You’ll have heard of hyper inflation in relation to post war Germany, and perhaps the disastrous economies of some dictatorship led and corruption infested countries, but how about when you’re talking about vehicle tyres?
It’s a very common problem that faces motorists, with wheels needing new tyres much more regularly than should be necessary in the more extreme cases.
The problem is, people over inflate their tyres, and that is something they so in the mistaken belief that it improves fuel efficiency. What’s actually the case is that vehicle manufacturers spend a lot of time and money working out the optimum tyre pressures for each of their vehicles. That’s why you see those intimidating looking tables in your car’s handbook.
If you put too much air into your car’s tyres, there may be a marginal improvement in the fuel efficiency, but it’s likely tiny. The bigger issue is that it introduces two very serious safety hazards too.
Hazard 1: Acceleration and Braking
The first is that once your tyres go above the recommended pressure, the wheels get closer and closer to a perfect circle. Under the recommended conditions, the weight of the vehicle causes the bottom of the tyre to flatten slightly giving a larger contact with the road. That means that you have better grip, especially when acceleration, braking and steering. By over inflating tyres, you’re going to reduce that extra surface area that you’re in contact with the road, meaning that it takes longer to stop when you brake. A little extra air may make little difference, but if you’re deliberately over inflating, you’re likely adding far too much air, possibly as much as several extra PSI.
That’s also the reason why your car handbook might recommend more air when you’ve got a fully loaded vehicle – normally measure in terms of multiple adults and luggage being carried in addition to the weight of the driver. That extra weight pushes down more through the tyres and makes more contact with the road. You do have to remember though, once you return to a more normal load in the car you need to return tyre pressures to normal as soon as possible.
Hazard 2: Things Go Pop
The second safety issue with over inflation is simply that tyres aren’t designed to be over inflated. Just like keeping blowing up a balloon eventually causes it to burst, there’s the same issue with a tyre – they can only take so much pressure before they fail. It’s going to take a lot to explode a tyre as you pump it up, but adding too much and then needing to do an emergency stop form 70mph on the motorway can put a huge and possibly catastrophic strain on the rubber.
How To Measure Pressure
Every driver should know how to do this, but it’s clear some don’t. There are three easy ways to measure your tyre pressure (four if you have a new car that’s got some fancy features).
Option 1: Let Your Car Tell You
The first is that fancy feature so let’s chalk that one off straight away. Check your dashboard display, as some vehicles will tell you the pressure of each tyre. Many still don’t though, even though its now a requirement for new cars to be manufactured with tyre pressure management systems as standard.
Option 2: The Cheap Gadget
The second is to buy a simple tool that gives you a pressure reading by removing the dust cap and pressing it onto the valve of each wheel. They’re usually available to buy for a few quid from high street stores like Argos, and maybe even the DIY or motor aisle if you live near a large supermarket.
Option 3: The Petrol Station Forecourt
The third is the most common choice for most people, and that’s to use the machine on the forecourt of your local petrol station. Usually the price ranges from 20p up to a quid a go, which is why this is no longer the option we recommend, instead it’s the next one!
Option 4: The Tyre Inflator
It’s surprising these haven’t caught on sooner given they’re actually relatively cheap for what they do. They’ll not only give you a pressure reading for your tyres (just like option 2), but they’ll also pump up your tyres too. They use a compressor as a pump to drive air into your tyres, and many of the good ones can be programmed to stop when the target pressure is reached. They might be a little out, but they’re certainly good enough to rely on to keep the pressures on your vehicle tyres monitored, and will mean you can do so from home, rather than hoping you remember when you next fill up with petrol. You can find some reviews of the best car tyre inflators at https://www.cartyreinflator.co.uk/ if you’re wanting to buy one. we’d recommend carrying them around everywhere in the back of the car as they’re able to operate from the 12V power supply in the vehicle itself, so you don’t need to plug it in to use it.
Our Latest Project
Here at Alarm Software, we’ve been working recently on the software that drives these inflators, and are looking for ways to make them even better. Currently we’re working on adding wifi support, which will mean that you can just enter your registration plate and the inflator will automatically know what pressure each wheel requires.
We’re hoping that in time things will be able to be easier still, with the machines being able to get the information they need straight from your car without the need for you as the user and vehicle owner to do anything. That overcomes a common problem we’ve heard from drivers, where they’re not sure which vehicle they’ve got when looking through the tables of tyre pressures in the car owners handbook.
If you’ve got any more smart ideas for the Alarm Software team on how to make your tyre inflator even more helpful, we’d love to hear from you.