Five things you should know about checking your tyre pressures

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Maintaining the correct tyre pressure is essential for your car's safety, handling and fuel economy, yet it is often overlooked. The tyres are the only point of contact between your car and the road, so it is vital to keep them at the right pressure. Checking your tyre pressure regularly will also help keep your tyres in good condition and avoid unnecessary expense.

Here are some tips on how to maintain your tyre pressures:

Regularly check the pressure

Tyres are not a set-and-forget item, and there is always some natural loss of pressure over time. If your tyres are set at 32 pounds per square inch (psi) and you lose 1psi per month, after a year, you will be seriously underinflated. Therefore, it is crucial to check your tyre pressure regularly, ideally at least once a month.

Know the correct tyre pressure for your car

The first thing you need to know is what the correct pressures for your car are. This information is usually available on a physical plaque inside the driver's door frame or sometimes on the fuel flap. You can also find this information in your car's handbook or on a mobile-phone app, but be aware that some cars can have different pressures front and rear.

The pressures might be expressed in different or unfamiliar ways, such as "psi" (pounds per square inch), "kPa" (kilopascals) or "bar" (which is actually 100 kPa). They're all units of measure for pressure, but a quick Google search can easily convert them to your preferred format.

Use an accurate tyre pressure gauge

Ideally, you should have a portable/personal gauge, which you can buy from any automotive parts store. These are likely to be much more accurate than a worn service-station gauge, although the latter will do in a pinch.

Some cars have automatic tyre pressure monitoring systems. The most common type simply monitors wheel rotation using the anti-lock braking sensors and will warn you if one or more wheels are spinning faster than the others for a sustained period. Some monitoring systems actually have tiny pressure gauges inside each wheel, so they can alert you to any loss straight away - but also tell you how much has been lost.

Check the pressure when the tyres are cold

To get an accurate reading, you should check the pressure when the tyres are cold, preferably when the car has been parked for at least two hours. If you have to travel to a service station, do it at a moderate speed, ideally to a location less than 2km away.

Adjust pressures in line with your usage

You can adjust the tyre pressures in line with your usage. For example, if you're carrying a heavy load in the back, you can bump the pressures up by a few psi at the rear, as long as you keep it consistent across both sides and remember to take them down again when the hard work is done.

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