Driving on under-inflated tires: What happens if you keep driving?

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Under-inflated tires are one of the most common issues when it comes to a regular maintenance item on your car and is also one of the easiest to avoid. A tire that doesn’t have high enough pressure can cause many issues and even be dangerous. In this article, we will talk about all that and more.

The optimum tire pressure for a typical passenger car is generally around 30-35 PSI (pounds per square inch). A tire pressure less than this is considered under-inflated. 

What happens if you drive on under-inflated tires? If you drive on under-inflated tires, the tires will wear unevenly and eventually fail. It can also cause your tires to perform incorrectly, leaving you with a lower level of maneuverability. It can even cause the tires to lose the bead and immediately lose all pressure without notice.

Effects of Driving on under-inflated tires

1. Excessive fuel consumption

Tires significantly affect how much fuel you use every time you drive your car. Under-inflated tires result in a higher rolling resistance, with a larger contact patch with the ground. This can change your gas mileage dramatically, costing you money and putting more strain on your drivetrain than it should.

2. Premature wear

When a tire is under-inflated, too much sidewall (the part without tread) comes in contact with the road surface. A lot of friction raises the heat on the sidewall’s surface and wears it out; This can cause separation of the tire’s tread and result in blowouts.

A blowout is an instance of an under-inflated tire exploding and releasing the remaining air. A blowout can occur so suddenly that it causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle, causing them to swerve to other lanes or go off the road.

Side Note: If you have wear and need to replace your pickup’s tires, this article would be worth reading!

3. Vehicle Damage

Did you know that tires play a big part in the ride quality of your vehicle? When you don’t have your tires inflated correctly, the tires cannot take the impact of potholes, uneven roads, and that curve you took too quickly. This can cause your suspension to work more than needed and damage your vehicle.

Are there times when under-inflating your tires is good?

Most of the time, you should have your tires properly inflated; off-roading is the primary time it is okay to under-inflate your tires. When off-roading, having additional tires contacting the ground will give you better grip and traction and allow you to overcome obstacles quickly. 

That said, you should never do this with standard tires, and you should make sure to purchase all-terrain tires, as they have tread on the sidewalls to account for this and won’t puncture from sharp rocks.

Signs of an under-inflated tire

Of course, like many things on your vehicle, if your tires are under-inflated, there will be some telltale signs that this is the case!

1. Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

The purpose of the TPMS in a car is to alert you when the tire pressure is below the ideal value. Once the tire pressure falls below the set value, the TPMS light blinks to indicate something wrong. This is a call to you to check the pressure of each of the four tires.

2. Longer Stopping Distance

When under-inflated, tires offer minimal grip on the road surface to facilitate stoppage. The car moves for a longer distance before making a complete stop. If you’re experiencing this challenge, drive on an under-inflated tire and should change it immediately.

3. Challenges with steering

Steering ability may decrease when driving on an under-inflated tire. If you find turning or general maneuvering difficulties with the steering wheel, check the tire pressure; one of the four may be spoiling your driving time.

What to do to avoid driving on under-inflated tires

Tires may look fully inflated even when running at low pressure. Tires should never be checked visually and assumed to be inflated to the correct PSI. Take the pressure gauge and check to ensure that the pressure is correct.

Pressure checks may be done monthly or even weekly, depending on how often you are on the road. Also, remember to check the tire pressure when embarking on long road trips. Such trips require proper preparation to avoid getting stranded.

Tips for maintaining a proper tire pressure

  1. Check the tire pressure in the morning when it is cold and pressure is not affected by heat or movement.
  2. Choose an accurate gauge to avoid over or under-inflating the tire when measuring tire pressure.
  3. Inflate to the required content. Refrain from overloading or under-inflating.
  4. When checking pressure during the day, ensure the tire is cooled for at least three hours before using the pressure gauge.

Frequently Asked Questions


Driving on an under-inflated tire causes wear of tires due to increased friction with the road surface. It may also lead to tire failure, with puts the driver and passengers in the car in danger. We should learn to check our car pressure routinely to avoid the risks and costs of driving on an under-inflated tire.

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