As a retired traffic patrol police officer, I have seen far too many bodies at road crashes so I’m fastidious about highway safety, which very much includes tire safety!
One thing that still stuns me, however, is how often tire shops and vehicle maintenance mechanics are ridiculously inaccurate with pressures when fitting new tires or rotating the wheels.
This happened to me yet again, just four days ago when I spent just a whisker short of US $800 on four excellent Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires at an independent tire fitters.
The vehicle to which I had them fitted requires 36 pounds (p.s.i.) pressure for all four tires (but remember this information is to be found only on the driver’s door post or in the vehicle handbook, NEVER on the tire itself). And I asked the supposedly knowledgeable guy at the reception to ensure that all four were set precisely to 36lbs, which he promised to arrange.
By the time I got the car back it was dark and very cold outside so I drove the few miles home, then I checked the tire pressures the next morning.
I hope you can imagine my annoyance when I found that one tire was at 32 p.s.i. and the other three were all down in the twenties. Pathetic! Do some tire shops do this on purpose so you wear out your tires sooner and need to buy new ones more often? Or is it just ignorance and/or laziness? Either way, it is unsafe and very unacceptable — period.
Incidentally, it is also very wise to check your tire pressures if they have been rotated when your car is serviced.
On one of our corporate, defensive driving courses for a Fortune 500 corporation a few years ago, where all our 400+ trainees did sales and deliveries and therefore needed large pick-up trucks, we went to one of the pick-ups on the first training day and I asked its usual driver when the tire pressures had last been checked.
“I don’t check them,” he said, tersely. The truck gets serviced every 3 months because I do a high mileage, and the tires get rotated then.
With him beside me, I looked at the plate on the driver’s door pillar which showed 50 pounds front and 80 pounds rear. But when I checked the actual tire pressures it showed that they had indeed been rotated. Stunningly, however, the pressures has not been corrected, and he had been driving around with 80-pound front tires and 50 pounds in the rear, along with very heavy loads. This gross negligence by the mechanics concerned could easily have caused one or more deaths through serious instability of the vehicle, and badly affected braking and steering.
For anyone that’s unsure, it is wisest to check your tire pressures WEEKLY, not even the ‘monthly’ that tire makers have now kowtowed into stating. Think about it: A slow leak can make a tire unsafe in just hours!
Oh, and don’t be in too much of a hurry to trust TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems) either. Far too many are unreliable.