When most people think of tire maintenance, they think of tire pressure. Is your tire under-inflated, over-inflated, or completely flat? All of these aspects are important and deserve your undivided attention. However, there is one aspect of a tire that is infamously forgotten about - the tire valve stem. The tire valve stem is just a piece of plastic, right? So, what’s the big deal? The tire valve stem cap is a critical component of the tire because it helps maintain tire pressure.
Every tire has a Schrader valve; this valve is necessary to keep tires inflated. The tire valve cap acts as a cap for the Schrader valve. Without the tire cap, the Schrader valve is not completely leak proof. When the tire cap isn’t on, the Schrader valve becomes exposed to road elements such as water, dirt, and road salt. If the valve becomes dirty or damaged, air from the tire is more likely to leak out.
Tire leaks can cause significant damage to all components of your tires and lead to a decrease in fuel efficiency. As air escapes, the tire wear rate increases. Low tire pressure can lead to the tire’s internal structure to increase in temperature, especially during amplified highway speeds. This can result in a blowout. A tire blowout is a worst-case scenario, but even if a tire blows out doesn’t occur, you can still be looking at costly tire repairs depending on how worn or damaged it becomes. The loss of tire pressure also causes your vehicle to burn more gas. One example of this would be the process of pushing a wheelbarrow. Pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt will always be easier when all of your tires are properly inflated. Your vehicle is that same way. If one of your tires is under-inflated, your vehicle will be harder to move. Thus, the car ends up using more fuel than necessary.
Tire valve stem caps are small and can easily be forgotten, so people can lose them in a variety of ways. The plastic cap can get worn with driving, become loose, and fall off. Sometimes rocks or debris can knock the caps off entirely. The most common way to lose a cap is when you or your mechanic forget to put them back on after filling your tires or performing tire maintenance. Whether you’re performing tire maintenance or not, it’s always best to check your tires often to ensure they are properly inflated, and all of your tire caps are still on.
Tire caps are a small part of vehicle maintenance that makes a big difference. Since they are small, they can be easy to overlook. They are likely to break off with a lot of driving or be forgotten during maintenance. Without a tire cap, damage can be done to the Schrader valve and result in air leaking out. Air leaks decrease tire pressure and make for an unsafe driving experience and over consumption of gas. Tire caps are relatively inexpensive and can be found at most auto repair shops.