the driver’s side door.

Knowing the correct pressure is half the battle. Checking the tire is the other half. I recently bought a digital tire gauge, in part because pen-type gauge readings are increasingly inaccurate the lower the tire psi. Because I run my ATV at pressures of 14 pounds and less depending on use, I needed more accuracy.

When testing it against my pen-style gauge, there was a difference of at least 2 psi. My next step is to take it to my mechanic and test it against his more accurate gauges.

Then comes the real test. Will I remember to use it?

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