Your car tire is the only part that has direct contact with the road. Hence, anything related to your tire pressure should not be taken with levity. You must ensure your car tires maintain even pressure at all times for a safe, smooth, and seamless driving experience.
How do you know if you have uneven tire pressure? What are the effects of one tire pressure higher than the others? What should you do if you have uneven tire pressure? I’ll answer all these questions and more in the course of this article. But first, let’s see the symptoms of uneven tire pressure.
What are the symptoms of uneven tire pressure?
The most common uneven tire pressure wear symptoms are steering problems, uncomfortable rides and vibrations, TPMS warning lights, and uneven tire wear. Other possible signs include bad fuel mileage and defective electronic stability systems.
TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system)
The TPMS is a safety feature designed to appear on the dashboard whenever any of the tire pressures go 25% lower than the recommended tire pressure, which is usually around 30 to 35 PSI. The appearance of the TPMS warning light shows the low tire pressure is unsafe and can lead to casualties.
The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning light is a horseshoe-shaped yellow light with an exclamation point in the middle. If this light appears on your dash, check the tire pressures and inflate them as needed. If the light persists after maintaining the recommended tire pressure, consult your mechanic. It could be the sensor itself is faulty.
Another common sign of uneven tire pressure is steering problems. Uneven tire pressure will delay the steering response as you steer the wheel. You may also experience odd maneuverability and vehicle pulling one side. So, if you’re wondering, can uneven tire pressure cause pulling? The short answer is yes.
If you can’t easily control your vehicle direction, an avoidable accident is bound to occur. However, it’s important to note that several factors can cause your vehicle to pull one side.
Vibrations and discomforting rides
Generally, under and overinflated tires are bad. Overinflated tires will make you feel every slight bump on the road, thereby discomforting your ride. On the other hand, properly inflated tires will absorb the discomfort from road bumps and the vibrations from rocky roads.
Uneven tire wear
One of the common uneven tire pressure effects is irregular wear on different parts of the tire tread. If you over-inflate any tire, the center tread will wear faster than the two sides. Similarly, if you underinflate the tires, the two sides will wear faster than the middle. While tire pressure off by 1 PSI may not cause a significant issue, stick with the recommended pressure.
Uneven tire wear can be extremely dangerous as it could lead to a tire blowout. If a tire blowout happens while driving at high speed, it can cause severe casualties. Thankfully, you can prevent this by regularly inspecting the tire treads.
Bad fuel economy
Common knowledge will tell you that uneven tire pressure will cause lousy gas mileage. Underinflated or unbalanced tires will put more strain on the engine, causing it to work harder to maintain its usual speed. The extra work will make the engine use more fuel than it should.
Your car distance to empty and normal fuel consumption is calculated with the assumption that you always drive with properly inflated tires. Check the tire pressure if your distance to empty is shorter or if you notice poor fuel economy.
Defective electronic stability systems
On most cars, electronic stability systems are designed to work only when the tires are properly inflated.
Therefore, some electronic stability systems may mistake low tire pressure for stability and traction issues. The ABS may start working with incorrect readings, making unnecessary adjustments that may alter your smooth driving experience.
What to do if your car is with uneven tire pressure
The importance of driving with the recommended tire pressure for your tires can not be overemphasized. Here’s the list of things you should do when you notice uneven tire pressure.
Check the recommended tire pressure. This information is usually written on the sticker on the driver’s door, inside your manual, and on the tire Sidewall.
Check the tire pressures by using a pressure gauge. Deflate or inflate the tire pressures to match the recommended PSI.
There’s an underlying issue if the uneven pressure continues. Check the tires for leaks and punctures. If there’s a puncture on your tires, patch the area even though it looks like there’s no leak. In case you notice a leak, contact your mechanic to fix it as soon as possible.
Is it bad if tire pressures are uneven?
Overall, driving with uneven tire pressure is unsafe as it could cause traction & instability issues and uneven & premature tire wear. It can also cause handling and steering issues, such as a car pulling to the left or right.
Remember, uneven and premature tire wear can lead to a tire blowout, which can be catastrophic.
Should all 4 tires be the same psi?
The short answer is yes and no. Yes, because some vehicle manufacturers recommend the same tire pressure on all four tires. And no, because most car manufacturers recommend different tire pressures on the front and rear tires.
The reason for the different PSI on the front and rear tires is because of the different weights on the front and rear wheels. The front wheels use more pressure because of the engine, and the rear wheels use less pressure since there’s no additional weight on the trunk. However, the manufacturer also calculates the maximum load you should put on your trunk.
How long can you drive with uneven tire pressure?
Depending on the severity, I do not recommend driving with uneven tire pressure since it can affect your stability, handling, control, and tire health. However, if you must drive with it, only drive straight from where you noticed it to a nearby tire shop for a proper diagnosis and repair. Anything longer than that can be detrimental. Driving with uneven tire pressure will not only affect your handling, it also increases the chances of road collisions.
To sum up, driving with uneven tire pressure is a bad practice as it could cause loss of traction, stability, handling, poor gas mileage, and uneven tire wear, which could cause a tire blowout. However, you can minimize these issues by checking your car tire pressure once or twice a month. Tire inspections can also help you extend your tire’s shelf life.