By G. R. Whale
Of all consumer motor-vehicles, pickup trucks are the most likely to be worked to their limits.
And except for a few commercial vans, pickups generally have the widest variances in weight. Some heavy-duties are capable of carrying their own weight, which makes it difficult to figure out exactly what tire pressures are correct, which varies with load and speed.
After the federal government mandated tire pressure monitoring systems in 2007, we noticed most owner's manuals dropped sections about tire pressure adjustments for speed and load. These sections included a listing of worst-case, fastest conditions, meaning maximum loads and highest speeds. That's a disservice for consumers.
Today's pickups come with tire pressures listed on the sidewall of the tires; these pressures are for a full load. So, if your three-quarter ton isn't carrying 2,000 or 3,000 pounds, you get an extremely stiff ride and excessive rear tire wear. However, if you air down the tires to improve ride quality, the tire pressure monitoring system will turn on a warning light, even if the display shows nothing is lower than the amount of air you put in your tires. You're also likely to get an annoying chime each time you start your truck.
I drive and test pickups with the tire pressure matched to the load I'm carrying (or not carrying) — not what the tire pressure monitoring system thinks is correct — and I haven't had a tire failure in 40 years.
What do you do about tire pressure? Do you adjust your tires to specific conditions or merely run them at max pressures as stated on the driver's door sticker or the tire sidewall? Let us know in the comment section below.
Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan; Cars.com image by Evan Sears