Syracuse (Consumer Reports) -- If someone told you your car wasn’t safe, you wouldn’t keep driving it, would you? Yet one in four cars has at least one significantly under-inflated tire – a serious safety risk. Consumer Reports says a good tire gauge can help keep you safe, that is, if you use it.
Mechanic Alex Rodriguez sees firsthand just how dangerous it is to ignore your car’s tires.
“Some people have blowouts or tire failures. If you keep the correct air pressure in your tires, all these things could be avoided,” Rodriguez said.
Consumer Reports' Jon Linkov says checking your tires at least once a month is one of the best safety moves you can make.
"Underinflated tires contribute to thousands of crash-related injuries each year. Not only can they lead to blow-outs, they can also negatively affect your car's handling," said Linkov.
At Consumer Reports' test track, a car with underinflated tires had a lot of trouble on the emergency-handling course.
But with the tires properly inflated, the tester had no problem maneuvering through the same course.
"Underinflated tires also waste fuel and they wear out a lot faster," Linkov said.
To make it easier to check your tire pressure, Consumer Reports tested 14 gauges. They cost anywhere from four dollars to 56. Digital gauges are the easiest to read. The Accutire gauge for about 10 dollars is one of the top-rated ones.
"You want to make sure that you have the correct recommended tire pressure. A common mistake is going by the tire pressure listed on the tire. That's actually the pressure for the car's maximum carrying load," Linkov continued.
Instead, look for a sticker on the driver's-side door or check your owner's manual.
To get an accurate tire-pressure reading, you have to check tires when they’re cold. If you’ve driven your car, it takes about three hours for the tires to cool.