Checking and adjusting your tire pressure is always a critical part of any regular car maintenance. Remember, your tire pressure dictates the tire’s durability, driving comfort, and performance. So, with the correct tire pressure, you are sure to maintain your tire structure while also improving your car’s handling, responsiveness, and traction.
But despite the efforts to be safe, you can gradually lose tire pressure while on the road. Rather than be stranded, most drivers would still take the risk of working with tires on low pressure. While this is practical, how long could you push your luck with such tires? Is it wrong to drive with low pressure? What tire pressure is too low to drive on? Let’s find out.
How Low Is Too Low Tire Pressure to Drive On
Measuring too low tire pressure is quite relative and depends on the car plus tire manufacturer’s recommendation. Some vehicles will have a higher low tire pressure recommendation compared to other models.
Still, it is extra important to learn what is necessary as the recommended pressure for most cars on the road. Technically, sedans and other small passenger cars call for 32 to 35 pounds of pressure for each tire. While this is the average, tire pressure is bound to fluctuate due to certain factors such as weather conditions or even vehicle overload.
If the tire pressure is higher than 35 pounds, you are bound to improve your gas mileage. However, this will end up with a stiffer ride.
On the flip side, going below the 32 psi mark is not always a call for concern. While it could be below the recommended average, it does not mean you are in danger. Air pressure fluctuates even within the tire, and losing a pound of pressure till 31 is still acceptable. This will give you a smoother ride but count on your gas mileage going downhill.
The tire pressure is too low whenever the readings get to 27psi or 28 psi. While you could still drive, this is technically too low, and you risk the possibility of a blowout. Your dashboard tire pressure light is flashing by this time, warning you of the air pressure lost.
Once the tire pressure hits 20 psi or below, you are running on a flat tire with limited mobility and handling. No sudden driving maneuvers are possible at this point, although you can still drive depending on your existing conditions.
So, even with a flat tire(20 psi and below), you can still drive your vehicle. But such risks are not always worth the reward.
How Far Can You Drive With Low Tire Pressure?
While it’s possible to drive on a flat tire(20 psi), the real question remains, “How far can you drive with low tire pressure?”
The limited mobility offered even with a flat tire will give you an extra 50 miles if you travel at 50 miles per hour. However, this flat run distance varies according to different factors such as your speed, vehicle condition, weather, tire condition, road type, and driving style.
- Low Tire Pressure Symptoms
The signs of low tire pressure are not always outright visible. But there are still tell-tale indicators that will point to you having low tire pressure or an outright flat tire. Here are the indicators of low tire pressure
- TPMS tire pressure indicator comes on
The TPMS(Tire Pressure Monitoring System) tire pressure indicator is a dashboard panel light that illuminates in shape resembling a cross-sectioned tire with an exclamation point. This yellow symbol indicator comes on to warn drivers of one or more tires being under-inflated below the manufacturer’s preferred 25 psi. On newer vehicles, the TPMS indicator is missing. However, it is replaced with an on-screen display showing a ‘low tire pressure’ message.
- Reduced Mileage
With the proper tire pressure, there is always the guarantee your tires will offer the best possible mileage and fuel economy. That is possible because the adequately inflated tire grips the road surface area better, unlike deflated tires that bog down your vehicle. Once the deflation gets to lower tire pressure, you can count on reduced mileage and a worse fuel economy. The engine tends to work harder to move the whole vehicle whenever low tire pressure occurs.
- Flapping Noise
Once low tire pressure sets in, your tire will look flat at the bottom. After, the flapping sound sets in whenever you are driving. This is often the sound of your ‘flat’ or underinflated tire slapping the road with each turn. Take such noise to be a surefire indicator to a flat tire.
- Steering And Handling Problems
If you compromise on the correct tire pressure, chances are you will notice steering and handling problems straightway. For starters, you could start experiencing sloppy handling, slow turn response, or the vehicle pulls to left or right. In addition, your car proves challenging to drive in a straight line or poor steering even in ideal conditions. All these are indicators of low tire pressure that could have serious consequences.
- Delayed Stopping Time
Once you notice your car delays coming to a halt, you are working with low tire pressure. The low pressure cuts the tire grip making it difficult for the car to stop when applying the brakes.
- Increased Fume Emissions
The low fuel economy from low tire pressure also causes more ill-effects in the form of fume emissions. Bear in mind that the tires need extra effort to keep and maintain the vehicle in motion with low tire pressure. This additional pressure leads to the engine increasing the emissions.
- Tire Tread Loss
Low pressure for your wheels means extra stress is exerted on the tire structure, particularly the treads. In this case, the tires are taking all the stress and vehicle load since they are low. This can lead to tread loss below the least requirement ending in a disaster.
- Effects of Driving With Low Tire Pressure
If you have less than adequate tire pressure, it is common for you to experience one of these severe consequences.
- Vehicle flipping over due to loss of control and handling
- Tread separation from accumulated wear and tear
- Tire blowouts from weakened tire structure or tread wear
- Possible fatal accidents from a tire failure or poor handling
Should You Drive With Low Tire Pressure?
While you already know what tire pressure is too low to drive on, driving with low tire pressure should not be attempted. It is a risky endeavor that you should not try as it puts you and other road users in danger.