Before hitting the road, all your tires need to have the correct air pressure, which boosts fuel efficiency, vehicle performance, and car safety.
However, when filling up tires, some drivers get distracted and either accidentally or intentionally add too much air pressure than necessary. What is the risk of this? And how does it affect your driving? Here’s all you need to know.
What Are Over Inflated Tires?
When the air pressure is too high, it compromises your safety and causes massive tire wear and tear. While higher inflation pressure improves the steering response and cornering stability, it can make your ride harsher than usual. Most passenger cars have a recommended PSI of 30 to 35. Additionally, driving on over-inflated tires can be dangerous.
For more information about the dangers of driving with overinflated tires, the signs to watch out for, and the recommended air pressure, keep on reading!
What Are The Risks of Driving With Over Inflated Tires?
Over-inflated tires are just as bad as under-inflated tires. According to the NHTSA, tires that are under-inflated by 25% are more likely to cause car accidents than the correctly inflated ones.
With over-inflated tires, you increase your chances of losing control of the car, leading to fatal car accidents.
Here are some dangers of driving with over-inflated tires.
Uneven Tire Wear and Damage
Overinflating your tires makes them more susceptible to damage because they are overfilled to the maximum capacity making them inflexible and stiff.
When driving with such tires, your tires will be more vulnerable to damage from curbs and potholes.
An overinflated tire bulges in the center of the tread; therefore, only a tiny patch will touch the road in the middle when driving.
As you continue driving in this state, you’ll notice that the tires will pick a distorted shape which decreases traction between the car and the road. Therefore, you’ll be forced to replace the tires way early before their wear-out time is due.
It’s estimated that blowouts and flat tires cause approximately 78,000 accidents every year, partly caused by inflated tires.
Because of the strain when driving, the tires will naturally heat up due to friction. While most manufacturers have added a safety margin for when tires overheat, it mainly applies to new tires.
According to most manufacturer recommendations, safety features on your vehicle, such as the anti-lock braking system, are designed to work when tires are filled with air pressure; hence, overinflated tires could compromise some driver assistance functions.
However, if your tires are already worn out or damaged, tire blowouts could happen and cause you to lose control over your car.
When driving, you need all the grip you can get, but this grip becomes difficult to achieve with over-inflated tires.
Additionally, over-inflated tires can cause lengthening of the normal braking distance, which means that you won’t manage to stop the car as usual, especially during emergency braking.
Overall, these tires also make the steering feel lighter than usual, making it much harder to operate your car.
While most drivers ride on the myth that over-inflated tires are more stable; therefore, ideal for boosting fuel efficiency, a Popular Mechanics experiment showed that the vehicle’s handling is compromised when the tire pressure is too high.
All drivers prefer smooth and less bumpy rides, especially when the road is smooth; however, this is impossible if your tires have too much pressure.
Both the driver and passenger will feel every bump and dip in the road, making the ride unpleasant because the sidewall is too tight, and instead of absorbing the road bumps and shocks, the impact is transferred straight to the vehicle’s suspension.
Front Suspension Damage
Car tires are usually connected to the front suspension via the axle, rim, wheel hub, which helps provide grip and absorb all the shocks and unevenness of the road.
Therefore, when the tires are over-inflated, they put more pressure on the suspension system because they are bouncing more than they should.
When this continues for extended periods, you’ll be forced to replace other parts of the car, such as ball joints and bushings.
In addition, when the suspension is affected, the tires become noisier, which can be irritating; therefore, you’ll have to get this fixed first before you can drive your car, especially for long distances.
What Are the Signs Of Over Inflated Tires?
When it comes to tire pressure, it’s not possible to determine the correct PSI by visual inspection or simple guesswork.
Therefore, you’ll need a pressure gauge to actually confirm that the tire pressure coincides with the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
If your tires were accidentally over-inflated, how can you know? Here are some symptoms to look out for.
Reduced or No Traction
As stated above, overinflated tires have reduced grip and uneven tread wear, affecting the traction.
When the tires have excess pressure, the center of the tire bulges and the contact patch becomes smaller.
When you notice this, it’s time to check whether your tires have the correct PSI.
Rides should not be unstable, especially when driving on smooth roads. However, if your drives have been very unsteady lately, your tires could be over-inflated.
These tires don’t absorb the shock because they are too stiff; therefore, you’ll feel the impact of uneven roads much more than usual.
With technological advancement, driving assistance systems such as anti-lock braking systems and Electronic Stability Programme, and many more are becoming standard in almost every vehicle.
However, most of these systems work when the tires have a proper grip on the road and the car is moving properly.
Therefore, these systems will not work as they should or pick up the wrong signals when the traction is affected, which can be very dangerous for the driver and other motorists.
Excessive Tire Wear
In countries such as the U.K. and the U.S., there’s a legal tread depth of roughly 1.6mm. Whether there are legal limits in your location or not, you should still check for any tread wear and damages.
If you spot a lot of wear in the middle, this could be a sign that you are driving with over-inflated tires.
What’s Is Worse Between Over Inflated and Under Inflated Tires?
Both over-inflation and under-inflation have adverse negative effects on the car’s stability, performance, and lifespan of the tires.
However, low tire pressure is worse and unsafe because they wear out more around the edges which causes increased friction, increasing the chances of a blowout.
On the other hand, overinflated tires come with a bumpy, noisy ride and may not react as expected to road hazards such as curbs and potholes.
How To Fix Over Inflated Tires?
Once you notice that the tires are over-inflated, you have to find a way to reduce the air pressure.
Fortunately, the process is pretty direct and simple, and you can do it in the morning before you drive off to work when the tires are still cold.
Checking and adjusting the pressure when it’s warmer could lead to more over-inflating or under-inflating.
Here’s a guide on how to fix this issue.
- Find the valve stem on your tire and take off the valve cap.
- Connect the pressure gauge to the valve stem correctly so that no air leaks and measure the current tire pressure.
- Remove the pressure gauge and use the small nipple to release the air pressure from the tire.
- Release the pressure intermittently until you meet the recommended PSI.
How Can You Know Your Recommended Tire Pressure?
Each manufacturer has a recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) for their different tires, which is determined after various tests to assess their capabilities.
The PSI is usually calculated by factoring in the total car weight, payload capacity, and recommended tire size.
Therefore, as a car owner, it’s advisable to always check the PSI if you want to keep your tires for longer and have safer drives.
For most passenger vehicles, the recommended PSI is between 30 to 35; but this varies with the types of tires.
To check for your recommendation, you should check the sticker inside the driver’s door or a label in the glove box, fuel door, under the hood, or on the owner’s manual. The air pressure details will be printed on either of these parts.
What To Do Once You Notice You Have Over Inflated Tires
Once you notice the symptoms of over-inflated tires, you should use a pressure gauge to confirm whether you have exceeded the recommended number.
Next, you’ll need to follow the steps above to release the excess pressure until the tires are back to normal.
However, if your tires have already undergone excess damage, you may have to replace them with new ones with better tread depth for better rides.
Additionally, it would be best to have your mechanic observe them and advise on whether your tires are excessively damaged or need replacing.
Over-inflated tires are risky for you as the driver of the car and other road users. If you add too much pressure to your tires, you’ll lose grip and traction on the road, increasing your chances of an accident or tire blowout.
While some drivers believe that over-inflation helps with fuel efficiency, this might work to some point for autocross and track events, but it may not be ideal for standard passenger vehicles.
Having the correct PSI on your tires is critical for your safety as well as the longevity of your tires.
Each set of tires comes with a recommended tire pressure; therefore, it’s better to stick to it for your safety.