Why Driving on Under-Inflated Tyres Is a Bad Idea
Posted by: Lydia on 26/06/2018
Oftentimes with driving, there can be shades of grey between good ideas and bad ideas. It’s a good idea to keep your car clean, but police won’t fine you for a pile of fast food wrappers in the back seat. It’s a good idea to use premium fuel, but if your car is used chiefly to get from A to B, then regular fuel will do the job.
When it comes to tyres, though, the difference between good ideas and bad ideas is much smaller. Bad ideas are bad for a reason: they can be really dangerous. Driving on under-inflated tyres is a classic example of this. It might seem harmless, but it can be anything but. Here’s why - and how to keep your car rolling along safely.
Why under-inflation matters
A lot of time, research, and science goes into making good tyres. They’re durable and designed to withstand a whole variety of stressors, like rocks, potholes, and other road hazards. Like anything else designed for a specific purpose, though, tyres can only function at their best when used properly.
That means getting the right size tyres to fit your wheels. It means maintaining them regularly, replacing them when they wear out, and even minimising bad driving habits like sharp braking that accelerate tyre wear. But of all the ways you can damage your tyres, under-inflation is one of the worst.
When tyres are under-inflated, it means they can’t perform as they’re designed to. Under-inflation makes your tyres more prone to damage because they’re weakened and lack the support of internal air pressure to resist punctures and other damage.
Under-inflation also places your wheels and car’s body at greater risk, which increases the risk of danger to the driver and passengers - and, by extension‚ the risk to other drivers around you.
That's why being precise about inflation and avoiding a 'she’ll be right mate’ attitude is essential.
Avoid over-inflation, too
On the other side of the coin, it can be just as dangerous to over-inflate tyres. Sometimes even experienced drivers don’t realise this, so it’s important to stress this point. YouTube is full of videos that show the consequences of over-inflation.
So how do you find the ideal air pressure for your tyres? It involves three key steps. First‚ know what the recommended pressure for your tyres is, and follow a good guide that tells you how to inflate your tyres properly. Second‚ check your tyre pressure again soon after you’ve inflated to ensure each tyre is holding its pressure. Third, ensure each tyre’s air pressure is evenly matched across the set.
If your front tyres are over-inflated and your rear tyres under-inflated‚ it won’t 'even out’ or turn your car into a really cool low-rider. What it will do is place greater strain on your tyres individually and as a set. A mix of air pressure between your tyres is really just a recipe for disaster over time.
The feel of the wheels
Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts if you’re driving and you feel something has gone wrong, even if you just inflated your tyres recently. Sure, the average driver may not have the intuition of F1 driver Ayrton Senna, who could famously tell that there was a hairline crack in an engine; but if a tyre is losing air, it is possible to notice by the feel of your wheels, especially if you’ve just gone over a really nasty patch of road somewhere.
Sometimes small mishaps are unavoidable. That’s just the reality of driving, and it’s part of the reason the Australian car insurance industry earns $20 billion in revenue each year.
But just because your tyres are inflated correctly doesn’t mean they’re invulnerable. It’s important to keep in mind that no matter what kind of tyres you have, all treads require good road. So if you come across a stretch of road that looks unsafe to drive on‚ it's best to seek an alternate route instead of putting your wheels through a surprise stress test. It may be frustrating and take you a little longer to get to your destination, but it’s far better than blowing out a tyre due to rough riding.
Under-inflation can really distract a driver
Anyone who has driven on low fuel to a gas station knows how nerve-racking that can be. It’s not only an unpleasant feeling, but can be a dangerous one if it's distracting you from the road. In this era of digital dashboards, it’s a reality that there are more in-vehicle distractions than ever for drivers, even when those distractions are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible.
This is another reason why under-inflation is a bad idea. While driving can and should be an enjoyable experience for you - really cool cars don’t exist just to be an alternative to catching the bus - it also needs to be done with caution and care for others. Having an extra distraction like under-inflated tyres in the mix is always a risky move for all involved. Proper inflation ensures you can focus on the road ahead instead of the wheels beneath you.
The ins and outs of tyre inflation
Preventing under-inflation is one of many ‘best practice’ tyre tasks. Each of these are usually quick and easy‚ but failing to do them can result in serious long-term danger and damage. That’s why making simple but consistent tyre maintenance a regular part of your schedule is so important.
Once you’ve inflated your tyres to the correct pressure (and then done a check afterwards to ensure they hold their pressure), then you can relax and focus on enjoying your driving. Good quality tyres will do the right thing by your car on the road once you’ve done the right thing by them at the pump. After all, that’s why good tyre maintenance and good driving are a perfect combo.
What tips and techniques do you use to ensure your tyres are inflated? Let us know in the comments below.