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September 11, 2003 11:29 PM

Broken: PSI markings on tires

 Kevin Shira writes:

Tire manufacturers delight in obscuring the PSI (Pounds per Square Inch)
information with tiny fonts in the same color as the tires themselves. (See the first photo [above], taken under perfect lighting conditions.)

Imagine: it's late afternoon, the light is fading, and you need to inflate your tires. But what's the correct PSI? 32 pounds? 36? 44? With many tires, you won't be able to tell.

For most of us, finding the correct inflation level is impossible without a flashlight and magnifying glass. The easy solution? Make the PSI information twice as big. (See the the second image [above], which I edited.) Better yet, make the information bigger AND set it off in a white font.

Update Sept 30: Several This Is Broken readers have written in to reply to this post. Here's one from a reader who wants to remain anonymous:
The PSI on tires is the maximum inflation. The PSI you should use is always posted on a placard on the door jamb of your car. Car manufacturers "tune" their cars' suspensions to the tires and rarely use the maximum pressure. I work for a major tire manufacturer, by the way.


they should use SI units, such as bar anyways...

Posted by: Amaury Jacquot at November 30, 2003 02:56 AM

I ignore the placard and pump to within a few PSI of the tire max. This maximizes MPG fuel economy by reducing rolling resistance. Properly inflated tires also reduce the risk of accidents.

Without a doubt, some law should force tire makers to make the max PSI more legible. Too many people are deterred from checking PSI by this lapse.

Posted by: ap at March 9, 2004 04:26 PM

The tire inflation information on the tire is of no real need to the everyday driver, because the pressure listed on the tire is almost never the proper inflation. The pressure on listed on the sidewall of the tire is for tire loading purposes... as in a max of 44 psi at X pounds of weight... you should always inflate your tires to the manyfactuers specifications.. which I may add may be found in the owners manual, or in many cars the drivers side door jamb, trunk lid, or in the glove compartment. Take this advsie from a mechanic, if you inflate the tires to the max pressure you will wear them out faster and also lower the tires ability to grip the road, especially in wet weather.

Posted by: Chad L. at May 25, 2004 08:52 PM

This is common of someone who doesn't understand their automobile, and can't read the owners manual. Mindless sheep. I used to work at a tire store years ago, and one time I actually had someone threaten me with bodily harm if I didn't inflate the tires on his Geo Metro to 44 psi. When he came back hours later with a blown out tire, I felt good that we had him sign a waiver...

Posted by: Joshua Ottinger at August 31, 2004 10:35 AM

The tires on my 71 Volkswagen say "max pressure 40 PSI" but the reccommended pressure on the placard is 22 PSI..

When I bought the car the tires were inflated to 40 PSI, the car rode like a brick and wandered all over the road. Lowering to the placard's rating cured both problems....well the ride quality improved as much as a 71 Volkswagen can....

Posted by: Please stop me at October 6, 2004 09:13 AM

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