How to Fix Low Tire Pressure Once and For All

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Jane Taylor in Technology

Last updated: 14 January 2020, 04:30 GMT

You're driving down the road on a beautiful day. Everything is wonderful - until your tire pressure warning light comes on. For the third time this week. You need to know how to fix low tire pressure and make that warning light stay off. That's what this article will is all about.

Why Is Tire Pressure Important?


When answering the question of how to fix low tire pressure, one obvious query is, 'Is it important to maintain proper tire pressure?' The answer is a resounding 'yes!' Here are the reasons why:

Handling and Braking

A properly inflated tire, coupled with a properly maintained suspension, allows you to maximize your car's handling characteristics. This means you'll get better cornering and less pulling to one side that causes you constantly have to correct your car's direction.

Wear

Proper inflation will help maximize the distance you can drive before replacing your tires. If your tire is under-inflated, the center of the tire is not making smooth contact with the road. This causes excessive wear on the sides of your tire's tread and increases your car's braking distance.

Conversely, if your tire is over-inflated, the center of the tread is bowed out, causing excessive wear on the center tread. The more you maintain your tires at the proper pressure, the longer they will last.

Fuel Economy

Properly inflated tires minimize rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is the amount of power it takes to keep your tires rotating, Keeping your tires inflated to the proper level will give you an average 0.6% increase in fuel economy, but it could be as much as 3% for severely under-inflated tires.

One additional note here: over-inflating your tires will not noticeably increase your gas mileage, and the excess wear on your tires will more than compensate for any mileage advantage you may receive.

When Should You Check Tire Pressure?

You should check your tire's pressure when it's cold. After you have driven your car a while, the buildup of heat from the friction causes the air inside your tires to expand, which increases the air pressure.

If you have to check your tire pressure when your tires are hot, assume your pressure reading will be around two PSI higher than when the tires are cold, and adjust your fill pressure accordingly.

What Causes Low Tire Pressure?


If your tire pressure is low, you need to fill it to the suggested pressure. Here are the main causes of low tire pressure.

Osmosis

Osmosis, or the passing of a fluid through a semi-permeable membrane, is one cause of low tire pressure. Air naturally passes through microscopic holes in your tubeless tires. When learning how to fix low tire pressure, know that osmosis can reduce pressure between one to three pounds per square inch (PSI) per month.

Small Punctures

We've all come out in the morning to find that one of our tires has gone flat. This is usually the result of a nail or other metal object puncturing the tire. But small punctures can also occur that will slowly bleed air out of your tire. If you notice one tire is always a few PSI lower than the others, have your tire checked for a small puncture.

Leaking Valve Stem and Core

If you have a leaking tire that has no punctures, check the valve stem to ensure it isn't cracked or improperly seated. Similarly, if the core of the valve stem has been screwed in too tightly, air can leak from the stem. The simplest fix is to have the valve stem and core replaced as a unit.

Broken Tires or Wheels

If you have had any strong impacts on your tires, such as hitting a curb or large pothole at speed, check for damage to your tire and wheel. A cracked wheel causes air loss, and it isn't as uncommon as you might think. Run-flat tires are particularly susceptible to this problem, as their tough sidewalls can send severe shocks to brittle wheels.

How to Fix Low Tire Pressure

The best way to fix low tire pressure is to take your car into a certified tire repair service station or to your car's dealership. Explain the problem to the technician and let them sort out what is causing the problem. Unless the tire itself has a damaged sidewall, one (or more) of the above problems will be the cause.

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Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)


All cars produced since 2007 are required to have a tire pressure monitoring system. Tire pressure monitoring systems do not all work the same, though. We'll discuss the two types below, and when they work properly, they can tell you when it's time to learn how to fix low tire pressure.

Direct TPMS

The sensors in a direct TPMS monitor the individual pressures in each of your tires. If the pressure in any tire gets to 25% lower than the other tires or the pressure standard, the system turns on the warning light. 25% is the government-mandated minimum standard, although some TPMS systems react to a smaller variation in pressure.

Indirect TPMS

An indirect TPMS monitors the speeds at which your tires are turning relative to the size of your tires. These less-expensive TPMS systems use your car's antilock braking sensors to measure your tire's speed. If any tire's rotation becomes faster than it should, the system assumes that the tire is under-inflated and turns on the warning light.

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What Should You Do?


What do you do if your TPMS warning light comes on? Let's examine some situations and actions you should take in learning how to fix low tire pressure.

While Driving

If your TPMS warning light comes on while driving, pull over to a safe place as soon as it is reasonable to do so. Then, check your tire pressures. If one tire is low, you've discovered the culprit. Get to a service station as soon as you reasonably can and re-inflate the tire to the proper pressure. If that tire is constantly losing pressure, review the possible causes above and get the tire fixed as soon as you can.

Cold Weather

If you live in an area where very low temperatures develop overnight, realize that your tire's air pressure will decrease in cold weather. This can sometimes be enough to cause your TPMS warning light to come on when you first start up your car. If you add pressure, try not to add too much, because when your tires warm up from friction while driving, the tires may end up being over-inflated.

After Tire Rotation or Installation

All TPMS systems have a procedure to reset the system after your tires have been rotated or when new tires are installed on your car. It may be surprising, but not every tire store (and even some dealers) know how to reset a TPMS. Sometimes they may simply ignore this step.

If your TPMS warning light comes on and your tires are properly inflated, or the light comes on again in a few hours or days, you will need to reset the system yourself. Here's how:

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TPMS System Reset


Your automobile's owner's manual will contain instructions on how to reset the TPMS system. In general, it works like this:

Check Tire Pressure

First, make sure all your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Then, read the owner's manual and find out how far you must drive and under what conditions to reset the TPMS. Deciding when you will be able to meet those conditions will tell you when you will have the time to reset the system.

Reset Mode

Second, your owner's manual will tell you how to put your TPMS into reset mode. One car we looked at required you to turn the ignition off, then hold down the TPMS reset button, then turn the ignition on while holding the button down until the TPMS warning light flashed three times. Your car's reset mode will probably be different, but again your owner's manual will tell you how,

Drive to Reset

Then, drive per the manufacturer's recommendations. If after all this your TPMS warning light still comes on, you may have a problem with your TPMS system. This most often is a bad TPMS sensor, so take your car to your dealer or a qualified mechanic to get the problem corrected.

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Summary


Now you've learned how to fix low tire pressure. You've also learned why it's important to keep your tires properly inflated, as well as how to react when your TPMS warning light comes on. With this information, you'll be able to maximize your safety and handling and get the maximum life out of your tires.
Good driving!




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