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I’m an engineer and I deal with temperatures and pressures all day at work. When a manufacturer recommends a specific temperature and pressure for an engineered product you need to follow it, we don’t just make up numbers for fun. We do it for the public’s safety.
Your motorcycle tires should be properly filled. Your safety is paramount.
How often should you check the pressure of your motorcycle tires? Motorcycle tire pressure should be checked every two weeks if you ride regularly and should be within 1 psi (0.07 bars) of manufacturer’s specifications. It takes only a few minutes to check the tire pressure and it could save your life.
The dangers of running low tire pressure
For maximum traction, tires are designed to have a specified psi. The incorrect tread pattern on your tire can cause traction problems and lead to the tire being filled too low.
Cutting is another risk of having too low a tire pressure. Motorcycle wheels have very sharp edges. A tire that is too low can leave a severing groove in the rubber, causing a blowout.
For those of you who don’t know what death wobble is, we have a whole article about it linked here. Death wobble happens when the motorcycle begins to swerve backwards and forth and becomes uncontrollable. However, it is usually not at higher speeds. High pressure can cause death at lower speeds. This can be very dangerous.
High levels of pressure can also lead to death wobble. Tires with too much pressure will become hard and can cause wobbles. It is vital to maintain the proper tire pressure. I cannot stress this enough.
Too low pressure can cause tire roll and slip. It’s when your tire is not perfectly centered on the rim and is pushed a little to the left and then slumps to the right quickly, or vice versa. It can cause injury by yanking your handlebars or slipping to the left or right and cause an accident.
It can be dangerous to have your tires too high. Tire bounce occurs when your tires get too full. Small rocks and bumps on the road can raise your tire off of the ground and bounce it back down, just like a basketball.
If your motorcycle seems to be handling more difficult than usual lately, check the tire pressure and ensure that the tires are properly inflated. Spring is a time when the outside temperature rises quickly. Your tire’s volume will expand as the temperature outside rises.
Cold weather is the same. If you wake up on a cold morning and find your tires to be low, it’s because the air inside your tire has contracted and isn’t taking up as much space, so your tire deflates.
The last danger is one that I’ve seen firsthand. One day, I was riding with some friends and hit a bump in the road. The bead seal on one side of the tire cracked temporarily and all the air from the tire escaped. His motorcycle began to fishtail side to side and his back tire immediately went flat. He was able, however, to stop his motorcycle from crashing.
Where To Find Your Motorcycle’s Correct Tire Pressure
There are many ways to verify the right pressure for your particular motorcycle. The most trusted source for tire pressure would be in your motorcycle owner’s manual. If you don’t have a copy of the manual then search online for a PDF copy. The manufacturer should always be the most trusted source for tire pressure as long as your tires are the original size listed in the owner’s manual.
You can also check the tire’s sidewall for the recommended tire pressure. The sidewall will list the pressure in both psi or bar. The reason this is the second place I’d look and not the first is because the tire manufacturer doesn’t know how much your specific motorcycle weighs, but the motorcycle manufacturer does.
If for some odd reason your tire does not list the specific pressure on the sidewall and you don’t have access to an owner’s manual then do some searching through online forums. This is not the best way to go and it is not recommended. You cannot check information on forums and you have no recourse if someone puts pressure on you.
I have never seen a motorcycle tire that didn’t have the recommended pressure listed on the sidewall, so you shouldn’t have a hard time with this.
How to Check Tire Pressure
You can check your tires pressure by doing one of the easiest types of maintenance on your motorcycle. Here are the steps to check tire pressure.
- The valve stem cap should be removed. This is the small cap in black that sits on top of a small stem protruding from the tire’s center.
- Place the mouthpiece of your pressure gauge on top of the stem of the valve. Push down hard and hold for one second.
- You can get false pressure readings by pushing the stem gently down.
- When the numbered stick shoots out of the bottom of the pressure gauge and doesn’t move any further, take the pressure gauge off the valve stem and look at the number indicated on the pressure gauge.
- You can repeat the process up to three times to ensure you get the same reading. If you’re getting a different number every time then your gauge is broken.
- You can add more air to your system with a compressor or pump if the pressure is too low.
- To release air, push the tiny nipple located inside the valve stem.
- The process for digital gauges is the same, but instead of a numbered stick coming out of the bottom of the gauge, there’s just a digital number on the screen that tells you what the tire pressure is.
- Keep road debris away from the valve stem by putting it back on.
A word of advice before checking your tire pressure: Do not buy the cheap $1.00 tire pressure gauges that are on the counter at auto parts stores. They are unreliable, and they are also very expensive. A decent pressure gauge will last you a long while for $5.00
When checking your pressure, make sure you do it before a long ride when the tires aren’t hot. The rubber heats up and can cause a false sense in tire pressure. After a long ride, the air in the tire will begin to cool down and the tire pressure will drop.
Regular Tire Inspection
Tire inspection is closely linked to tire pressure. I’d like to share some tips on how to inspect your tires.
Here are the top things to check on your tires every few week. Each one will take less that a minute.
- Cracked sidewalls
- This can be caused by old age. The tires should be replaced immediately.
- Tires worn too often
- When a tire is getting close to bald it’s time to invest some money into new tires. Your life is worth much more than $150 Don’t hesitate to get new tires when you are in need.
- Tires containing nails or sharp objects
- It’s very common for a nail or screw to puncture through a tire and to not immediately get a flat tire. The tire pressure forces the rubber to squeeze tightly against the sharp object and won’t let air escape. You can take a nail to your local tire shop if you find it in your tire. Most shops will patch a small hole for free because they know you’ll come back in the future to buy new tires.
- Sidewalls are large chunks
- It can happen from normal use, or from bumping into sharp rocks. Tires with large gouges in their sidewalls should be treated seriously and replaced immediately. Once that sidewall is thinned in a specific area it’s only a matter of time before it starts bulging and pops.
- Uneven wear
- If one side of your tire wears out quicker than the other, it could be a sign that your tires aren’t inflated properly or that your tire is mounted incorrectly.
All motorcycle riders should be able to get home every day to their loved ones. It can save your life if you take a few minutes to inspect your tires every couple of weeks.