Tire Pressure Loss: What are the Causes?
Posted by Priority Tire on Jun 25th 2022
Tire pressure changes often. There are different reasons why a pressure drop occurs. It might seem like a headache to frequently check the pressure level of the tires, yet it helps to prevent some serious issues later on.
However, sometimes there is nothing we can do! Tire sets often lose air pressure randomly, due to various external factors. But, why does this happen? Do outside temperatures create problems or is it because of tire damage?
Well, let's talk about it, but first a brief explanation about PSI.
What is Tire Pressure?
Tire pressure or PSI levels are the air levels tires and wheels use to offer their flawless performance. Air pressure helps keep the ideal tire shape during the drive, allowing them to run smoothly. Loss of air can be monitored with a pressure gauge. By doing so, air pressure-related issues can be easily prevented.
Are Air Pressure Levels Important?
Yes, pressure levels are important as they regulate the tires' performance. Properly inflated tire sets optimize the tread wear rate, driving durability, and the vehicle's fuel consumption and handling. Therefore, when tires start losing pressure, they need to be checked immediately.
Depending on the PSI levels of the tires mounted on the vehicle, fuel economy can be affected. Lower PSI levels create underinflated tires, which significantly increases the rolling resistance. When this happens, vehicles need more fuel to keep the tires in motion.
Under or overinflated tires also affect the tread wear rate. They cause irregular wear on the tire tread as they only wear on one specific tread area since they do not maintain their round shape. This results in a shortened service life, as tires with uneven wear are not safe to use - for many different reasons. Such tire sets can also develop tread separation, another serious problem.
Inflation levels also determine the tire's drivability. In other words, when proper inflation levels are maintained, tire sets offer better handling, maneuvering, and braking capabilities. This is due to the fact that the footprint is able to provide the needed traction, ensuring the driver's control over their car, so a buzzy wheel won't cause steering issues.
Is Random Tire Pressure Loss Normal?
Normally, tires lose air pressure over time. This can be due to temperature changes or just regular driving circumstances. However, when the tire air loss is random, there might be a serious problem.
Extreme air loss should not occur from one moment to the other. Usually, there will be a culprit behind it. From a bent rim and over-tightening valve cores to external damage, tires can leak air randomly. All air leaks should be checked out to ensure the vehicle's performance and driving safety.
New tires often fall victim to incorrect PSI. Driving with too low or too high PSI, or neglecting to check the tire, can result in damage to the tire sidewalls, tread area, and, in the worst-case scenario, the internal structure.
What Causes Pressure Loss in Tires?
Even if you regularly check tire air levels in the tires, external factors can come as a surprise. Sudden air loss cannot be foretold with pressure gauges as it can occur randomly.
There are different reasons why this happens. Some of them cannot be prevented, unfortunately, but often they can be at least regulated. Furthermore, while tires constantly lose pressure, it is important to notice sudden PSI changes to prevent a flat tire.
All season tire sets are the most popular on the tire market at the moment. This means that the tires remain on the vehicle all year round. This puts them at the mercy of temperature change.
When temperature drops in colder conditions, so do the PSI levels. The opposit is true for summer weather when pressure levels expand. These weather and temperature changes will affect the tire's performance. In warmer weather less PSI is needed, while in colder temperatures you will need to add more air into the tires.
In such changing conditions, it is important to monitor and keep the recommended tire pressure in the tires. This will help prevent problems throughout the tire set's service life.
The natural degradation of the rubber compound can result in slow tire pressure leaks. Rubber compounds dry out with time, even if the tires are kept in excellent condition. Unfortunately, dry rot and other types of rubber corrosion are natural processes.
Yet, when tire sets near the end of their lifespan, they can cause PSI troubles. To ensure safety, tire manufacturers recommend changing tires at least every 10 years. This is to ensure you maintain the performance and driving security of your vehicle.
Road hazard damage can cause quick air loss. A nail, glass, debris, potholes, or any other sharp object can result in a slow leak or rapid PSI loss. Sadly, even new tires are not an exception to such tire damage.
Usually, PSI escapes from the tire based on the size of the damage. Small punctures still allow the tire to perform for a while, even though they can damage the tire sidewalls. Yet, using a tire plug can solve the problem. On the other hand, a larger puncture or cut will render the tire unusable immediately, as they cause the tire casing to collapse under the vehicle's weight.
Tire Bead Damage
Another form of tire damage that causes issues for PSI levels is any type of tire bead area problem. This can be bead chunking or damage to the bead seat of the rim. Such issues cause sudden PSI loss, as the wheel-bead contact will be ruined.
Unlike some nail punctures, tire bead damage is not repairable. Such issues make tires lose air quickly as it affects their sidewalls and wheels. Therefore, visiting a tire shop is a good idea.
Valve stem issues can also result in lower PSI levels. Different parts of valve stems can get damaged throughout the vehicle's regular performance. Apart from aging valve stems, drivers also need to keep an eye on the valve caps and valve core.
Furthermore, you might think it does the opposite, but over-tightening the valve stem core can cause tires to lose air as well. While you will most likely not face this issue on a new car, knowledge about valve stems can still come in handy.
What is Normal Tire Pressure Loss?
Tires lose PSI levels regularly. Even if the tire does not have a leak, air will still escape it at a slower pace. The normal rate of PSI decrease is 1-3 PSI each month. However, regular checks and reinflations (when needed) should be part of your tire maintenance schedule.
If your tires lose more than the normal levels, have them checked out. Often old wheels will have decreased PSI levels that cannot be repaired. When this happens, your car might need new tires. Keep your peace of mind and order new tires at Priority Tire!
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
The TPMS is a system installed in modern vehicles, which alerts drivers in case of air pressure loss. This neat gadget is a must for every US car manufactured after 2008. However, while it gives a great head's up when PSI decreased in the tire, it will not help to prevent damage.
How Much of a Pressure Loss Triggers the Low Tire Pressure Light?
The warning light on the TMPS sensor will go off after about 25% of air loss. This usually means an 8-10 PSI drop with average passenger car tires. Therefore, when the light turns on, the tire is already too low to be driven on. The best practice is to have them checked as soon as possible.