Many of us know that your tires are arguably the most important component of your vehicle. But did you know it’s actually not the tire that supports the weight of your vehicle, but rather the air pressure inside the tire? It’s no surprise that tire pressure influences many important characteristics of vehicle performance, such as driving comfort, directional stability, cornering, and braking grip, plus the general handling behavior. 

Almost everyone knows that it’s important to keep your tires properly inflated, however not many people know when to air down. Aired down tires give you a bigger contact patch and more tire tread contact with the ground, helping your vehicle perform better off-road in the sand, deep snow, and rock crawling. You’ll find the manufacturer’s optimum or recommended tire pressure for your car on a sticker in the driver’s side door panel or in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that the recommended specifications are based on cold inflation pressure.

Recommendations from our friends at General Tire

For us at XO, when we know we are spending a lot of time in the sand, such as the Altar Desert from Episode 9 of The Great Pursuit series, we aired down to about 15 pounds of pressure. However, making this decision all depends on what time of day it is. For example, the sand has more moisture content in the mornings so you can get away with higher pressure, such as 18 or even 20 pounds. If it’s late afternoon, we may go all the way down to 12 pounds of pressure and then we’re careful not to turn our wheels too aggressively to avoid breaking a bead. If you are hitting a bumpy trail for the day, try taking it down to 23 or 25 pounds and see how your vehicle rides and feels. When you get ready to hop back on the highway, air them back up to 40 pounds (or whatever pressure is suggested for your vehicle).

As you can see, there is no ‘one size fits all’ here. It depends on the weight of your vehicle, the type of terrain you are driving in, and even what time of day it is. The more air that is in your tire, the more durable it is against sharp objects in the road. 

The best way to learn is to go out and try it! Take them down to 35 pounds and see what happens, then 30 or 25. Remember, it’s always easier to take the air out of your tires than to put air back in, so it’s best to go in slower increments.

For more, watch our Oh Hey There With Jeff episode, Why and How to Air Down Your Tires.