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Mechanic

Check Tyre Pressures

Proper tyre Pressures Can Help Ensure Safe Travel
By Philip LePore

The truth is most drivers never check their tyre pressures even though it's no more difficult to do than filling your fuel tank

If you know how to check your tyre pressures, there's really no need to read any further. You can stop here and check your tyres right now if you have not already done so. But if you don't know what to do, what follows is for you.

Incredible as it seems, the four corners of your vehicle are supported by nothing more than air pressure. The pressure is listed as a number such as 30 with the letters PSI after it. PSI stands for pounds per square inch. PSI is the reference scale used here in the United States.

How do you know how many pounds of air should be in each tyre ? Your owner's manual will tell you. It's in the index found in the back of the manual under "tires or tyre inflation pressures." Sometimes it is on a label found around the driver's door. Look for a number followed by PSI.

If you can't find it, the safest bet is to call the manufacturer of your vehicle. You will need to provide the year and model of your vehicle, so have that ready.

Once you have found your recommended tyre pressures, you'll need a tyre pressure gauge. Most auto supply stores have a good selection. You'll see they come in pencil, dial, and digital configurations.

Which one should you get? Get the one you can easily read. An auto parts store manager or a knowledgeable store employee can help with the selection. Ask him to tell you which gauge garages and tyre stores use.

If you have never used a tyre gauge before, ask the sales person to show you how to use it. Also inquire if you can return it if it is difficult to use, inaccurate or leaks while you use it.

Then go to a gas station and park next to the air pump. This way if you inadvertently release too much air in the learning process, you have a way to put it back. Look around the wheel and you'll find a tyre valve sticking out. It should have a metal or plastic cap on it. Unscrew the cap. No cap? Put that on your list to get from the store where you got your gauge. The cap has a purpose. It holds air in when the tyre valve does not.

Bring along a rag because the cap will have black dust on it from your brakes. The dust is normal. Press and hold the gauge against the tyre valve. Some air will escape as you begin and more will escape if you don't press the gauge in firmly. You can't hurt anything here so don't worry about pressing too hard.

A firm non-leaking push will activate the gauge and give you a reading. From that you will know whether the tyre is low.

But what if your readings are higher than the recommended pressure? A few pounds higher should not be a problem especially if you have driven any distance. It is normal for tyre pressures to rise from driving.

So how do you find out what your tyre pressures really are? Simple, you have to check your tyres when they are cold. Before the vehicle is driven. The cold reading is the one that tells you whether your tyres are properly inflated.

If you are four pounds low when the tyres are cold simply add four pounds to the warm reading when you check again at the tyre pump.

Your vehicle or tyre manufacturer's recommended pressures are for when the tyres are cold. Pressure recommendations change if vehicle is carrying a full load, pulling a trailer or driving interstates.

Because tyres tend to lose rather than gain air, they should be checked regularly. It is also advisable to walk around your vehicle regularly to see if you have a tyre going down. Modern radial tyres generally look like they are under inflated even when they are right on the money. That is why a tyre pressure gauge is essential. You cannot know otherwise.

Under inflation is a problem that can lead to greater problems. When your tyres are under inflated, they run hotter, provide less traction, wear out sooner and reduce fuel mileage. In certain situations, under inflation can lead to tyre failure and/or loss of vehicle control. For all these reasons, it makes sense to take a few minutes to check your tyres and their pressures on a regular basis.

Today's vehicle tyres are genuine engineering marvels. Overall, they last longer, resist road debris better, and provide greater safety than the best tyres of only a decade past. They are so good that the tendency is to take them for granted. But as we have learned, our tyres require periodic inspection and checking. It's not much to ask really when you have so much is riding on them.

When did you last check your tyres ?


Philip LePore is the author of "When You Are Concerned," a national award winning handbook for families and caregivers worried about the safety of an aging driver. He is a New York State certified driver safety educator and in 1989 served on the first State Inter-Agency Task Force on Traffic Safety and the Elderly. Mr. LePore represents the State Office for the Aging on the Medical Advisory Board of the Department of Motor Vehicles.



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