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Improper Tire Inflation Can Lead to Serious Accidents


Most drivers rarely think about their tires. They never check their tire pressure, and they rely on their repair shop or dealership to tell them when it is time to buy a new set.

But, driving on uninflated tires can be dangerous. While most modern cars, trucks and SUVs have tire pressure sensors that tell drivers when they need to add air, drivers should not rely on these sensors exclusively. Tire pressure sensors can fail, and low tire pressure can become dangerous before a sensor triggers a warning light on the dashboard.

Understanding the Risks of Low Tire Pressure

While most people know that low tire pressure can increase fuel consumption, far fewer drivers are familiar with the safety risks associated with driving on deflated tires. But, these safety risks are significant, and improper tire inflation can lead to car accidents in a variety of different ways:

1. Low Tire Pressure Negatively Affects Handling

Tire manufacturers design their tires to be used at their recommended inflation levels. When tires are underinflated, they won’t necessarily work as intended—or as drivers expect. “Squidgy” tires can negatively impact a vehicle’s handling, and this can both increase drivers’ risk of causing an accident and decrease their ability to avoid potentially dangerous collisions. As explained in Car and Driver:

“When a tire is underinflated, its sidewalls flex more than they were designed to during cornering and braking. The tread, the contact point with the road, squirms. The tire is less stable and has less traction. Response to your steering inputs gets slower and sloppy, and braking distances lengthen.”

All of these factors combine to potentially make driving on underinflated tires very dangerous. As a result, if you notice that your car, truck or SUV starts handling differently, you should check your tire pressure to see if one or more of your tires has become underinflated.

2. Low Tire Pressure Negatively Affects Braking

Since underinflated tires have less traction on the road, this means that low tire pressure negatively affects braking as well. While the characteristics of different tires (and the effects of underinflation) vary, having low tire pressure can often increase braking distance substantially. The lack of stability caused by underinflation can also make it more difficult to maintain control under heavy braking, and low tire pressure can interfere with the operation of a vehicle’s anti-lock braking (ABS) system as well.

3. Low Tire Pressure Increases the Risk of a Blowout or Rupture

Another dangerous aspect of driving on underinflated tires is the increased risk of a blowout or rupture. Tire defects can be dangerous in any scenario, but they can be especially dangerous when driving on tires that are underinflated.

4. Low Tire Pressure Increases the Risk of the Tire Coming Off of the Rim

If tire pressure gets too low, this can also increase the risk of the tire coming off of the rim. Once again, tires are designed to be used within the manufacturer’s specified range of inflation. While some off-road tires are designed to be used at extremely low pressures, with most standard road tires, underinflation can cause the tire bead to become unsealed leading to unseating and demounting.

5. Low Tire Pressure Can Rapidly Increase Tire Degradation

Finally, underinflation can cause tires to wear much more quickly than they would with proper air pressure. Significant underinflation can lead to rapid degradation of the sidewall in particular, and this can lead to a blowout or rupture. But, even if an underinflated tire doesn’t rupture, premature wear can cause drivers to think they are safe when in reality their tires are putting them at risk for causing (or being unable to avoid) a collision.

Understanding the Risks of High Tire Pressure

While most incidents involving improper tire inflation have to do with underinflation, overinflation can be dangerous as well. In fact, overinflation and underinflation present many similar risks. For example, if a car’s tires are overinflated, this can negatively impact the driver’s ability to maintain control. Overinflated tires can also increase a vehicle’s stopping distance significantly and the risk of a blowout or rupture (especially in Florida’s heat), and overinflated tires are more likely to suffer punctures as well.

How To Check Your Vehicle’s Tire Pressure

Given the risks associated with improper tire inflation, all drivers should check their tires periodically. While many people find this intimidating, it is actually very straightforward; and, once you do it the first time, you will have no trouble doing it again.

The steps involved in checking a vehicle’s tire pressure are:

  • Check Your Vehicle’s Recommended Tire Pressure – On the jamb of your vehicle’s driver door, there should be a sticker that lists the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle’s front and rear tires. Most vehicles have a recommended range, such as 35 to 40 pounds per square inch (PSI).
  • Make Sure Your Tires Are Cool – Air expands as its temperature rises. So, to get the most accurate reading of your vehicle’s tire pressure, you should conduct your test when your tires are cool. Wait at least half an hour after driving, and check your tire pressure after parking in the shade, if possible.
  • Use a Tire Pressure Gauge – To check your tires’ air pressure, you need a tire pressure gauge. There are several options available for less than $10 from online retailers, big box stores and automotive retailers. Take off each tire’s valve stem cap, then press the tire pressure gauge firmly onto the valve stem. You should hear a short air release, and then your gauge should provide an accurate reading.
  • Be Sure To Check All Four Tires – When checking your tire pressure, be sure to check all four tires. Tires can be low on air even if they look fully inflated. Since even one underinflated (or overinflated) tire can be dangerous, it is worth taking a couple of minutes to go all the way around your vehicle.

Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney at Searcy Denney

Our lawyers represent drivers, passengers and families who have suffered losses in car accidents caused by tire failures and other issues. If you need to speak with a Florida car accident attorney about your legal rights, we invite you to call 800-780-8607 or send us a message online to schedule a free initial consultation.

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