with RV tire expert Roger Marble
“I bleed off the high air pressure so I don’t exceed the ‘Max Pressure’.”
The above statement or a variation of it seems to be made about once a week on one or another of the various RV forums I frequently review. It appears that many people incorrectly believe that exceeding the “Max Pressure” number molded on the tire sidewall is going to result in tire failure and explosion.
It may help to let people know about some of the testings that tires undergo during the development phase.
First, some background. The “Max Inflation” statement on your tire sidewall really is the inflation associated with the Maximum Load capacity. If you actually read your tire sidewall you will see that is what it says. So the number of PSI is really the minimum needed to support the stated load.
It is important to understand that we are always talking about the “cold” inflation and not the inflation of a tire that is running down the highway or has been in direct sunlight or driven on in the prior couple of hours. “Cold” inflation does not mean the tire needs to be refrigerated but it means the tire is at the prevailing ambient temperature.
With the introduction of aftermarket TPMS that report both tire pressure and the temperature of the sensor, people are now being exposed to numbers they have no experience with. They see tire pressure rising as they drive down the highway. Some may see a 10% rise in pressure from the pressure they set their tires to just a half-hour earlier. Others may see a 20% or even a 25% increase in pressure and for some, this increase was a cause for concern – not because they had any working knowledge of tire operating temperature or pressure but simply because the pressure was higher than they expected.
A few people have decided that they need to bleed down the high pressure because they thought the pressure number of the tire sidewall was the max it should ever see. Of course, the action of bleeding down the hot pressure was exactly the wrong thing to do, as that meant that the tire would no longer be operating at the pressures expected by the tire engineer when they originally designed and tested the tire specification.
Obviously, this raises the question of how much pressure a tire can tolerate before the owner should be concerned. Well, I am going to give you some numbers but these are only examples. I cannot speak for every tire company’s process of specifications, but if we start with a few guidelines I think you can get comfortable and, hopefully, you will believe that tire design engineers do have a reasonable idea of what they are doing.
First off, we are only going to discuss regular production street tires that have passed DOT testing. The numbers I will use would basically be seen on new tires. I cannot advise on a tire’s capability after it has been damaged or run for many thousands of miles. Damaged tires can fail when reinflated, as seen in THIS video.
Heavy truck multi-piece rims MUST be inflated in a safety cage. If you suffered a puncture and drove any distance with the tire underinflated you may have permanently damaged the body cords, which is why you should always tell the tire service person you drove on the underinflated tire so they know to use a cage or other restraining safety equipment.
Age and miles can reduce the strength of any tire but we do consider this degradation when approving a design.
Another consideration is the availability of high-pressure air. Most home compressors or those that supply air to hoses made available to consumers have an upper limit of about 150 psi, so we don’t expect any consumer to have access to or to use industrial air pressure, which can be 400 psi or even special inflation units as used on aircraft tires.
Basically, many tires are tested to 300 to 400% of their rated inflation or above 200 psi – whichever is lower. I had a number of tires that could contain over 300 psi when new but if they had been damaged the same tire might fail at less than 200 psi. But I also never, in my 40 years in the tire industry, saw a tire fail from normal pressure increase – and I was involved in the testing and evaluation of thousands of tires.
The BOTTOM LINE is please do not bleed down your hot inflation pressure. You should ONLY set and adjust inflation when the tire is cool and at ambient temperature. Doing otherwise MAY result in your tire having a failure days or weeks later because you were running lower pressure than what was needed for the tire load you were applying.