How to manage tire inflation and flats

July 29, 2015

Tire safety is essential for safe driving and a long-lasting car. Get informed about tire inflation and flat tires, and know how to handle situations when they arise, or prevent the ones you can. It's good for your tires and your wallet.

How to manage tire inflation and flats

Keep the caps on

  • You step out into driveway ready to start your morning commute only to discover a flat tire. How in the heck did that happen overnight?
  • If the tire valve is missing its cap, the culprit might be a leaky valve.
  • Those little caps keep out dirt and moisture that can cause leaks, so be sure to keep caps on all your tire valves.
  • Another tip: When you replace tires, remind the tire shop that you expect new valves with the tires.

Maintain proper inflation

  • Underinflated tires are a tire salesman's best friend. They create excessive heat and stress that can lead to tire failure.
  • If you want to get the most out of your tires, get yourself a tire pressure gauge and use it at least once a month (more in hot weather) to keep your tires inflated to the recommendation in the vehicle's owner's manual.
  • Check tires when they are cold (driven for less than a kilometre or so) for an accurate reading.

Beware the wet thumb

  • If you top off your tires at a service station, check to see if there's moisture coming from the air pump.
  • Simply depress the pin inside the inflator valve with your thumbnail.
  • If your thumb gets wet, advise the station manager that the tanks need to be drained and go to a different station.
  • Moisture, trapped inside a tire, can cause pressure variations and corrode rims.

Check for uneven wear

  • Check tires for uneven wear. If you've maintained tire inflation properly, uneven wear may indicate the need for a wheel realignment.
  • It can also mean improperly operating brakes or shocks, a bent wheel, internal tire damage or worn bushings.
  • When temperatures affect tire inflationWhen outside temperatures drop or soar, tires tend to lose pressure.
  • A drop of six degrees Celsius (ten degrees Fahrenheit), in fact, will decrease a tire's air pressure by .5 to one kilogram (one or two pounds). Tires can lose even more air in hot weather.
  • Underinflated tires can result in accelerated wear and poor driving performance.
  • If you live in a place where temperatures vary a lot, check your tire pressure often and add air as needed.

Fix a flat with a rubber plug

  • It's perfectly okay to have your flat tire fixed by plugging the puncture with a rubber plug, assuming your tire has good tread left.
  • Beware, however, of add-on charges for this service when it's done at a tire dealer, where the primary goal is usually to get you to buy new. Prices can vary quite substantially.
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