How can I make sure my tires are safe if I can’t rely on my internal pressure gauge?

You were so proud of your son the day he bought his first car. Although you were a little nervous, he guaranteed that he would be safe and properly care for it. He even told you that he read the user manual from cover to cover. Knowing this, you felt a little more at ease, until six months later when your son picked you up from a doctor’s appointment and you noticed that one of his tires happened to be a little flat. The ensuing conversation did not go as you had planned.

You asked him if he was aware of the deflated tire, and instead of reassuring you that he was on his way to put air in it and get it fixed, he looked completely dumbfounded. He looked down at his dashboard and then accused you of seeing things. You suggested that he take a look himself, but he refused. Your son explained that the tire couldn’t possibly be flat because his dashboard pressure gauge wasn’t lit up. If the light isn’t on, there’s no need to worry—at least that’s what the manual said.

It took all of your strength not to call him a fool. You opened up your car door and refused to close it until he checked the tire. Then the truth came out—he told you that he didn’t know how. He didn’t even know what he was looking for.

Although this made you seriously concerned about what else he didn’t know about his own car, you decided to take one problem at a time and help him learn the proper way to monitor and care for his vehicle’s tires.

Manual Tire Maintenance: Don’t Put All Your Faith in Technology

When it comes to driving safety, there are dozens of protocols and safety maneuvers that you should know. However, one of the many such pieces of advice that you should never ignore or put off is tire maintenance and monitoring. Tire stability and safety is not only one of the more important aspects of car safety, but it is easily one of the most overlooked. 

According to a National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration survey, over 71 percent of polled motorists claim that they check their tires’ pressure less than once a month, and generally only when they deem it necessary. Seven percent of these motorists admitted that they have never checked their tires. This number is extremely high considering how underinflated tires cause thousands of deaths and injuries per year. Since tire failure is such a concern for vehicle safety, additional  NHTSA reports suggest that maintaining proper tire pressure, observing tire and vehicle load limits (not carrying more weight than your tires or vehicle can safely handle), avoiding road hazards, and routinely inspecting tires for cuts, slashes, and other irregularities are the most important things you can do to avoid tire failure and keep your family safe from a tire-related accident.

In order to properly maintain and monitor your tires, it is important to know what to look for as well as to know your specific tires’ requirements—instead of relying solely on internal gauges.

The following tire specifications can be found on placards and certification labels that are permanently attached to the vehicle’s door edge, door post, glove-box door, or inside of the trunk lid. You can also find the recommended tire pressure and load limit for your vehicle in the vehicle owner's manual:

  • Your vehicle’s recommended tire size
  • Recommended tire inflation pressure
  • Vehicle capacity weight (VCW–the maximum occupant and cargo weight your vehicle is designed to carry)
  • Front and rear gross axle weight ratings (GAWR– the maximum weight the axle systems are designed to carry)

It is important to check your vehicle's tire pressure at least once a month. Proper monitoring includes manually:

  • Checking the recommended tire pressure from the manual or placards
  • Recording the tire pressure of all tires (make sure the tires aren’t warm or recently driven)
  • If the tire pressure is too low, note the difference between the measured tire pressure and the correct tire pressure. These "missing" pounds of pressure are what you will need to add
  • At a service station or dealer, add the missing pounds of air pressure to each tire that is underinflated.
  • Check all the tires to make sure they have the same air pressure

Double Checking to Avoid an Accident

Although internal (dashboard) pressure gauges are convenient for monitoring sudden changes that occur while you’re driving, manual checks can help eliminate slow leaks or compromised tire integrity. It is also important to know that internal gauges have been known to fail or miscalculate pressure, making it difficult and dangerous to rely on 100 percent of the time.

Make sure your family and friends know the importance of routine tire checks by sharing this page with them via Facebook. If they have recently been injured as a result of faulty tires or a broken pressure gauge, tell them to contact us directly to discuss any potential questions or concerns they may have. The consultation is free but the advice could help secure your future.