It is sad but many do not know how to take care of their car tires (and battery and engine and etc). Improper tire inflation not only cause high consumption of fuel (a big issue here) and increase the wear & tear of the tires but it also can be very dangerous as it affects the traction control, grip and braking.
I had to use my sister’s Kancil for a short trip (my Dad was using my car then). I realised that her steering wheel was a bit “heavy”. Knowing that her car had no power steering, I first ignored the “symptom”. Then, when I am taking a corner, I could feel that the car was a bit unstable. Only then I suspected that the tires were not properly inflated and after I have pumped air, the steering wheel was lighter and the car was more stable. Checking with my sis later on the day revealed that it has been almost 3 weeks since she last checked on the tires (she was too busy mah).
For those who are not knowledgeable on taking care of their car tires, here are my own tips for you:-
1. When to check?
Check on the tire air pressure at least once a week (once in 3 weeks or a month is a big no-no!). This can be done using air pressure gauge (can buy one in Tesco for less than RM10.00 only – so cheap one) or simply by pumping air into your tires at the petrol station. If the pressure is enough, the pump (at the petrol station) will ring a bell or gives a “beep” sound (so watch for it!)
I also check the pressure before I go for my outstation trips and never failed to check again once I am back. Driving for 300+ kilometers tends to make my tires deflates slightly.
2. How to pump?
I know, I know…this is a stupid question but in the last 12 months, I have come across 2 lady drivers who were standing at the air pump not knowing how to use one (until I came to their rescue – ahem). Quite a number also use pump the wrong way.
The wrong way: pressing the tires with their fingers and estimating how to pump, ignoring the meters and continue to pump until they feel the tire is firm. Some even kick the tire to see whether it is firm.
The right way: Check the recommended pressure and set the meter to the correct pressure. Pump until the pump rings a bell or “beeps” or shows “END”. Pressing with finger does not help because the walls of the tires are way too firm for us to know whether the pressure is right or not
2. How much to pump?
If you are driving alone 95% of the time, use the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure (you know where to see right?). However, if you are driving with your family (myself and 4 other family members) or shifting house using your car (just joking), add another 5’ to the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure. For example (for my Iswara), the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure is 200 in front and 210 in the rear. So, what I will do is that I will pump 205 in front and 215 in the rear. The additional pressure is to “counter” the extra load in your car.
Inflation must be just right (see the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure). Too much will gives a smoother ride (saves petrol) but there will be less traction (as less area of the tire touch the ground). It will cause the centre of the tire to go “bald” faster. Too little gives a more stable ride but it loads more on fuel usage. It will cause the sides of the tire to go “bald” faster.
3. What about wheel balancing & alignment?
Check on the wheel balancing and alignment at least once a month or whenever it is necessary. How to know when to do that?
Simple: when you driving in a straight line, let go of your steering wheel and see whether your car is moving in a straight line or not (but first check whether there are cars beside you or not). If your car weaving to the right or left a bit, it is still ok but if it weaves too drastically, your wheel balancing and alignment is in a bad shape.
Failure to address this will cause the tires to go “bald” in an inconsistent way (not mentioning that it also de-stabilize your car).
4. Spare tire
Ha…the “forgotten one”, quietly tucked away in the booth for months, even years until the day you need it and you realized that the tire is damaged and has no air in it. Sounds unreasonable? It is not. Just like your “active” tires tend to lose pressure over time, so does your “passive” tire. The trick is to check on periodic basis (either when you pumping air or doing the wheel alignment). Trust me. Just do it. You do not want to be caught with your pants down!
But don’t worry, Michelin is already coming with a “maintenance free” tire named Tweel which is a simple looking hub and spoke design which eliminates the need for air pressure (picture source: www.paultan.org).