In a perfect world, your tires would stay at the proper pressure (pounds per square inch) all the time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
When your tires increase or decrease in temperature due to driving or weather changes, the pressure changes. And when tire pressure changes, you risk a lack of stability and handling, as well as your safety.
Learn how and when to put air in your tires to avoid any dangerous driving situations.
How to Put Air in Your Tires
Putting air in your tires seems like a part of Car Ownership 101. But there’s more to it than that. Knowing when your tires are overinflated or underinflated and how much air to put in your tires are equally as important as knowing how to put air in your tires. So if you’re not sure how or when to inflate your tires, follow these simple steps.
1. Know When to Put Air in Your Tires
Before you attempt to put air in your tires, you should understand why tires become overinflated or underinflated. Every set of tires has a proper pressure called PSI. This is determined not only by the tire manufacturer but also the automaker. Generally, pressure for passenger vehicles is about 30 to 35 PSI.
But this can change, most commonly due to weather. For every 10 degrees the temperature drops, your tire pressure will lose 1 to 2 PSI. Conversely, hot weather may also increase tire pressure. You may also have other issues such as a small leak around your valve stem or between the tire and the wheel. These can all contribute to underinflated and overinflated tires.
One upside is that if you have a car made after Sept. 1, 2007, your car comes equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system or TPMS. This is a dashboard signal that lights up orange when your tire needs air. You may recognize it as a cross-section of a tire with an exclamation point in it. When you see this, don’t ignore it.
2. Know How Much Tire Pressure You Need
Again, before you fill your tires with air, you need to know just how much tire pressure (PSI) your tires need. To determine this:
- Check the owner’s manual of your vehicle
- Find the tire information sticker located on the driver’s side door frame when you open the door
3. Check Your Tire Pressure
Now that you know when to put air in your tires and how much, the first physical step in the process is to check the tire pressure.
Remove the valve stem cap on the tire and attach a tire gauge. Tire gauges come in both the old-school pencil tire gauge, as well as digital formats.
Some newer air compressors at the gas station may have the PSI that shows up when you put the air nozzle on the tire, but these are rare. If you don’t have one handy, you can usually ask a gas station attendant to borrow one.
4. Put Air in the Tire
Now that you’ve determined the PSI of your tire, it’s time to finally put air in the tires. To complete this task, you’ll need an air compressor. Home air compressors are readily available at auto parts stores, or you can go to the gas station with a handful of quarters (sometimes the air is free).
Since you already have the valve stem cap removed, you can simply put the air nozzle on the valve stem and hold down the handle to add air. If the air compressor station doesn’t have a PSI indicator, you’re going to have to go by trial and error. Just put air in the tire, remove the air nozzle, then check your tire pressure. Repeat until you have the correct air pressure.
Note: Some vehicles built-in 2018 or later now come equipped with tire fill alert. This handy feature lets you know you’ve filled the tire to the correct pressure by flashing the warning lights or headlights of the vehicle. Certain systems may also honk the horn to signal you.
5. Recheck the Air Pressure and Deflate as Necessary
After you’ve put air in the tire, always check and double-check the PSI so it’s at the correct level. If you overinflate, don’t stress. The easiest way to deflate your tire in slight intervals is to use the back end of your tire gauge. More modern gauges also have a deflation feature. If that doesn’t work, you can also use a flathead screwdriver to push in on the valve stem. Just make sure not to apply too much pressure.
Don’t Blow Hot Air; Learn How to Put Air in Your Tires
Learning how to put air in your tires isn’t rocket science, but it does require a proactive approach on your part. Therefore, you should always keep a watchful eye on your tire pressure. By checking your tire pressure once a month and more often during extreme cold or hot weather, you can ensure the longevity of your tires and a smooth ride every time you get behind the wheel.
People Also Ask
Once you get the hang of it, putting air in your tires becomes as elementary as driving itself. However, you may have some more involved questions or troubleshooting issues to sort out from time to time. So to fill your tires easily and solve some common issues, check out some of these questions that people also ask.
What is the Average Time to Complete This?
This question has many variables. If you’re diligent about checking tire pressure, this could take as little as a minute per tire. But if you have to do a bit of trial and error and haven’t filled your tires recently, you can reasonably expect it to take 20 minutes.
How Hard Is It to Put Air in Tires?
Although there’s a slight learning curve, putting air in your tires is a simple job that anyone can do after a bit of practice.
How Do I Know If I Put Enough Air In My Tires?
Check your owner’s manual or the sticker inside the driver’s side door to determine how much PSI each tire requires. Then inflate or deflate the tires as necessary. Check the PSI with a tire gauge to finalize the process.
Why Won't My Tires Take Air?
Reasons why your tire won’t take air vary, so you may have to investigate. Sometimes the air nozzle is faulty, or equally as common, your valve stem is clogged or needs replacement.
What Happens If Your Tire Pressure is Too High?
If your tire pressure is too high, your tires are overinflated. This creates a situation where only the middle part of the tire touches the road, lowering the handling of the vehicle. In some cases of extreme over inflation, the tire becomes prone to blowouts.
Does the Cold Make Your Tire Pressure Low?
Yes, for every 10-degree drop in the outside temperature, your tire pressure goes down 1 to 2 PSI. However, driving creates heat through friction, which may offset this pressure loss as long as the cold isn’t too extreme.
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