Overinflated tires on a car are equally bad as deflated ones.
Tire pressure is one of the most important parameters on the car, so much so that your safety on the road and ride quality depends on it.
In this article, you can see what can happen if the tires are overinflated as well as how to solve this problem.
The complete fixing procedure is lower in the article.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TIRES ARE OVERINFLATED?
Every car tire is predefined for a certain pressure. The manufacturer makes sure that when the tire is properly inflated it has peak performance.
Anything under or over that normal pressure can cause problems.
In case of overinflated tires, the most common things that can happen are:
1. TIRE BLOWOUT
Tires suffer tremendous strain during their service period, both from the pressurized air inside and from the road outside. Also, tires naturally heat up due to friction produced from contact with the road surface.
Overinflating the tires significantly adds to this strain. To paint a picture, imagine driving on over-inflated balloons.
Luckily, most tire manufacturers have a wide safety margin for these cases (you have to over-inflate massively to cause a tire blowout) but it’s only applicable when the tires are new or near new.
The main danger lurks with tires that are medium worn, completely worn, or damaged in some way. Long and fast drives with these kinds of tires also increase the possibility of trouble.
Tire blowouts mostly happen during driving making them one of the most unpleasant, frightening, and dangerous experience a driver can encounter.
You don’t know what’s worse: momentarily losing control over the car or the frightening explosion-like sound.
2. PROBLEMS WITH HANDLING THE CAR ON THE ROAD
The tires are the only thing holding your car to the ground. Those few centimeters of rubber per every wheel dictate how the car will handle when driving.
Overinflated tires essentially mean less grip to the road. Less grip means less stability and in critical situations may lead to loss of control. This goes double on wet or icy roads.
Talking about critical situations, overinflated tires can cause lengthening of the normal braking distance meaning that you won’t be able to stop the car as usual. No need to say how dangerous this is, especially if you have to make an emergency braking.
Then there’s the steering. With overinflated tires, the steering might seem lighter than usual causing an awkward feeling.
All in all, overinflating may lead to a major loss of control over the car, especially in critical situations.
3. UNEVEN TIRE WEAR
When the tires are properly inflated, the tire tread sits evenly on the road. This will lead to an even and proper tire wear over time.
If the tires are overinflated a bulge forms at the center of it (think of over-inflated balloons again).
This leads to an uneven tire wear as the center of the tread is more exposed than the rest of it.
It’s best recognized as the center of the tire becomes more worn out than the outer parts.
Tire wear like this is easily recognized if the car has been driven on overinflated tires for a prolonged period of time (weeks if not months).
A situation like this cannot happen if you check the tire pressure on your car regularly. So, even if the tires are overinflated, a regular check will solve it before the tire gets worn or deformed.
If you want to learn or see how to make a tire pressure check, click here for a separate article on that topic.
Besides this, you can watch a video tutorial on our YouTube channel where you can see how to check the tire pressure besides other regular checkups (tire check starts from 10:48).
4. DAMAGE TO THE FRONT SUSPENSION
The tires are connected to the rest of the suspension via the rim, wheel hub, axle, and else.
In this connection, the tires, besides providing grip, have the task of absorbing the unevenness of the road (like bumps or pot-holes). Sort of a first line of defense for the suspension.
If the tires are overinflated, they significantly reduce this putting extra strain on the suspension system.
Simply, the tires bounce more then they should.
When driven for a longer period, it can cause problems and need for replacing parts like the ball joints, struts, various bushings, and else.
5. INTERFERENCE WITH ASSISTANCE SYSTEMS
Various driving assistance systems (ABS, ESP, ASR, and many more) have become a standard in almost all cars. They are honed to near perfection and get even more advanced every year.
But every driver should have in mind that all of those systems depend on a good grip provided from the tires. There is no such assistance system that will keep the car on the road if the tires are not in good condition and properly inflated.
Such is the case with overinflated tires.
All of these systems are more or less calibrated to the proper tire pressure. Overinflation may ˝confuse˝ the whole system (due to lack of grip) making it unable to react on time and properly.
Of course, most of these systems have safety margins for these cases, but a driver should never let a trivial thing like an overinflated tire compromise something as important as a safety assistance system.
6. LESS DRIVING COMFORT WITH OVERINFLATED TIRES
Overinflated tires mean a bumpy and uncomfortable ride for sure.
This goes double for situations like bad and bumpy roads or when the car suspension is low. You’ll feel every little bump and pebble for sure.
Besides this, road noise (like a humming sound) may appear due to the tires being more rigid.
No need to mention how annoying and distracting this is.
Perhaps the only good side of this is that you can immediately recognize that you’ve overinflated the tires because of the stiff ride.
HOW TO FIX OVERINFLATED TIRES?
If you’ve noticed that the tires are overinflated, there’s a simple procedure that you can surely do on your own to fix this.
The only tool you’ll need is a tire pressure gauge or a tire inflator with a pressure gauge on it.
Most of these have a release valve built in them so you can release pressure with a simple press.
If you have one of these then do the next:
1. Find the tire valve stem on the rim
2. Take off the valve cap
3. Mount the pressure gauge or tire inflator on to the valve stem. Make sure it sits in properly so no air leaks beside it.
4. Press the release valve until the gauge shows proper pressure.
5. Return the valve cap and tighten it properly.
If you only have a tire pressure gauge with no release valve then, once you’ve taken off the valve cap :
1. Press the small pin in the middle of the valve. Use something like a small wooden stick or perhaps a small screwdriver to firmly press the pin down. Be careful if your using metal tools not to damage the valve. You’ll hear a hissing noise as the air is coming out.
4. When you let some air out, use the gauge to measure the pressure. Do this until you’ve deflated the tire enough. When pressing the pin, make short bursts so you don’t let out too much air.
5. Once finished return the valve cap and tighten it properly.
If you don’t have any kind of pressure gauge available, then you can visit a gas station, self-serving car wash, tire repair shop, or else. All of these surely have gauges and tire inflators with release valves so it will take only minutes to fix overinflated tires.
Also, if you don’t know what is the proper tire pressure then look take a look at the car manual, use Google or YouTube.
If you decide to look the old fashioned way, most likely locations will be the inner side of the gas tank lid, the inner side of the driver’s door, the door sill, etc.
In the end, I must mention the most common reason for overinflated tires: lack of attention and a drivers myth.
Lack of attention mostly comes from situations like being in a hurry, being distracted while inflating the tires, or else. This is understandable and can happen to every driver.
What’s less understandable is the mythology part. You see, there’s a myth that overinflated tires can improve the cars gas mileage. The number of drivers that believe this is not negligible at all.
It sits on a theory that the wheels roll with less friction thus reducing the fuel consumption.
I won’t say that there’s no logic in this. But what I can say is that the savings in gas are so insignificant that risking your safety, the safety of other participants in traffic and your car seems outright stupid.
So, don’t improvise. Always make sure to inflate the tires to the proper pressure recommended by the manufacturer. Anything above or below isn’t good at all.
If an overinflated tire does happen, solve the problem as soon as possible especially since it takes only a few minutes of your time.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com