Your tires have a recommended PSI for a reason.
Snow, ice, and frigid temperatures can make wintertime driving a challenge. Drivers deal with this in a variety of ways: From winterizing their cars and keeping emergency kits in their trunk, to paying more attention to their tires.
For example, some people mistakenly believe that reducing their tire pressure will improve their traction. Others understand that tires tend to lose air pressure in cold weather, but incorrectly assume that the solution is over-inflating their tires. As it turns out, while that’s not exactly helpful, it’s not harmless, either. To learn more, I asked two tire experts why over-inflating your tires is a bad idea.
What happens when tires are over-inflated
According to Larry Sutton, the founder and CEO of RNR Tire Express, over-inflating your tires puts both the tires and people’s safety at risk. “Over-inflating your tires can cause wear on the center of the tires much faster than on the remainder of the tire,” he told me. “This will result in losing thousands of miles of use on each tire.”
It gets worse: Not only will over-inflating your tires result in having to replace them before their time, it also reduces their traction, Sutton explains. “Ultimately, an overinflated tire decreases driver safety and increases the risk of accidents by a significant margin,” he says.
Hunter Brabham, a category manager at CarParts.com, echoes Sutton’s safety concerns, and confirms that it’s not the cost-cutting strategy some people think it is. “There are various misconceptions about over-inflating tires as a cost- and fuel-saving hack, when the reality is that it’s dangerous to inflate your car’s tires beyond the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications,” he told me. “Over-inflating tires reduces handling and increases the chance of a tire blowout.”
Plus, as Brabham points out, the uneven wear on your tires also causes ride quality to suffer—meaning you and your passengers will be less comfortable while driving.
When is a tire considered over-inflated?
Let’s say you’re doing your monthly air pressure check and notice that a tire’s PSI (pounds per square inch) is higher than the manufacturer’s recommendation. Is a tire with an extra two or three psi considered officially over-inflated, and therefore, a safety risk?
Not quite, says Sutton. While a tire performs best when you use the actual PSI recommended by the car manufacturer, don’t panic if you’re over by a few PSI. “Anything over 10 PSI [above the manufacturer’s recommended PSI] will create tire wear and traction loss on most passenger tires,” he says.
You can find the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure listed on a placard inside the driver’s side door jamb, says Brabham.