Even though you know you should do it, most people don’t check their tire pressure like they should. But newer vehicles have tire pressure monitoring systems on them to help you with that.
Tire pressure monitoring systems were mandated by the government following the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire problems years ago. Under-inflated tires were the main cause of many of those problems because heat would build up in the tire and it would eventually blow out, leading to a rollover.
Because most people don’t check the pressure in their tires often enough, the government required automakers to put some sort of monitoring system on newer vehicles that alerts the driver if any of their tires are under-inflated.
On most systems, there are tiny sensors inside of each wheel and they actually send a signal to the computer system, telling it the exact pressure inside of each tire. If one of these ever goes bad, it can cost over $100 to replace.
One thing you will notice is that your tire pressure monitoring light will usually come on when it starts getting cold outside. That’s because for every 10-degree drop in temperature, your tire pressure will drop about one pound of pressure. But it’s not a big deal getting the light to go back off.
Check on your driver’s door jamb or the owner’s manual to get the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Once you have that, check the pressure of each tire. Checking the tire pressure should be done before you drive, so that you get an accurate reading before the tires warm up. Add air as needed to get the tires up to the right pressure and you should be good to go. Usually the system will reset itself and the warning light will go back off.
Sometimes it’s not the cold weather making your tire under-inflated. It could be a slow leak. If the leak is from something like a nail in the tire, the tire can usually be taken off the rim and repaired. The inside of the tire needs to be inspected inside for damage and a patch should be applied where the hole is located. But if the hole is anywhere other than the main tread area, the tire should not be repaired.
Other times a slow leak comes from what’s called a "bead leak." That’s when the area where the tire contacts the rim leaks and loses air over time. The only way to fix a bead leak is to have the tire removed from the rim and have the lip of the rim cleaned up to remove corrosion. Once that’s done, the tire can be remounted and your bead leak should be gone.
So remember to keep those tires pumped up and you will keep you and your family safe out on the road.