As a responsible driver, it’s important to maintain your vehicle to keep it safe and roadworthy – one of the most important things to take care of is your car’s tires. Not only is a blowout or flat leading to a tire change on the side of the road a headache, but it can also be potentially dangerous.
In this article, we’ll explain why it’s essential to check your tire pressure, describe how often you should check them, and provide step-by-step instructions for how to measure tire pressure with a gauge or at the gas station. For insight into the best tire pressure instruments on the market, read on until the end of the article, where we’ll discuss the top three options.
Why Do You Need to Check Tire Pressure?
Riding on over or underinflated tires can lead to a variety of issues. According to Team Ryan Automotive, there are three main reasons to keep your tire pressure at the manufacturer’s recommended level:
1. Accident prevention: If you’re riding on an underinflated tire, the weight of your vehicle will put extra strain on the tire’s treads, leading to them becoming worn down quicker. When treads start to wear out, your vehicle’s handling will suffer and can potentially cause an accident. Conversely, overinflated tires are at increased risk of a blowout and can affect a vehicle’s handling.
2. Improved fuel economy: With prices at the pump being up, doing the basics to keep your car’s fuel economy as efficient as possible should be a no-brainer. Tires at a lower pressure require more gas to go, so you may find yourself at the pump more often if your tires also need to fill up.
3. Avoiding uneven wear and tear: As mentioned before, an underinflated tire takes on more of the vehicle’s weight than at the proper level. If even just one of your tires is at a lower pressure, it will wear faster than the others and sooner require replacement.
How to Find the Recommended Tire Pressure
Every car is different, and each manufacturer will have their own recommended tire pressure for individual makes and models. Larger cars that haul things like a truck will typically need a higher pressure than a small sedan, but there are always exceptions to the rule, so it’s best to stick with the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.
According to Allstate, there will typically be a sticker inside the driver’s side door of the vehicle that has the information you need. It can also be found inside your owner’s manual or occasionally on the tire’s sidewall on a sticker. Bear in mind some cars will have different pressures for the front and rear tires. When in doubt, it’s best to find the original owner’s manual for the car online or at the dealer to be sure – accidentally overinflating a tire can lead to just as many problems as leaving it with too little pressure.
How to Check Tire Pressure
You’ll first need access to a tire pressure gauge to check tire pressure. These can be found at your local automotive parts store or a service station. If you’re in a bind and don’t have access to a tire pressure instrument, you can use your thumb or hand to apply some pressure and see if your tire is soft or extremely firm.
A properly inflated tire should be somewhere in the middle, but for best results, use a gauge to see if they’re at the manufacturer’s recommended level is a must. Here are some step-by-step instructions for checking tire pressure with a gauge:
1. If possible, begin with cold tires: According to Firestone, car manufacturers list the recommended psi (pounds per square inch of pressure) assuming the tires are cold. This doesn’t exactly mean physically cold, but that the car has not been driven in more than three hours, or less than a mile at a low or moderate speed. Checking tire pressure after having just driven can lead to unreliable results.
2. Double-check the manufacturer’s recommended psi: Check the recommended tire pressure settings again on the driver’s side door or in the owner’s manual. Note whether or not the back and front have different pressures, then write them down.
3. Remove the ball cap from the tire: Next, go to an individual tire and turn the ball cap on the tire’s port to the left to unscrew it. Place it in a location you won’t lose, like your pocket or a cup holder.
4. Screw on your tire pressure instrument: Screw the tire pressure gauge onto the port, allowing it to push down on the valve stem. You’ll hear a hissing sound from air escaping as you get it tighter. Securing it tight will keep any more air from leaking out.
5. Record your reading: Write down next to the recommended manufacturer’s level and compare it to the reading on your gauge to determine if your tires have too much or too little air.
6. Replace the ball cap: Before you’ve moved on to the other three tires, replace the ball cap and tighten it onto the stem. Driving without ball caps can lead to air leaking out of the valve stem over time.
7. Repeat steps 3 through 6 for the remaining tires: Now, all you need to do is repeat the process for the rest of your tires. This is also a good time to examine the treads on your tires and see what kind of wear they’ve undergone.
How to Check for Tire Pressure at a Gas Station
If you don’t have access to a tire pressure gauge at home, most service stations, gas stations, or car washes will have a compressed air machine to inflate tires. Some offer free air, while others may require a small payment. Many of these machines have a digital display that will read your tire’s pressure and allow you to set an exact psi to fill them to.
When following the steps to check tire pressure, attach the hose to the valve stem in step 4 and get the reading off the digital display on the compressed air machine. Be sure to follow each machine’s instructions and safety considerations, as types vary.
How to Inflate Your Car’s Tires
If, after checking your tire’s pressure, you find that it’s low, find an air compressor and follow these steps to inflate your car’s tires:
1. When using a compressed air machine at a service station, pull your car close enough that the hose can reach all your tires. If using a portable machine, park with enough space on each side to access your tires.
2. Remove the ball caps and hook up the hose to the valve stem, taking note of the current air pressure and setting the desired pressure to the manufacturer’s setting.
3. Inflate the tire – some hoses will fill automatically, while others will require holding down a lever or button. Either hold down or allow the hose to run until you’ve reached the manufacturer’s recommended setting.
4. Remove the hose, recheck the tire pressure if necessary, and put the ball cap back on.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the remaining tires.
How to Release Air From Tires
Found that you’ve been driving on overinflated tires? Follow these steps to release air and get down to a safe pressure:
1. If you accidentally leave too much air, be sure to park near or have access to an air compressor before you begin. Then, remove the ball cap and use a tire pressure instrument to check pressure levels.
2. Take off the gauge and use a flathead screwdriver to slowly depress the pin in the center of the valve stem. It will begin to hiss, and air will release from the tire.
3. After a few seconds, reconnect your tire pressure instrument and check the new pressure level.
4. Repeat these steps until you’ve gotten to the manufacturer’s recommended psi, then replace the ball cap.
When Should You Check Your Tire Pressure
Allstate recommends that you check your tire pressure cold (the car has been off and parked for at least three hours) with a tire pressure gauge once a month. They also suggest that you check them even when the tire doesn’t look low, as it can be hard to tell with just a visual inspection.
It’s also good practice to check after driving in rough conditions, running over something, or hitting a curb. Many newer vehicles will have a light on the dashboard that indicates if a tire is too low or too high. Check your owner’s manual to see if yours has that light or any other digital monitoring system.
Best Tire Pressure Instruments
Looking for the best products for checking tire pressure? Here are three of our favorite products based on our in-depth market research:
1. Motion Pro Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
- Accurate to +/- 0.5% of maximum gauge reading
- Programmable display allows choice of continuous pressure reading or retains maximum pressure reading until reset
If you want a top-of-the-line product with a simple, easy-to-read gauge to check tire pressure anywhere, Motion Pro’s digital tire pressure gauge is one of the best on the market. With an extremely precise digital readout that gets down to the 100th of a psi, you can be sure you’re riding on tires that will give you precision handling and the best fuel economy. A programmable display allows for continuous readouts or retains the maximum pressure reading until a reset.
This gauge is one of the highest rated on Amazon. One of the five-star reviews praises how accurate this tool is: “This thing is my new favorite tool. It is just absolute top quality in every way shape and form, and makes the chore of checking tire pressure so much more pleasant! Particularly at the track where I might be checking my pressures before and after every single session, this gauge is so easy to use and to read, I seriously love it, and would tell anyone I know who is serious about riding to get one.”
2. JACO FlowPro Tire Inflator with Pressure Gauge
Looking for something that you can hookup inline with your air compressor? JACO’s FlowPro Tire Inflator is the product for you. The heavy-duty, steel gauge has a precise thumb trigger that allows you to fill the tire exactly where you need it. Or, use the built-in air bleeder to lower your tire’s pressure and avoid a blowout.
One of the coolest things about this gauge is the “Lightning Chuck”, a patented locking mechanism with a quick time release, allowing you to connect and release with ease and avoid losing air in the process. All of this comes at an affordable price and with a 100% lifetime warranty from JACO!
3. LOKITHOR JA301 Jump Starter with Air Compressor
For anybody wanting to ride with confidence and never have to worry about finding a service station with an air compressor, LOKITHOR has an all-in-one product that has you covered. Built-in to this machine is a tire inflator that can provide up to 150 psi of pressure and inflate a tire in less than 5 minutes.
One of the best features of the tire inflator is that you can preset to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure, then it will fill and shut itself off when it’s reached the preset. Also included are helpful features like a LED flashlight, charging block for devices, and battery jump starter. This product gives you peace of mind on a long road trip or when you’ll be driving or camping in a remote area.