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10 Lashes With a Tire Pressure Gauge

Recently, I wrote about simple things you can do to slash the high cost of gas. One of those tips was to make sure your car’s tires are always properly inflated because underinflated tires cause the engine to work harder than necessary, which wastes fuel, while overinflation causes tires to wear prematurely. 


I went on to tell you how to discover the psi (pounds per square inch) inflation recommended for your tires. And with that I kinda’ started a firestorm! My email box fairly sizzled with responses from readers who were not happy—some demanding an immediate retraction, others insisting I was putting the lives of my readers in serious danger.

The problem? I told you to discover the proper psi by looking for that information on the tires themselves.

“You’re wrong!” informed a few readers, many of them citing their qualifications as authorities on tires and proper inflation.

I learned quickly that the psi number on the tire indicates that tire’s maximum safe psi, as determined by the manufacturer. But the recommended psi, which is typically a bit lower, is found printed or stamped on a metal tag affixed to the edge of the driver’s side door jamb on newer cars or inside the glove box on older vehicles.

I checked and doubled checked and sure enough—I was wrong. My savvy readers are absolutely right. The information you need to properly inflate your tires to get the best fuel result is not on the tire, but on the door or in the glove box.

For this misdeed, I have given myself ten lashes with a tire pressure gauge. Beyond that, I’ve researched the matter to discover just how dangerous it might be to over inflate tires to the point of the maximum psi as determined by that tire’s manufacturer and printed on the wall of the tire.

Contrary to some of the letters I received, I can find no warning from manufacturers or other tire experts that tires will explode if inflated to their maximum psi as printed on the tire. What I have found is that if inflated to the maximum psi, the tires will wear prematurely, the ride will be less enjoyable and handling of the vehicle could be more difficult.

The folks at TireRack.com say, “Maintaining correct tire inflation pressure helps optimize tire performance and fuel economy. An overinflated tire is still and unyielding and the size of its footprint in contact with the road is reduced.”

If you are unable to find this specific information for inflation of your tires in the car itself or the owner’s manual—consensus among experts is that a typical car’s tires should be inflated in the range of 32 to 35 psi.

Every expert I consulted with agreed that a quality tire pressure gauge like this Tekton Digital Tire Gauge is an absolute must to keep your tires within 2 psi of the recommended inflation. If you’re going to go to the trouble of checking your tires’ inflation psi, make sure you’re doing it with a gauge that is easy to use and reliable enough to give you correct information.

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3 replies
  1. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Rather than testing each tire individually at regular intervals I use these http://www.amazon.com/36Psi-Automotive-Pressure-Monitoring-Valve/dp/B00A0I8N9M They are valve caps that sit on each tire’s valve and indicate (by change of color) when a tire needs inflating. Super-cheap, super simple.

    • Brad Bishop
      Brad Bishop says:

      Those are a good idea, too.

      Most modern cars (2009 and greater, I believe) have TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) and will show up as a light on your dash.

  2. Brad Bishop
    Brad Bishop says:

    I recommend a analog gauge such as:

    The things to look for:

    – No battery. You’re going to stick this in your glove box and it’s going to get hot and cold and you’re not likely to realize the battery is dead until you need it.

    – This particular gauge has an angled head, which is nice and easier to work with in my opinion as well as a nub on it so you can release pressure if you overfill it.

    – This gauge also has a release button so you can push it on the tire, remove it from the tire and read the pressure and then use the button to release the pressure in the gauge.

    Oddly, this gauge isn’t easily found in your local stores. I had to order it online.

    Another thing that’s handy is this:

    Sure, you can use the head of the penny and whether you can see Lincoln’s head and all that. This is still pretty cheap and gives you an accurate reading.

    Tires aren’t exciting to buy but you do need to replace them before they are fully bald. When the mechanic says, “Time to replace you tires,” then it’s pretty much time. Replacing tires is cheaper than dealing with an accident.


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