What are the results of too low tyre pressure?

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

Many drivers are already aware of the importance of correct tyre pressure, but some do not understand just why this is so important. To help explain this, we will look at what happens when when you have too low tyre pressure.

We also have a video that covers many of these points.

According to research, 40% of drivers in both the United States and Europe rarely control the pressure in their car tyres. As a result, it’s safe to say that many vehicles are on the road with the tyre pressure too low for safe use.
Similar statistics also show that, in Europe alone, more than 60% of passenger cars have lower than recommended tyre pressure. This is despite many efforts from various motoring organisations, automotive media and even tyre manufacturers themselves to improve the awareness of drivers. Despite these campaigns, general knowledge still remains low and few people realise the full effects of not maintaining the correct tyre pressure.

Primarily, a low pressure tyre can be influenced in two specific areas:

  • Security and safety, both for you and other drivers
  • Economic and ecological factors

Tyre pressure should be checked once every two weeks.

How do low pressure tyres impact safety?

When the tyre pressure is too low, this changes numerous properties of the tyre. Specifically, it causes the sides to drop, creating uneven tyre wear and reducing the effectiveness of the central tread parts and blocks.
This can result in the following safety concerns:

  • The braking distance on wet roads can be extended by 12 meters, the width of around two pedestrian crossings.
  • The uneven tyre tread also reduces the product’s resistance to aquaplaning.
  • The car is less precise and control can often be delayed.
  • There is a strong risk of both oversteering or understeering.
  • Parking maneuvers are also much more difficult, especially in vehicles without power steering.
  • There is a high probability of tyre explosion.
  • The risk of puncture, or other severe forms of tyre damage, are also increased.
  • The steering system components of the car can also wear out more quickly.

Ultimately, low pressure tyres have a greater risk of being damaged, leading to operational faults that impact how your entire vehicle handles.

Information about the suitable pressure can usually be found on fuel filler flap or in the vehicle manual.

Tyre pressure – the influence of too low values on the economy and ecology:

An incorrectly balanced tyre - whether it has too much or too little pressure - is less effective than the product was intended to be. As such, this can actively influence some important economic and ecological factors, such as:

  • Less pressure results in a shorter tyre lifespan. Even a drop in just 0.5 bar can reduce the lifetime of a tyre by 20 to 30%.
  • The tyre shoulders wear out faster as these are pushed against the road more.
  • This wear is not even, however, leading to more irregular damage on the tyre.
  • Similarly, there is also the possibility of damaging the tyre’s internal structure.
  • The tyre can also begin to wear down on the edges, which is not meant to happen under ideal circumstances.

A drop of 0.5 bar in pressure can also increase fuel consumption by 5%. This is because of the sagging nature of the tyre, which generates more heat and around 15% more rolling resistance. Depending on how much you drive, this could easily translate into an additional tank of fuel every year.

On the ecological side, this results in more carbon dioxide emissions, due to less fuel efficient driving. It can also cause vehicles to generate 2dB(A)- 2 decibels - more noise.

The valve is a very important element that ensures the appropriate level of pressure.

Are there any positive changes to having low tyre pressure for my car?

While there are many important drawbacks to having low pressure, many drivers also claim there are a few positives. Specifically, it is often said that reduced pressure, in relation to the nominal, advised value, improves a vehicle’s driving comfort.

This is something that has also been confirmed by professional test drivers. If the pressure is dropped by 0.5 bar while assessing the driving comfort, such test drivers are willing to raise their assessment in this area by 10%. Of course, this comes at a cost - typically, the assessment for both steering and maneuverability is lower.

Low tyre pressure is also used by rough terrain enthusiasts, including on loose surfaces. Here, lowing the pressure is deliberately down to improve traction properties.

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