A car in excellent working condition is critical for safety, performance, and comfort. But, sadly, many drivers still overlook how properly-inflated tires factor into all of that. Sure, most people know that low tire pressure can negatively affect driving, but how exactly?
Low tire pressure can negatively affect your driving by undermining your car’s comfort, performance, and, most importantly, safety. An under-inflated tire has reduced handling, increased braking distance, excess wear, a higher aquaplaning risk, and overheating. In simpler terms, low tire pressure reduces your car’s ability to grip the road and stay in control, prevents it from stopping in time, and raises the risk of total tire failure.
Those dangers sound scary, but they’re entirely preventable. This guide will help you understand how low tire pressure affects your driving and teach you how to prevent those problems from happening.
Let’s get to it.
How Does Low Tire Pressure Negative Affect Driving?
The tires are the point where the vehicle meets the ground underneath. So, underinflated tires which have low pressure inside will affect your driving in the following ways:
#1 Reduced Handling
‘Handling’ is a word that’s often thrown around when talking about low-pressure tires. That term refers to the car’s ability to respond correctly to your inputs, i.e. how and when you turn the steering wheel.
Unfortunately, handling is the first thing that’s undermined when you have low tire pressure. That’s because an under-inflated tire can’t maintain a strong grip on the road you’re driving.
As a result, the car won’t handle as you’d expect when turning the wheel, particularly if you’re navigating turns or going over obstacles.
That handling loss is dangerous, especially if your driving conditions require quick responses. A perfect example would be when driving in a storm or other low-visibility situations.
# Increased Braking Distance
A car’s ability to handle split-second turns is just as critical as its ability to stop at short notice. Both things are impacted by the air pressure levels in your tires.
As you read earlier, low tire pressure reduces traction. Unfortunately, one of the dangerous side effects is an increase in braking distance. In other words, you’ll have to apply the brakes much farther ahead to stop your car and prevent hitting something.
Increased braking distance is no laughing matter. For example, if you slammed on your brakes to avoid a stopped car or a pedestrian in the middle of the street, your vehicle would likely be unable to stop in time.
#3 Excess Wear
Tires are designed to handle a lot of wear. After all, their continuous contact with the road means they must be prepared to handle friction, heat, and exposure to extreme weather conditions.
However, tires can only do all of that if they’re fully inflated with the correct air pressure. When you have low tire pressure, the tire loses its ability to withstand a lot of the punishment it usually would have no problems with.
That excess wear causes the tire to degenerate much sooner than it should. And as you might already know, a worn-out tire will cause problems such as:
- Lack of traction, which leads to loss of handling and increased braking distance
- Louder noise while driving
- Cracks and bulges along the tire walls
- Increased vibrations
- And more.
Evidently, low tire pressure doesn’t just affect your driving performance negatively. But it also affects the comfort and safety of you and your passengers.
#4 Aquaplaning Risk
So far on this list, you’ve seen the general driving risks caused by low tire pressure. Now, it’s time to consider a specific and hazardous risk: aquaplaning.
Aquaplaning is also known as hydroplaning when a layer of water develops between the tire surface and the road underneath.
Normally, a fully-inflated tire has no problem maintaining contact with the road despite extremely wet conditions. That’s because the air pressure helps the tire maintain its shape, preventing a wedge of water from forming between it and the road underneath.
Sadly, when under-inflated tires roll over a wet patch on the road, there’s a strong chance they’ll lose their grip on the road completely. That can quickly cause the car to slide, spin out of control, and collide with another vehicle.
Lastly, low tire pressure can negatively affect your driving by causing tires to overheat. That’s especially true when driving at higher speeds, as the increased friction raises your tire’s temperature even more.
Tire overheating might not seem alarming at first glance. But bear in mind that an overheating tire is an extremely dangerous thing.
A tire that becomes dangerously hot can experience tread separation (i.e. when the treads literally come off the tire) and complete blowouts. These are forms of total failure that will put you in danger, especially when driving at high speeds.
Experiencing a tire blowout when speeding on the highway, for example, will cause you a sudden loss of control over your vehicle.
How Often Do You Have To Inspect Car Tire Pressure?
Ideally, you should inspect your car tire pressure at least once a month. Alternatively, you can make that task easier to remember by doing it every time you head to a gas station to fill your tank.
Don’t worry if your tires are slightly deflated every month. Car tires typically lose 1-3 psi of air pressure per month. Just be sure to top-up your tires accordingly to maintain the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure levels.
However, if you discover your tires losing a suspiciously high amount of air every week or month, you likely have a leak somewhere in the tire.
Take your car to your preferred mechanic or automotive technician to inspect your tires. They can quickly find and repair any leaks or provide you with further advice about replacements, if necessary.
Can You Check A Car’s Tire Pressure Through The Dashboard?
Yes, there are ways you can check and monitor a car’s tire pressure through the dashboard. It’s crucial to understand that, especially if you’re concerned about how low tire pressure can negatively affect your driving.
Related: Faulty Tire Pressure Sensor
The device you’ll want to understand is the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The system consists of sensors on each tire that send signals to a dashboard display unit.
A TPMS will continuously let you know how much air pressure is in each tire. Most also have alarms to warn you of sudden tire air pressure loss.
Many late-model vehicles come with a built-in TPMS as a standard feature. However, you can retrofit any car with an aftermarket TPMS. Just purchase a TPMS online or from an auto accessory seller. Then, attach the battery-powered air pressure sensors to your tires and mount the display unit on your dashboard.
Many aspects go into maintaining a car and ensuring it’s safe for the road. Unfortunately, tire pressure doesn’t usually rank highly on that list for most people. But as you’ve seen from the list above, properly-inflated tires are critical for the vehicle’s ability to stay safe.
On top of that, it also affects the car’s performance and comfort for the driver and their passengers.
So, never let your tire pressure get too low, as it will undoubtedly affect your driving and increase your risk on the road.