5 Effects Of Low Tire Pressure & How To Avoid Them

Car with low tire pressure

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that there are nearly 11,000 tire-related motor vehicle crashes each year—many of these accidents are a result of tire underinflation.

Beyond safety, underinflated tires can cost small businesses a lot of money in fuel, maintenance, repairs, and more.

Adequate tire pressure is essential in keeping your drivers and vehicles safe, and your company running smoothly.

Here’s all the information you need to know about the effects of low tire pressure:

  1. What happens if you drive a car with low tire pressure?
  2. The effects of low tire pressure
  3. How to avoid low tire pressure
  4. How much pressure is needed?
  5. How long can you drive on a tire with low pressure?

What happens if you drive a car with low tire pressure?

If you drive a car with low tire pressure, you can expect lowered fuel efficiency, compromised tire performance and lifespan, and elevated risk to the driver’s safety and the safety of others on the road. When a tire’s air pressure is low, the handling is compromised and there is an increased risk of tire failure.

Let’s discuss these effects of low tire pressure in more detail below:

The effects of low tire pressure

  1. Fuel inefficiency
  2. Premature and uneven wear
  3. Frequent flat tires
  4. Compromised handling
  5. Tire failure and blowouts

Fuel inefficiency

Low tire pressure leads to low fuel efficiency. When tire pressure is low, there is more of the tire’s surface on the road, causing more drag, which requires more power from the car to mobilize itself. 

There is a 2% loss in gas mileage for every 5 pounds per square inch (psi) a tire is underinflated. Your fleet vehicles’ fuel economy relies heavily on proper air pressure in the tires.

While a misconception may be that low tire pressure decreases acceleration, low tire pressure can actually increase acceleration; however, low pressure can lead to faster degradation of the tires, among other risks mentioned in this article.

Premature and uneven wear

When tires have low air pressure, more surface touches the road and leads to premature and uneven wear and tear. The extra contact with the road causes heavy wear on both the inner and outer shoulders of the tire, which leads to worn-down tread and poor tire traction. Premature and uneven tire wear means more frequent tire maintenance, repairs, and replacements.

Frequent flat tires

Low tire pressure puts more weight and force on your vehicle’s tires which causes the tread to shorten in less time than usual. Short tire tread can lead to flat tires which are a huge safety concern while driving on the road. When tires are kept at their optimal air pressure, the tread will stay intact for longer and lower the risk of a risky or inconvenient flat tire.

Compromised vehicle handling

When a tire is underinflated, its sidewalls flex more than they are designed to while handling—specifically when braking, cornering, and steering. Low tire pressure increases braking distance length and slows down response time to steering.

This can be incredibly dangerous in an emergency situation when every fraction of a second counts and a vehicle’s response could mean life or death. For example, if your vehicle has underinflated tires, the risk of hydroplaning increases significantly at lower speeds than it would be with properly inflated tires.

Tire failure and blowouts

A tire blowout is the most dangerous risk associated with low tire pressure. With more of the tire’s surface touching the road and warming up the rubber, this can cause the tire to overheat and blowout.

Tire blowouts happen suddenly and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. In many cases, leading to SUV rollovers or car accidents. Blowouts are more likely to occur at higher speeds which makes them extremely dangerous and life-threatening.

How to avoid low tire pressure

Avoiding low tire pressure takes consistent monitoring. You should check your fleet’s tire pressure once a month, as the temperature outside will impact the air pressure within the tires and cause it to change as the air temperature changes. 

How to check tire pressure:

Your team should use a combination of visual checks, manual checks, and monitoring technology to avoid low tire pressure. 

a. Visual check

Have your drivers or maintenance team perform a visual check on the tires every day. If they notice an underinflated tire, they should examine the tire further before getting in and driving the vehicle. Further examination is explained below. 

b. Use a tire pressure gauge

The best way to get a proper read on a vehicle’s tire pressure is by using a tire pressure gauge. These can be bought at your local hardware store or auto parts store. These tools will get you a precise and direct read of each tire’s psi.

c. Make sure the Tire Pressure Monitoring System is working

Vehicles made in 2008 or after should be equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). If they detect your tire pressure is low, a light will notify you on your dashboard to check the tire pressure. A vehicle’s TPMS has a lifespan of about five to 10 years so this should be kept in mind during maintenance.

d. Use a fleet vehicle tracking system

Many fleet asset tracking systems include vehicle maintenance features that help fleet managers know if and when their vehicles need to be checked for deflated tires. (This is just one of the many major advantages of vehicle tracking for small businesses.)

Pro tip: Consider adding these tips for avoiding low tire pressure into your company’s fleet vehicle maintenance checklist to ensure they get done.

How much pressure is needed?

Before adding more air to your fleet’s tires, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly how much psi is required in each set of tires. This information can be found in the owner’s manual, on the sticker on the inside of the driver side door, or on the actual tire itself.

Is 28 psi too low for tires?

Most passenger car tires require 32 psi to 35 psi, so, yes, 28 psi is too low for tire pressure. Make sure each tire is filled with the proper pressure and that the stem caps are put back on securely afterwards.

How long can you drive on a tire with low pressure?

It is not advised to drive on a tire with low pressure. If you must do so, it should only be done to get out of harm’s way and tires should be inflated as soon as possible once the low tire pressure signal has turned on. 

Keep fleet vehicles safe and efficient

Injury or death as a result of low tire pressure accidents could significantly impact a small business. Keeping your eye on something  as simple as tire pressure can have a positive and long-lasting impact on your fleet’s health and your drivers’ safety. 

Force Fleet Tracking offers fleet vehicle health and maintenance software for small business fleets that can help with tire pressure and more to help keep your vehicles and your drivers safe. 

Try it free for 14 days and get real-time information on vehicle health, driver behavior, vehicle tracking, and more.

Published December 28, 2021
Joni Taisey
Joni Taisey
Director of Growth Marketing
Force Fleet Tracking