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Under the Hood: Proper tire inflation is vitally important

Brad Bergholdt, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

I thought I'd do something a little different today. Retirement from my automotive technology teaching job was short-lived, as I missed playing with kids and Monterey Peninsula College had an opening to staff an afternoon introduction to automotive technology class. It's a bit of a drive from the Santa Cruz Mountains, but a pleasant one, and results in a highly enjoyable part-time activity!

MPC's auto technology program is incredibly well-run, with a strong emphasis on teamwork, collaboration and professionalism. Each day I'm there brings challenges to step up my game to their high standards! Yesterday's topic was tire inspection, which brought up many items to share.

Proper tire inflation is vitally important for proper vehicle handling, safety, and tire life. Even with the advent of tire pressure monitoring systems (since 2008), there are still a great many vehicles on the road driving on underinflated tires. A tire that is low on air doesn't properly support the load placed upon it, runs at a higher temperature due to sidewall flex, has an inefficient contact patch, and creates an adverse affect on vehicle handling. Tire pressure should be checked once or more per month, first thing in the morning, even on vehicles equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. Such systems are only required to illuminate a warning light when a tire is 25% or more below the inflation specification. Some vehicles employ an indirect monitoring system comparing wheel speeds to infer low pressure (potentially less accurate). A dial type, or preferably an electronic gauge, is more accurate than the pencil type tools.

Students also learned the many procedures and precautions and became certified in the proper methods to safely elevate a vehicle, using a floor jack and jack stands, and a professional vehicle hoist. Prior to servicing their vehicles, they created an electronic repair order, entering all pertinent vehicle/owner information, and the applicable procedure to perform. Attention to procedure is paramount at MPC, seat protectors, wheel chocks, and other steps to protect the vehicle and participants are followed precisely.

Once airborne, tires were checked for tread depth (approximately 10/32" is new, 2/32" is minimum), lumps/bumps, unusual tread wear, embedded objects, cracking, and other defects, as well as inflation pressure. When a vehicle is driven previously, tire pressure will rise by about one pound for each 10 degrees in temperature rise, so this was factored in to the readings taken.

Proper documentation is important to accurately convey results to the customer and for shop records. Students also confirmed proper tire size, load, and speed ratings per the manufacturer's door placard.

 

Upon vehicle completion/departure, attention to detail again included safe hoist practices, a check/correction for fingerprints, and meticulous tool box and service bay restoration. Students then were awarded Pro-Points for professional procedures observed, proper lifting procedures observed, service estimate thorough and complete, tire pressure correct and valve caps in place, and repair order completed to industry standards. These pleasant and amazing young people are on their way to becoming highly desirable candidates for employment!

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Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at bradbergholdt@gmail.com; he cannot make personal replies.

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