Should You Drive With With Low Tire Pressure?

One day, while driving on the highway, I noticed my car was starting to feel a bit sluggish. I pulled over to the side of the road and checked my tires. Much to my surprise, all four of them had low tire pressure. Luckily nothing happened to me that time, but it could have been so much worse.

Later I found out that it’s not a good idea to drive with low tire pressures. Driving with low tire pressure can lower your car’s performance. It can also reduce the life of your tires, give you poor gas mileage, and lastly, it can be dangerous to drive with low tire pressure.

I started researching and found out that your car having a worse performance is the most likely thing that can happen when you drive with low tire pressure. There are other things as well, that I’ll be talking about below, so if you’d like to learn more, continue reading below.

Can a Drop in Temperature Cause Low Tire Pressure?

A drop in temperature can cause tire pressure to drop about 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit drop. Tire pressure changes with temperature because air is compressible and expands when heated.

The vast majority of the volume in a tire is space occupied by air molecules. When those molecules expand in colder temperatures, they take up more space inside the tire, thereby lowering the pressure reading on your gauge.

Conversely, as those same molecules heat up and contract in hotter weather, less air occupies that same space inside the tire, so readings will show higher PSI levels than when the tire was cold.

Since a drop in temperature can cause low tire pressure, you might be wondering how long you’re able to drive on tires with low pressure.

How Long Can You Drive on Tires With Low-Pressure

You shouldn’t drive for more than an hour when your car has low tire pressure, since driving on tires with low pressure can get dangerous if you’re not careful. It might not seem like a big deal, but driving on underinflated tires puts extra strain on your vehicle and can cause premature wear to the tires.

You shouldn’t drive for more than an hour when your car has low tire pressure

In extreme cases, it can even lead to a blowout. And of course, the lower the tire pressure, the worse fuel economy you’ll get. But how do you know when your tires have low pressure? Is it possible to rely on your tire’s low-pressure warning light?

Can You Rely on Your Low Tire Pressure Warning Light?

Even if your Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) warning light is working properly, you should not rely entirely upon it, as it only turns itself on when your tire pressure is below 25 percent of the manufacturer’s recommended pressure level.

Despite that, your tire pressure warning light is still one of the most important lights on your dashboard. That’s because it’s there to help prevent one of the leading causes of blowouts and accidents, and that cause is underinflated tires.

Service Tire Monitor System

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I’ll just keep an eye on my tires and make sure they don’t get too low.” And while that’s certainly a good idea, it’s not always possible or practical to check your tire pressure every time you get in the car.

That’s where the TPMS comes in handy. It uses sensors to monitor the air pressure in your tires in real-time.

If any of the tires drop below a certain threshold, the system will immediately warn you so that you can take action before things get dangerous. So, what should you do if your TPMS warning lights ever come on?

What To Do if Your Tire Pressure Warning Light Comes On?

If your TPMS warning light comes on suddenly, you should first check the pressure of all four of your tires with a tire gauge. If one or more of the tires is indeed low, add air to it until it reaches the proper required inflation level.

Once all four tires have been properly inflated, reset your TPMS system by pressing and holding the button on your dash for about 10 seconds. This should clear the warning light and allow you to continue driving with no issues.

If the light does not reset, or if it continues to come on even after all four tires have been properly inflated, there may be another issue with your vehicle. Either way, you shouldn’t drive with low tire pressure, as it’s neither safe nor a good idea.

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Drive With Low Tire Pressure

Here are several reasons why you shouldn’t drive with low tire pressure:

  • It can affect your vehicle’s performance
  • It can reduce the life of your tires
  • It can give you poor gas mileage
  • it can be dangerous to do so
  • It could cause problematic rubbing noises

Affects Vehicle Performance

Driving with low tire pressure can negatively affect your vehicle’s performance in several different ways. Here’s how:

Fuel efficiency decreases

When your tires are low on air, they create more rolling resistance. This extra resistance causes your engine to work harder, which then causes you to use more fuel.

Premature wear and tear

If you regularly drive with underinflated tires, the tread will start to wear down prematurely around the edges of the tread pattern.

Not only does this reduce traction, but it also makes blowouts more likely since there is less material protecting the inner layers of the tire from road debris and potential punctures. Premature wear and tear can be an indication of poor tire alignment as well.   

Poor handling and braking

With reduced inflation levels come increased contact between rubber and asphalt resulting in poorer grip, especially when making sharp turns or during emergency braking situations  

Increased likelihood of getting stuck

A decrease in tire size due makes it easier for tires to get caught on obstacles such as potholes or curbs forcing motorists to stop frequently which could cause being stranded.

Keep your vehicle performing at its best by making sure your tires are properly inflated. It will save you money in the long run and help keep you safe on the road. Driving with low tire pressure not only affects your vehicle’s performance but also reduces the life of your tires.

Reduces the Life of Your Tires

Driving around with low tire pressure can reduce the life of your tires. Replacing those tires will cost around $150 per tire on average. Not only does driving around with low tire pressure put unnecessary stress on the tires, but it can also lead to a blowout. Low tire pressure causes your tires to overheat and wear down faster, which means you’ll have to replace them more often.

In addition, driving with low tire pressure makes your car less fuel efficient and increases emissions. It should also be mentioned that driving with low tire pressure not only reduces the life of your tires but also makes your vehicle have poor gas mileage.

Give You Poor Gas Mileage

Driving with low tire pressure can have a major impact on your fuel economy. If you’re driving with low tire pressure, chances are you’re not getting the best gas mileage possible. That’s because under-inflated tires create more rolling resistance, which means your engine has to work harder to move the vehicle forward.

This in turn uses up more fuel and ultimately reduces your mileage per gallon (MPG). So if you want to save money at the pump and get better gas mileage, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Other than having an impact on your fuel economy, driving with low tire pressure can also be dangerous.

It Can Be Dangerous

Driving with low tire pressure can be dangerous for several reasons. First, it can cause your tires to overheat and potentially fail. Second, it increases the chance of a blowout, which could lead to an accident. Third, it makes your vehicle harder to handle and more likely to skid or spin out on wet or icy roads.

Finally, driving with chronically low tire pressure can damage your tires and shorten their lifespan. Now, you might be wondering what tire pressure your tires should normally be at if you wish to drive without any danger.

What Tire Pressure Should My Tires Be At

Your vehicle’s tire pressure should normally be between 30 and 35 PSI. If your vehicle’s tire pressure is too low, you should fill it up. Here’s a step by step instruction on how to fill up your tires:

1. Park your car in a safe location on level ground. If possible, park in an area where you will have easy access to a power outlet.

2. Locate each of your tires’ valve stems and unscrew the cap/valve cover counterclockwise.

3. Attach the air hose from the compressor to one of the valves and make sure that it’s snug and secure.

4. Turn on the air compressor and allow it to fill up the tire until it reaches the desired pressure. If your vehicle doesn’t have an electronic TPMS, check the pressure with a handheld gauge periodically throughout the process to make sure you’re not over/under-inflating.

5. Once the tire has reached its proper inflation level, remove the hose from the valve and screw the cap/valve cover back onto the stem clockwise. Repeat for each remaining tire.

If you follow the instructions above, you should’ve increased your tire pressure to the required amount. Despite that, you could be wondering if there are any possible terrains you can drive your vehicle on even with low-pressure tires.

What Terrain Should I Use Low-pressure Tires On? 

You shouldn’t be driving with low-pressure tires on any terrain, but if you absolutely have to, you should try to drive them on rougher terrains. Low-pressure tires feature extra grip and traction, therefore, making them ideal for use on rougher terrain. Here are some tips on what kind of terrain to use low-pressure tires on muddy or sandy areas:

Low-pressure tires excel in mud and sand, providing added grip that can help you get unstuck or keep moving forward when other vehicles would bog down. Be careful not to let the mud/sand build up too much though, as it can cause the tire pressure to increase and potentially blow out the tire.

The increased grip from low-pressure tires also comes in handy when driving over rocks or other unstable surfaces. You’re less likely to slip or slide around, meaning you can maintain better control even when the going gets tough. I’ve talked about what we should do when our tires have low pressures, but what should we do if our tires have too much pressure instead?

What To Do if My Tires Have Too Much Pressure?

If your tires have too much pressure, the best thing to do is let some of the air out. You can use a tire gauge to check how much pressure is in your tires. If there is too much pressure in your tires, you can release some pressure by following the steps below:

1. Look for the small metal pin in the center of the valve.

2. Use a sharp object, such as a nail, to depress the pin. You will likely hear a hissing noise once the air starts to escape.

3. Once you’ve let some air out, replace the metal pin by pushing it back into place with your finger or tool.

When you’re following the steps above, make sure you’re not going overboard and letting out too much air, as that will cause your tires to have low pressure instead.