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I’m a car guy! I enjoy the drive, the mechanics and everything to do with cars. But like most other owners and drivers, I sometimes fall short when it comes to the more tedious aspects of cars, namely maintenance. I am diligent when it comes to the important things like oil changes, tire rotations and the latest recalls. On the other hand, when it comes to checking tire pressure, I tend to drop the ball.

I have no excuse for this failure. It’s not that it’s a hard thing to do; just take the cap off of the stem, apply the gauge and read the pressure. You don’t even have to dig out the owner’s manual. Manufacturers make it easy and convenient to get the pressure right by posting the figures on the door saddle. The driver just needs to take the time and do it.

The experts say to check your tire pressure monthly. I imagine few people are that conscientious. Quarterly seems much more realistic, but I have been guilty of only checking mine with the change of the seasons. After several days of sub-zero temperatures, it occurred to me that maybe I should check my cars’ tire pressure. After all, it’s been awhile. All eight tires (two cars) were under inflated by 7 lbs. each, that’s 20% lower than spec. Yikes, that’s not good for a car guy, or for the tires.

I am well aware of the negatives. Everyone knows that the friction caused by under inflated tires increases tire wear, decreasing a tire’s life by as much as 25%. I know that their increased drag can cut down my fuel economy by 5%, and that low tires affect the car’s driving performance, impacting steering, stability and responsiveness. I also know better than to rely on the vehicle’s low pressure sensors. By the time they notify me of a problem, hundreds of miles may have already been driven on low and unsafe tires. And what are the chances that my friendly neighborhood shop checked my tires’ pressure when they rotated them? Most likely they didn’t, and if they did, do I trust them to do it properly? I need to check my tire pressure more often.

The fact is that in cold weather, tires lose pressure. The air in a tire is a gas, when heated it expands, when cooled it contracts. For every 10 degree change in temperature, up or down, tire pressure rises or falls 1 psi. In my case it makes perfect sense. My tires were underinflated by 7 psi, a result of Maine’s 70 degree drop from summer to winter temperatures.

This car guy has been reminded to check his tire pressure often, and maybe once a month is not such a bad idea. At below zero temperatures and blizzard conditions, the last thing I want is a tire “issue”, due to underinflated tires. So, how’s your pressure?

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