Car 101: Is it Safe to Drive with Low Tire Pressure?

Driving with Low Tire Pressure (How to Do So Safely)

There might be a time in your life when you are driving along and then you suddenly notice an orange light that flicks on by the speedometer, having a different symbol than you may have seen. This is an alert that your car is giving you, notifying you that your tire pressure is too low. Is it safe to drive with low tire pressure? Yes, it is, so you would have to learn how to fix low tire pressure so make sure that if ever that happens to you, you know what to do.

Why You Shouldn’t Drive with Low Tire Pressure

1. Driving with low tire pressure can be dangerous

A tire blowout is the most dangerous issue that is caused by driving with low tire pressure because under-inflated tire sidewalls flex more than usual and could cause heat buildup. When tires are not cooling off because you are on the freeway where they are not stopping frequently, your tires could overheat and blow.

2. Low tire pressure affects vehicle performance

The sidewalls flex more than they were designed to when cornering and brakes and the tires are underinflated. If you notice it while you are driving, your tires become less and less stable and lose their grip and traction, making the steering become sloppy and braking is so much slower. This could be horrible during an emergency situation when you are trying to avoid an accident.

3. Low tire pressure affects gas mileage

If you have ever tried riding a bike with under-inflated tires then you would know how much harder you would need to work to get moving, having the same mechanism when it is applied to your vehicle because of the resistance that your under-inflated tires face when they are moving.

4. Low tire pressure reduces the life of your tires

The tire wear issues that are caused by low tire pressure can be seen on the tire’s inner and outer shoulders and could cause an uneven distortion in the tire tread. Tires are not easy to replace, so it is so much better to inflate them than have to fully replace them.

What to Do When Your Low Tire Pressure Signal Comes On

  • Remove extra weight
  • Slow down to a speed that doesn’t obstruct other traffic
  • Drive only in the right lane if on the highway
  • Keep your emergency lights on to notify other drivers around you 

How do you fix low tire pressure?

1. Remove the valve stem cap

To start fixing the low tire pressure that you may be experiencing, you have to unscrew the plastic cap that sits over the valve stem. You might also need to remove the cover on steel rims with wheel covers and place the plastic cap in a safe place because you are going to need to screw it back in place later on or else the debris and dirt could get into the valve stem and get in the way the next time you would want to inflate or measure the pressure in your tires.

2. Use a tire pressure gauge to measure the existing pressure

After you remove the valve stem cap, you have to place the end of the hose of the tire gauge on the valve stem. So that there is no hissing noise, you have to push as hard as needed then check the reading on analog gauges- the needle should jump immediately. You might need to push a button to activate it on digital gauges.

3. Check the recommended tire pressure for your car

It is best that you compare the pressure inside to the recommended pressure first once you measure the pressure inside the tire. You would be able to find the recommended tire pressure on a sticker on the sill of the driver’s or passengers. It is best to refer to the owner’s manual if you can’t find it there and you should not inflate the tire if the tire pressure is equal to the recommended one.

4. Inflate the tires using an air pump

After all of that, you have to place the end of the hose on the valve stem and make sure that you clamp it in place. You would not be able to inflate the tire if you hear a hissing sound and you might need to hold the tip of the hose firmly pressed against the valve stem on some air pumps. 

 

Once you start pumping, it might take a while until it is fully inflated. You have to check the tire pressure every 15 to 30 seconds because the overinflated tires would also not perform well/ You could press the core of the valve stem with a sharp object and the tire will start deflating if you overinflate the tire.

 

You could place the plastic cap back over the valve stem once you reach the recommended pressure.

5. Inflate the tires at the nearest gas station

When you are near the gas station, you could also get your tire pressure there. There are air pumps that would automatically reach the desired pressure, you just have to enter the recommended pressure on the apparatus, put the hose on the valve stem and wait until you hear the beep that signals that it is done.

 

Within a certain limit, you have to remember that you can drive safely on a low-pressure tire, but as much as possible you have to avoid it. You have to be careful, monitor the situation, and fix the tire or tires as soon as possible. You should be safe, pull over and call for service if everything else fails.