What Should My Tire Pressure Be? – 2021 Guide

Shawn
| Last Updated: March 14, 2021

“What should my tire pressure be” is one of the most common questions asked by new car owners or those that are taking a vested interest in the longevity of their tires.

So what’s the ideal tire pressure? It depends on a number of factors. 

If you’re unsure about the proper tire pressure for your car, how to use a tire gauge, or how to check tire pressure, read on for some easy-to-read tips and information.

Where to Find Your Vehicle’s Recommended Tire Pressure

The recommended tire pressure for a vehicle lets you know exactly how much pressure you should have in each tire, measured in PSI (pounds per square inch). Typically, you’ll find this information in one of three places:

  • On newer cars, the recommended and maximum tire pressures are listed on a sticker inside the driver’s door or the door frame. This lists not only the correct PSI but also the recommended tire sizes for the vehicle.

  • If your car lacks this informational sticker, your owner’s manual should have the information. Just use the table of contents in the front or the index in the back.

  • The sidewall of your tire is the final place you can look to find tire pressure. But keep in mind that this usually only lists the maximum PSI, not the pressure recommended by manufacturers.

How to Use a Tire Pressure Gauge: 3 Types

To check your tire pressure and inflate or deflate to the recommended PSI, you’ll have to use one of three tire gauges: a stick tire gauge, dial tire gauge, and digital tire gauge. For safety reasons, make sure to put your car in park, turn the engine off, and engage the parking brake before using a tire gauge. In all of the below examples, remember to remove the valve stem cap first.

How to Use a Stick Tire Gauge

  1. Push the part at the top of the gauge into the valve stem.

  2. Make sure that you’re pushing straight onto the valve stem so air doesn’t escape.

  3. Once you push down, a measuring stick will pop out the other end of the gauge to let you know your PSI.

How to Use a Dial Tire Gauge

  1. Insert the gauge into the valve stem and press firmly.

  2. Remove the gauge and read the PSI on the circular dial-style readout.

How to Use a Digital Tire Gauge

  1. Make sure the batteries are working by turning the digital tire gauge on.

  2. Press the gauge into the valve stem.

  3. The PSI will be displayed in digital (numerical) format on the screen of the gauge.

If you’re a visual learner, make sure to check out the video below on how to use any of these tire gauges.

How to Check Tire Pressure and Inflate or Deflate Your Tires

Now that you know how to use a tire gauge, you can easily check your tire pressure. The next step is to inflate or deflate your tires to get the tire pressure to the proper PSI.

How to Inflate Your Tires

  1. To inflate your tires, you’ll first need an air compressor.

  2. Once you have the air compressor, attach the air nozzle to the valve stem.

  3. Hold down the handle or lever to put air into the tires.

  4. Check the tire pressure again.

  5. Repeat the process of putting air in the tires and checking the tire pressure until you’re at the desired PSI.

How to Deflate Your Tires

  1. Most tire gauges have a piece of metal or plastic that protrudes from the body of the gauge. This is to deflate your tires if they’re overinflated.

  2. To release air from your tires, simply push this piece into the middle of the valve stem.

  3. If done correctly, you should hear air hissing from the tires.

  4. Alternatively, you can use a flathead screwdriver to release air.

  5. Check the tire pressure.

  6. Repeat the process of deflating your tires and checking the tire pressure until you’re at the recommended PSI.

If you’re still unsure how to check tire pressure, refer to the video below for a visual learning experience.

How to Check Tire Pressure at a Gas Station

If you’re at a gas station, you may not have a tire gauge to check the pressure. But many gas station air pumps have a gauge attached to the air nozzle that will pop up to tell you the pressure. Keep in mind that your tires are probably “hot,” which means you’ve been driving on them. In this case, add 2-4 PSI to your tire pressure over the manufacturer’s suggested PSI.

How Often Should Tire Pressure Be Checked?

Generally, you should check your tire pressure once a month, as tires naturally lose about 1 PSI per month. However, cold weather may require you to check your tire pressure more regularly. Due to the cold, your tire pressure can drop 1 to 2 PSI for every 10-degree drop in temperature. 

When temperatures dip, be more diligent about checking your tires — perhaps biweekly or weekly in extreme cold. And don’t forget if you’re going on a road trip to check your tire pressure before you leave. This will ensure your tires are at the correct PSI and allow you to at least assess any problems that could potentially cut into your vacation time.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Mastering the tire gauge, checking the tire pressure, and finding the recommended tire pressure doesn’t take a genius. It just takes someone concerned about the well-being of their tires, vehicle, and passengers. So make sure to check yourself before you wreck yourself; it only takes a few minutes to ensure a lifetime of safe tire pressure.

People Also Ask

Now that you know the ins and outs of what your tire pressure should be and how to check it, you may start to feel the confidence coursing through your veins. But don’t let that turn into overconfidence. If you still have some concerns about tire pressure, look over these questions that people also ask.

How Do Tire Pressure Sensors Work?

Tire pressure sensors are a part put in all vehicles since 2007. Installed in each of your wheels, these sensors will illuminate a light on your dashboard when tire pressure reduces by 25% under the recommended tire pressure.

How to Reset a Tire Pressure Light?

Resetting a tire pressure light will differ for every vehicle. But in general, you need to check the PSI of each of your tires and fill them back up to the recommended PSI. Once you’ve done this, you might see that your tire pressure light is still on. To reset this, you’ll need to drive around for about two minutes at 20 mph or more. Then, the light should turn off.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Tire Pressure Sensor?

If you want to replace the factory tire pressure sensor in your tire pressure monitoring system, expect parts and labor to cost somewhere between $150 to $200. However, you can go a cheaper route by purchasing an aftermarket tire pressure sensor, which typically can cost $50 to $150 with the minimal technical knowledge needed for installation.

Why is My Tire Pressure Light On When My Tires Are Fine?

This could be one of two things. First, your tires may look fine, but did you actually check the tire pressure? Even when tires appear fully inflated on the eye test, they may actually be far from the recommended PSI. If your tire pressure is good on all four tires, you might have a bad tire pressure monitoring system sensor, which may need replacement.

Is Tire Pressure Higher When Hot?

For every 10 degrees jump in temperature from roughly room temperature (65 to 68 degrees), your tire pressure will go up 1 PSI.

How Low is Too Low For Tire Pressure?

Anything below the recommended tire pressure is too low. Furthermore, a tire with 20 PSI is technically flat, while recommended PSI for passenger vehicles is usually between 30 and 35 PSI.

Shawn

An ex-salesman of industrial equipment, Shawn used to drive nearly 60K miles a year just commuting to clients. He also has a little project Miata build going on the side. Safe to say, Shawn has slain a few tires in his days. He knows all about horrid road-noise, hydroplaning risks, and how much damage a bad alignment can do to your wallet. He enjoys helping us out and Chris always values his opinion when designing something new for the website.