Drivers don't often think about the tire pressure. In fact, most of us just take care of refueling and not much else. Still, ensuring that the tires are always properly inflated is crucial, as it ensures a safe and responsive drive.
But it's not only that. By keeping your tires properly inflated, you are ensuring that your vehicle always provides the best performance, shortest stopping distances, and generally the highest traction and grip. Moreover, properly inflated tires will keep your MPGs at the minimum, meaning you will pay less at the pump.
One overlooked aspect of properly inflated tires is longevity. An underinflated tire will wear faster and might show signs of damage, like bulges and cracks. Meanwhile, overinflated tires could burst more easily in what is called a tire blowout.
Fortunately, most tires can keep their pressure for up to a month, which is the minimum recommended period between checking the tire pressure and re-inflating. Nonetheless, some tires lose pressure overnight, often leaving the car inoperable in the morning. This can be very inconvenient, especially since we are usually in a hurry every morning.
So, why is your tire losing pressure overnight? I can't give you a straight answer because there can be numerous reasons that lead to an overnight tire pressure loss. Thus, I wrote an article where I'll explain everything there is to know about tire pressure, why it's important, and all the factors that affect tire pressure loss. Let's have a closer look and find the culprit so you can sleep tighter tonight!
- Understanding Tire Pressure
- Common Reasons for Tire Pressure Loss
- Grasping the Impact of Weather Changes on Tire Pressure
- Identifying Tire Issues that Lead to Pressure Loss
- How to Prevent Your Tire from Losing Pressure
- Dealing with Pressure Loss: Your Next Steps
Understanding Tire Pressure
Tire pressure is a critical aspect of vehicle performance, safety, and even fuel efficiency. It refers to the amount of air in your car's tires.
Pressure is typically measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) in countries with Imperial measurements (North America) and in Bar or Pascals in the metric system (Europe, Asia, and Australia). Some countries, like India and Korea, use the kilogram per square centimeter (kg/cm2) unit.
Fortunately, most tire pressure gauges will have the correct readings for your area or an option for numerous readings.
1. The Role of Tire Pressure in Vehicle Performance
Properly inflated tires ensure optimal vehicle performance by securing optimal contact between the tire and the road surface. As a result, they provide an optimal combination of grip, handling responsiveness, comfort, durability, and efficiency.
However, when tire pressure is too low, more of the tire's surface area touches the road, increasing friction. This results in worse efficiency, leading to higher fuel consumption, increased wear, and serious issues like cracks, bulges, and a potential tire blowout. Also, an underinflated tire won't protect the rim from potholes and curbs, meaning it could be more easily damaged.
On the other hand, if the pressure is too high, the tires may become overly rigid and bouncy, with less of the tire surface touching the road. This will also result in decreased traction, particularly in foul weather, and an increased risk of damage from potholes or curbs. Also, overinflated tires lead to a very uncomfortable ride, particularly over bumpy roads.
2. The Ideal Tire Pressure: Factors to Consider
The ideal tire pressure for your vehicle isn't a one-size-fits-all number. It can depend on several factors, including the type and size of your tires, the weight of your vehicle, and the type of driving you do.
With that said, following the manufacturer's recommended tire pressure is your best bet. You can find the correct pressure on the placard on the vehicle's door jamb, the glove compartment, or the owner's manual. Some manufacturers will even specify different tire pressures for different loads, which is important for people that haul heavy cargo frequently.
You can measure the tire pressure with a special gauge or just go to the nearest gas station and use their air inflator/gauge. Just make sure that the tires are cold and not used for a few hours because heat increases pressure. You could drive for 1-2 miles (to the gas station) and still get an accurate reading, but the best results will always be obtained when the tires are cold.
Do this at least once every month or whenever there is a big temperature drop/increase outside. Remember, the temperature can significantly affect tire pressure!
By understanding tire pressure and how it impacts your vehicle's performance, you can better maintain your tires, improve your safety on the road, and even save money on fuel. It's a win-win situation!
Common Reasons for Tire Pressure Loss
Various factors can lead to tire pressure loss. Most of the time, they are natural causes, but specific issues with the tires or vehicle can also lead to the tires losing pressure. Understanding these causes can help you address pressure loss effectively and maintain the performance of your vehicle.
1. Normal Air Leakage
Tires are not entirely airtight. Sure, they won't lose pressure immediately, but they will permeate air into the environment over time. The leakage is very slow and shouldn't concern you, especially if you check the tire pressure and re-inflate your tires regularly. Crucially, the normal air leakage won't lead to the tire losing pressure overnight.
2. Temperature Fluctuations
Pressure is directly correlated to temperature – that's one of the basic laws of thermodynamics. Namely, when an airtight vessel filled with air is heated, the pressure inside will increase and decrease when cooled down. This is because temperature increases the activity of particles in the medium, which then increases pressure.
Our climate also varies significantly, with heat during the summer and cold temperatures during the winter. This will inevitably affect the pressure inside your tires. Thus, if there is a sudden temperature drop, your tires will become underinflated, and vice-versa. For that reason, it's always smart to check the tire pressure whenever the weather changes dramatically.
3. Tire Damage or Defects
Obviously, physical damage to the tire, like punctures and cuts, can lead to a tire losing pressure overnight. This is even true for smaller punctures, which might not deflate the tire immediately, but give them a few hours, and you will see the pressure decreasing.
However, in some cases, defects in the tire structure can also lead to overnight pressure loss. For instance, small cracks could permeate air into the atmosphere, and tread separation can also lead to air loss.
4. Valve Stem Issues
The valve stems, the small protrusion through which you inflate the tire can also cause pressure loss if it's damaged, loose, or faulty. A corroded or cracked valve stem can allow air to escape, leading to decreased tire pressure.
Grasping the Impact of Weather Changes on Tire Pressure
One of the main culprits behind tires losing pressure overnight is the effect of the weather. Thus, this issue requires going into more detail, as it might solve your overnight tire pressure loss issues.
1. How Cold Weather Impacts Tire Pressure
In cold weather, the air inside the tire contracts, leading to a drop in pressure. On average, for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.6 degrees Celsius) drop in temperature, the tire pressure will decrease by about 1 psi (0.07 bar).
That is not a lot, but this decrease in temperature is also very usual in many places in the world, even during the day. In some places, the temperature during the night might fall 30 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius), which would result in a tire pressure drop of 3 psi (0.2 bar).
This tire pressure loss is pretty significant and could result in worse overall performance from your vehicle. Fortunately, the pressure will increase with driving, as friction and various loads increase the temperature of the tire, but overall it would still be lower than usual.
Anyway, it's not uncommon to notice the tire pressure warning light illuminating on the chillier days of autumn or winter. The tire pressure may be perfectly fine, but the decrease in temperature causes it to fall below the vehicle's warning threshold.
2. Heat's Effect on Tire Pressure
Conversely, warm or hot weather conditions can cause an increase in tire pressure due to the expansion of air within the tires. For every 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.6 degrees Celsius) increase in temperature, tire pressure typically rises by about 1 PSI (approximately 0.07 bar).
The pressure increase from increased temperature often happens during those hot summer days, especially when you drive over hot asphalt for prolonged periods. In fact, driving on hot asphalt can dramatically overinflate the tires (because friction is also involved), leading to a higher risk of a blowout. This is particularly true if your vehicle is loaded to the teeth.
Regardless of whether there was a huge temperature drop or increase, it's crucial to check the tire pressure often and compensate for the weather-induced fluctuations.
Identifying Tire Issues that Lead to Pressure Loss
Detecting the culprits behind the overnight tire pressure loss is the first step in addressing the problem effectively and maintaining your car's safety and performance. Luckily, these are all things that everybody can do, even those with zero DIY experience.
1. Inspecting for Tire Damage
The first thing you need to do whenever you see a significant tire pressure loss that has nothing to do with the weather is to inspect the tire for damage.
Punctures, cuts, cracks, and even tread separation can all lead to air leaks. Even minor, seemingly insignificant damage can cause a slow leak over time. Thus, it's important to regularly inspect your tires for any visible signs of damage, such as embedded nails, sharp stones, or irregular wear patterns.
Also, check along the bead of the tire and the rim to see if they are seated properly. If one of them is damaged due to hitting a curb, the airtight seal will be broken, and air will permeate into the atmosphere.
2. Detecting Leaky Valve Stems
Damaged or worn valve stems often cause overnight tire pressure loss. This small tire component, through which air is added to or released from the tire, can become damaged, corroded, or loose over time.
Inspect the stems for cracks and cuts, or listen closely and look for a noticeable hiss. Remember to check the valve stem cap as well, as it provides an additional seal against leaks. Yup, the Schrader valve used in every modern tire is not completely leakproof without the cap. Besides, the plastic cap protects the valve core from dirt and moisture, which can also lead to the valve leaking air.
3. Recognizing a Faulty Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
If you have a modern car with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), it will tell you when the pressure drops significantly below the manufacturer's recommendations.
However, this system can often work incorrectly and report a pressure problem when there isn't one. Hence, if your TPMS warning light comes on frequently or if the indicated pressure doesn't match your manual measurements, the TPMS might be the issue.
For that reason, it's crucial to ensure that you really have a tire pressure issue using a pressure gauge.
How to Prevent Your Tire from Losing Pressure
Like with most things in your car, working proactively can greatly reduce the chances of a tire losing pressure overnight. These tips will also ensure that your tires last longer and your vehicle performs optimally.
1. Regular Tire Maintenance and Inspection
As I already said numerous times, you should check the tire pressure at least once every month, before a long trip, or whenever there is a big temperature drop/increase. The ideal pressure will be listed in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) in North American vehicles and in "bar" (Europe and Asia) in your vehicle's owner's manual or on a sticker in the vehicle's door jamb.
Moreover, be sure to inspect your tires for damage regularly and pay attention to any changes in performance, such as decreased traction, worse steering response, your car pulling to the side, increased vibrations, and higher noise.
2. The Importance of Tire Rotation and Balancing
Regular tire rotation and balancing can help ensure even tire wear, reducing the risk of damage that could lead to leaks, like cracks and tread separation.
Your vehicle's owner's manual will provide guidance on how frequently to rotate your tires, but a common recommendation is every 5,000 to 8,000 miles (8,000 to 13,000 km).
For convenience, you can rotate your tires at each oil change – just ask the mechanic to do that for you, and it won't add much to the overall service cost.
Meanwhile, you can balance your tires at each tire replacement (like from summer/all-season to winter tires).
3. Choosing the Right Tires for the Driving Conditions
Using winter tires in the summer and vice-versa can also result in tires losing pressure overnight. Namely, winter tires are made from a more pliable (softer) rubber compound, which keeps its elasticity in freezing temperatures, thus providing a higher grip.
However, during hot weather, the winter tires will become too soft, which can significantly accelerate tread wear. Also, high temperatures can lead to catastrophic failures in winter tires, like a potential blowout, especially when driven at higher speeds.
Meanwhile, summer tires are made from a rubber compound that becomes hard and brittle at very low temperatures, almost like plastic. Thus, they will lose their elasticity during freezing weather, which could lead to cracks appearing on the tread and sidewalls. Then, air could leak through these small cracks, resulting in overnight pressure loss.
All-season tires are designed to tackle lower and higher temperatures, but they will still suffer if the weather is too extreme.
For all those reasons, it's highly recommended that you always use tires that are designed specifically for the weather in your area!
Dealing with Pressure Loss: Your Next Steps
If you notice that your tires continue to lose pressure quickly, it's time to take some steps to address the issue. Here is what you should do in case your tires lose pressure overnight, even though they are not punctured.
1. Refilling Your Tires: Do's and Don'ts
If your tires are low on pressure, you'll need to refill them using an air pump. Most gas stations have air pumps available. Be sure to fill the tires to the recommended PSI (or bar), not to the maximum listed on the tire's sidewall. That maximum pressure is for the tire's maximum load, and overinflation can cause a blowout.
2. When to Seek Professional Help
If you can't find the cause of the overnight tire pressure loss, you might want to bring your vehicle to the tire service shop. The technician working there can help identify and fix the issue, whether it's a small puncture, a faulty valve stem, or a more complex problem. You will also get a piece of advice on whether the damage can be repaired or you'll need a new tire, which might be crucial as it directly concerns safety.
3. Replacing a Damaged Tire: When and Why
In some cases, a damaged tire can be repaired. This is especially true for punctures and small cuts on the tread. However, if the tire has larger punctures and cuts, bulges, cracks, or a significantly worn-out tread (down to 2/32-inch or 1.6 mm), it should be replaced. Also, any damage on the sidewall could turn into a catastrophic failure, meaning you should replace the tire as well.
Waking up and seeing one of your tires deflated can be inconvenient but certainly not unavoidable. Just keep your tires inflated properly, rotate them regularly, and replace them once the tread reaches the tread depth limit, and you should be fine. In that case, you will only need to care about punctures, which are easy to repair (most of the time), or damage from hitting a pothole or curb.
But the real-world situation is different, and I still see too many owners just forgetting about the tires. Just a quick look at the tires at the supermarket parking lot today, and I saw seriously worn-out treads, uneven wear, several tires with cracks, and a few of them with bulges. I know that taking care of your tires takes time and seems expensive, but come on – you risk your lives with those tires!
Besides, by acting preemptively, you will prevent possible damage to your suspension. Not to mention, you are more likely to get into an accident with bad tires. In that case, the insurance company won't cover the repair costs because the cause of the accident will be deemed driver negligence. As a result, you might need to pay thousands of dollars for possible repairs and never get the same vehicle back.
So, take care of your tires, and in return, they will take care of your safety and wallet!
I’m Ivo Gievski, the content writer for Tireer. We built our website with over 15 years of experience and extensive research in the automotive and technology sectors. My dedication to delivering high-quality content is unwavering, and I strive to continuously hone my skills to stay ahead of industry trends and provide readers with informative, engaging, and valuable insights.