Imagine strolling along a coastal footpath then stepping off it and treading along the sandy beach instead. The latter takes more effort. A car running on underinflated tyres is like constantly walking along a sandy beach. Think about the extra fuel (or charge) your car burns and the extra emissions emitted.
Studies from a range of sources including government agencies, tyre companies, and consumer magazines all vary in their conclusions regarding exactly how much underinflated tyres affect fuel consumption. Their results ended up ranging from a 0.2% increase in fuel consumption per psi to 2% per psi. That’s quite a discrepancy.
Nevertheless, the point they all prove is that underinflated tyres will make your car chew through more fuel. But other things incorrectly inflated tyres can affect.
Tyre pressure and tyre wear
Tyres that aren’t inflated to the correct pressure can contribute to uneven or accelerated tyre wear. An underinflated tyre will wear out on the outer edges fast, while an overinflated tyre will wear out the centre faster.
Tyre pressure and handling
Tyres are designed to be inflated to a specific pressure – that pressure varies between tyres, but straying from the stated pressure can affect how the car behaves.
Overinflated tyres run the risk of losing some of their traction because the tread and sidewall become harder than what they should be and therefore the contact patches with the road get smaller.
Meanwhile underinflated tyres can make a car’s handling less predictable, especially at higher speeds. Underinflated tyres are also at a much higher risk of a blowout. The sidewall had more give than it should, the contact area with the road increases, friction increases, and the tyre heats up. Overheating, causing wear and tread separation can subsequently result in a blowout.
Much of this sounds academic, but it isn't. A huge percentage of cars on British roads (TyreSafe claims around 50%) have underinflated tyres, and it's responsible for about a third of car accidents where vehicle defect is a contributing factor. It is therefore very important to point out how tyre negligence can pose a real risk to not only you but other people.
Why do you need a tyre pressure gauge?
Primarily because under- or overinflation isn’t usually visible when looking at a tyre unless it’s severe. Tyre pressure gauges are little digital or analogue devices that stick into the tyre valve and give an accurate pressure reading.
You should check tyre pressure, including the spare, once a month, before long trips, or if you feel the car is not behaving as it normally should, such as pulling to one side.
The best tyre pressure gauges
AA Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge
Digital readings are more legible than a dial, but cheap digital devices often suffer from the ailment of being rubbish.
AA's Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge simply works and works simply. Crucially, it's accurate. The end properly seals the valve so you get an accurate reading, which can be in bar or psi up to 6.5 and 100 respectively. There's a small light around the nozzle and the screen is backlit so you can use it at night if you need.
|• Accurate||• Not USB rechargeable|
|• Automatically turns off|
|• Batteries included|
Draper Tyre Pressure Gauge
Best analogue pressure gauge
This pencil style gauge is of considerably better quality than those for half the price. Where the digital gauges have a readout on a screen, this has increments on the tip. And while a specific value is better, this is still easy to read.
This gauge only reads between 6 and 50 psi, but that's what you need for most circumstances.
|• Has pocket clip||• Only reads in psi|
|• Can release tyre pressure||• Digital easier to use|
|• No batteries needed|
Steel Mate DIY Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
Best high tech option
A tyre pressure monitoring system is a relatively expensive way to monitor tyre pressure but it's a neat, convenient, and easy to use the system. This kit from Steel Mate is our recommendation.
There are four sensors, each one gets screwed onto a tyre valve stem and then secured in place by the provided locknut tool. Each sensor then sends the tyre pressure reading via wireless signal to the display that plugs into the cigarette lighter.
This tyre pressure monitoring system reads in both bar and psi and each sensor uses a 3V CR1632 battery.
|• Accurate and reliable||• Expensive|
|• Time saving||• Takes up your cigarette lighter|
|• Very cool|
What is the best tyre inflator?
A great budget tyre inflator is from AA, shown below. In return for a good price, you have to accept it's not the most powerful tyre inflator. But, it still gets the job done well enough and has all the traits you need: reliability, compact size, auto-shutoff and an LED light.
A quick guide to the best tyres
Tyre upkeep is extraordinarily important from a day-to-day aspect. But when the time comes around to replacing worn ones, consider what kind of tyres you're putting on your car. The range on offer is as rich as the variety of cars to which they are fitted.
Summer tyres are what you would consider everyday tyres. They offer the best grip, wear, and overall wet and dry performance in temperatures above 7 degrees Celsius. The overall winner from our latest summer tyre test is the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5:
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5
Summer tyre test 2021 winner
"A great all-rounder. The Goodyear tyre performed well in the aquaplaning test and won the 62-0mph wet brake test. It came fourth in the dry brake test and ranked just below average in the wet handling tests. However, it did much better in the dry handling tests."
Winter tyres are designed specifically for conditions below 7 degrees Celsius. Their compound is softer than summer tyres for this reason. They also have chunkier treads to cope with snow and ice. The overall winner from our latest winter tyre test is the Bridgestone BLIZZAK LM005:
Bridgestone BLIZZAK LM005
Winter tyre test 2021 winner
"Despite not being the best option in the snow (the steering is a little indirect), its performance in the rain and on dry surfaces was exceptional making it our top winter tyre. Unbeatable wet performance, very good dry performance and it's good on snow too."
All-season tyres are all-rounders that don't excel in any one area. They are designed for year-round use and in climates that don't experience extremes. Such as this island of united kingdoms. The overall winner from our latest all-season tyre test is the Continental AllSeasonContact:
All-season tyre test 2021 winner
"The best all-rounder you can get for your car. Very good on both snow, wet roads and in the dry, itu2019s our top choice."