When going off road, changing your tyre pressures is one of the best 4x4 tips that can help you keep you out of a sticky situation. It is one of the most effective ways to changing the traction of your tyres for the better.
After a good stint of off-roading, you must pump them up again for normal road use. Here is a simple guide to letting down your tyres, checking tyre pressure, inflating tyres and adjusting your tyre pressure.
This can be done easily with a tyre gauge, and a 12 volt air compressor or foot pump.
Step 1 - Assesment & Deflation
How low do you lower the tyre pressure? As a general rule, the looser the surface (mud, sand or snow) the lower the tyre pressure required. For rocks, clay or hard dirt, a good starting point is one third lower than the standard road pressure of the tyre. Softer again for sand, snow or mud, you'd go half of the standard road pressure. But the lower your go, the slower the car drives.
First check what the pressures of your tyres should be on the door well of the vehicle, and then using a tyre gauge, check the current pressure of all your tyres. Then calculate the psi you'd like to be aiming for.
EG: 38psi normally - (half) 20psi soft sand, 22psi mud - (2/3)26psi rocks and gravel as a rough guide.
To deflate your tyres, some tyre gauges have this already built it, simply take off the tyre valve cap, attach the gauge, pull the tab and deflate. If you don't have a deflator tool, using a small stick or fingernail normally does it.
Make sure to check pressures every minute till you're happy with the pressure.
Step 2 - Ways to Check Tyre Pressure
Start by removing the valve cap and secure the tyre gauge firmly onto the valve stem, press against the stem to release pressure into the gauge, if you here a hiss, this means the gauge is not secured to the valve correctly and adjust the angle of the gauge until the sound stops.
Step 3 - Inflating Tyre Pressure
There are a few ways you can inflate your tyres, one is with the handy foot pump but the easiest way to inflate tyres is using a 12 volt air compressor. These compressors are powered by the vehicles battery whilst the vehicle is running.
Simply place your compressor next to the tyre you're inflating, attach the positive alligator clip onto the positive terminal first, then the negative clip to the negative terminal.
Clip on the air compressor hose onto your tyre valve and turn the compressor on. You will hear the compressor beginning to run.
If your compressor has an inbuilt gauge, keep an eye on this whilst inflating the tyres; however it is a good idea to check periodically with a tyre gauge what the pressures are apt to ensure you're not over inflating them.
Once up to pressure, put the cap back on and move onto the next tyre, inflating the average tyre from 20psi takes roughly 1 - 2 minutes per tyre back up to a normal pressure.
Be careful when handling an air compressor as it may become too hot to touch, some air compressors will stop working when they become too hot, make sure to give it a rest before any damage accrues.
Step 4 - Adjusting Tyre Pressure
Once the tyre pressures are up, double check all round that all your tyres are of the manufacture rating and deflate or inflate accordingly.
Tyre pressures on the road really affect your fuel economy, performance and safety. Under inflated tyres cause excessive wear to your tyres sides and increased rolling resistance, which can put a real dent in your wallet. Over-inflated tyres cause wear in the middle of tyre and result in poor ride quality and reduced grip.
If you get in the habit of checking your tyre pressure once a month, you will eventually find improved fuel economy, reduced tire wear and you'll be safer on the roads.
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