Take a moment to hold out your hands and look at the surface area they occupy. Go ahead… hold out both hands and look at the area that your palms and fingers take up. This is a pretty good approximation for the total contact all four tires of your car have on the road.
The average human hand has a surface area between 69 to 83 square inches, depending on which study you look at, which yields an average total for both hands of 152 square inches. In comparison, the average tire has 36.75 square inches of contact area, yielding 147 square inches on average for all four tires. You can see why your two hands make a fair approximation to the contact area of your car’s tires.
Everything about your car is designed around manipulating the four points of contact that your tires have with the road. All 455 horsepower of your 2018 Mustang GT has to go through the tire contact patch to the road, in order to move your pony from 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds.
When Motor Trend tested the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible, it found that it could brake from 60 mph all the way down to Zero in a mere 90 feet… To accomplish this, all of the stopping power generated by the amazing Rassini two-piece rotor braking system was delivered to the road through each tires contact patch.
When your car’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) manipulates the braking (and sometimes the power) delivered to the wheels, it’s your tires contact patch that ultimately does the work so that your vehicle will see the benefits of the system.
Think about it, an area somewhat smaller than your two hands is all that is between your car and the road. Everything you find great about your car - the handling, the braking, the get-up and go - all depends upon this tiny area of contact between your tires and the road.
Beyond the importance of contact area, tire pressure additionally impacts how well you grip the road, how likely you are to hydroplane in wet environments, how long your tires will last, and the fuel economy of your car.
Here is a great video you should definitely watch from our DRIVETRIBE friend Jason Fenske over at Engineering Explained:
So to finally answer the question raised in the title of this article, ”How important is tire pressure?” The answer is, “Very!”
Keep driving my friends!
My thanks to Larry for all his help with this article.