It'll happen to every driver and likely at the most inopportune moment - like when you're running late, on a family road trip or commuting to work. A familiar light will flick on in your car's dashboard. Sometimes, the low tire pressure indicator can mean it's time to add more air, caused by regular wear-and-tear or a sudden change in the weather. But other times, the light leads drivers down a road that requires them to buy a new set of tires. So how do you know?
Hankook Tire offers four things to consider when the tire light turns on to help determine the next steps to get you back on your way:
1. Kick the tires
Seventy-eight percent of drivers say that checking their tires is a regular part of their maintenance routine, according to Hankook's latest Gauge Index survey. If it's been awhile since the last time you checked your tire pressure, the light could just be indicating that it's time for a top-up. Luckily, 86% of drivers consider themselves confident in putting air in their tires in a proper manner with the right amount of pressure. If you aren't in that majority, look for a tire dealer that offers a free air check, and refer to the panel of your driver's side door, or your owner's manual, for your vehicle's ideal pressure reading.
2. Don't pause after pressure
Tire pressure checks can be an opportune time to examine the overall health of your tires, so don't stop inspecting just because your pressure is perfect. Take a look at your tread, too. An easy way to check the tread is to insert a penny upside down into the groove of your tire. If Lincoln's head is fully visible, it's time to drive to the dealer to buy new tires. Many drivers need to purchase a set of tires at some point; one-in-four has had to purchase new tires more than four times!
3. Know what you're looking for
If your pressure light eventually leads you toward a point of sale, there's plenty to consider, like where to make the purchase, and what is most important for your vehicle, and your wallet. The survey found that when deciding where to go to buy their tires, consumers most consider price (45%), where they can get their preferred brand (20%), and the tire dealer's product knowledge (14%). And once they find a dealer they like, most Americans (78%) will return to the same location when they have to make another purchase in the future.
4. Talk it out
Once you're at the dealer, knowing which tires to buy can be an overwhelming choice. Over a third of drivers (35%) do their own research on brands and where to get the best deal. But the tire dealer and its repair team can also be a great resource - in fact, a quarter of Americans base their decision on the recommendation of a mechanic. Regardless of who influences your decision, it's important to communicate your priorities: whether that's getting the best price, ensuring that your tires have a top safety rating or that they're the right tires for your driving habits.
Of course, it's also important to consider that the tire pressure indicator could have gone on for a completely different reason: It could be a sign that your vehicle's tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) needs replacing. Your owner's manual will provide specific details on what that alert looks like for your vehicle, but oftentimes, if the low-pressure light is blinking, it's an indicator for the system, not necessarily the tire itself. And while 30% of drivers say the TPMS sensors are the element of their vehicle they'd be least likely to replace, Hankook recommends getting any issue checked out by a certified mechanic before hitting the road.