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Home » Auto Ownership, Videos

How to Check Tire Pressure & Inflate your Tires

Last updated by on 10 Comments

Tire Inflation: A Matter of Safety & Cost Savings

Tires rank right up there with brakes, seatbelts, and airbags when it comes to vehicle safety. You wouldn’t want any of the other three to be performing at sub-optimal levels, so why would you expect any less from your tires? When one or more of your tires is not inflated properly, it can lead to a few big potentially hazardous situations that put you and your loved ones safety at risk:

  • Under-inflated tires experience added friction, which means added heat, and failure risk.
  • Under-inflated tires can lead to an uneven driving experience, and potentially lead to other vehicle damage.
  • If your tire is losing air pressure more quickly than normal, it can indicate a bigger problem, such as a nail or screw puncture or rim leak.

Fuel Efficiency & Other Cost Savings from Proper Tire Inflation

tire pressureIf safety isn’t a big enough concern, perhaps money-loss will be. Low tire pressure can be costly. The government estimates that under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. It’s not uncommon to be 10 psi below spec, if you’re not careful, which would waste 3 percent more fuel and result in significantly higher tire wear.

  • Under-inflated tires can wear irregularly, leading to the need to replace one or more before the others. And you should always replace all four at once so that tread is even. And that’s not cheap
  • Under-inflated tires result in increased friction, overheating, and wear – and a shorter tire life. More frequent tire replacement = $.
  • Under-inflated tires result in increased friction, leading to less fuel efficiency than properly inflated tires.

Learning how to change your car’s air filter can also have positive fuel efficiency results.

What Should my Tire Pressure Be?

The first step is knowing what your tire pressure should be. You can find out what your vehicle’s tire pressure should be by looking in your vehicle owner’s manual or on the little sticker on the inside of your driver’s side car door for the recommended psi.

How do I Check my Tire Pressure?

This is beautifully simple and cheap. The only tricky part is doing it at the right time. To get the most relevant tire pressure, you need to check when the tires are cool, just before you head out for the day, or hours after your vehicle has been idle. Tires that have been used recently will have a higher pressure due to the heat from use.

  1. Get a cheap tire pressure gauge from any local auto parts store or hardware store. EVERYONE who owns a vehicle should have one.
  2. Screw the cap off of your tire.
  3. Apply the tire pressure gauge to get the tire pressure.
  4. All four tires should be at the recommended tire pressure level and at an even pressure.

How to Inflate your Car Tires

  1. You need air. I always go to a gas station or tire shop that has free air. Some will charge you for air (which is ridiculous). If they do, go elsewhere.
  2. Inflate your tires to the recommended levels. I always go 2-3 PSI over because I have driven to fill the tires and they are hot from use.
  3. If you go too much over, deflate the tires by tilting the valve stem until you hear the sound of air escaping the tire.

Check Tire Pressure Video

For those who like visual examples, here’s a simple video from Edmunds.com on how to do what I’ve described.

Getting in the Habit of Checking your Tire Pressure

This is probably the hardest part of keeping your tires properly inflated. I always visually look over my tires when filling up my gas tank. It gets me in the habit of checking, plus I’m right at a station with air hopefully, so I can fill up if need be. I’d also recommend throwing it on your calendar to check once a month when the tires are cool.

Tire Pressure Discussion:

  • How often do you check your tire pressure?
  • What do you do to remind yourself to check tire pressure?
  • Do you own a tire pressure gauge? Digital or old fashion?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


10 Comments »
  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    I love my mechanic since they check my tire pressure and fill them up as necessary during every oil change (3k-6k miles). I should buy my own guage…

  • Neil says:

    Hi

    You can tell if incorrect inflation is causing increased tyre wear. If the tyres are underinflated they will tentd to wear more on the edges, if overinflated in the center.

    My Dad gave me a very handy tyre inflator that plugs into the cigarette lighter. You just need to set it to the required pressure and set it going.

  • daddy paul says:

    I ran into an engineer from one of the big three who keeps his at 45 lbs. He claims 2% better gas mileage.
    I do not agree with Obama that filling your tires is as good as drilling in Alaska but it is the right thing to do.

  • Paul says:

    @budgeting in the small stuff – yes you should! tire pressure should be checked on a weekly basis. Every 10 degrees in temperature change results in a 1 PSI change in your tire. Unlike oil changes which are typically OVER done, this one is under done.

    @daddypaul – you may get better gas mileage by over inflating but you will wear the tire prematurely. Your savings to your wallet and environment will be offset by losing a few thousand miles on your tires. Let me guess, this engineer worked for Chrysler/Dodge? ;)(kidding of course).

    I check my tires, weekly, with a high quality dial gauge. Cheap and “stick” gauges can be off by 2 -3 psi easily. Digitals are good too, but are overkill in most situations. I also picked up a min pump for about 15 bucks online that plugs into the 12v outlet. I can do it wherever I am and don’t have to shell out quarters.

    Tire selection is an important part of this as well – a high quality tire can have a big impact.
    1) they will be cheaper over time
    2) they are safer
    3) and if it is your “thing” you can get low rolling resistance tires. It always makes me laugh to see a hybrid on normal tires, the low rolling resistance tires are a HUGE part of why they get better gas mileage. A Civic on low rolling resistance tires will compete with a hybrid, easily.

    Tires are the MOST important safety device on your vehicle. A weekly check of their pressure and condition can save you many headaches and heartaches in the long run. Cheap are cheap for a reason, this is one of the places not to skimp. That said, there are plenty of extraordinarily competitively priced tires that are of great quality.

  • mike says:

    “I love my mechanic since they check my tire pressure and fill them up as necessary during every oil change (3k-6k miles). I should buy my own guage…”

    Thank you, Budgeting In The Fun Stuff, you have proven one of my points to the benefits of nitrogen tire inflation.

    I’m going to guess you’re the average happy motorist who drives an average of 15,000 miles per year according to the feds which is 1250 miles per month according to my calculator making your tire inflation maintenance occurences every 2.4 months to 4.8 months. According to studies, between those all important tire pressure checks, you could have lost a minimum of 2.4 psi to 4.8 psi just through the known 1 to 2 psi per month of permeation of air through the tires which means, according to G.E.’s informative article, (cutting to the chase) you are consuming excess fuel and increasing tire wear unnecessarily. Considering what all scientists know that air pressure changes one pound per each ten degrees of temp change, and considering possibly season changes have occurred between your oil change, you could be wasting even more fuel and increasing unnecessarily your tire wear. That is if, say, you went from an August 1st oil change to an October 31st oil change. The daytime high where I am went from around 90 to around 60 in that time. Three more psi lost with my conservative 2.4 that’s -5.4 psi by the time the pressures are adjusted. I wouldn’t call you an “average Joe” but that is what the “average Joe” is doing these days. Having somebody else perform the monthly checks, as suggested in every North American auto manual, at oil change which is not monthly.

    Also, I don’t know what kind of car you drive but many today have recommended oil change intervals well beyond three months or 3,000 miles. Actually, some are beyond 6,000 miles. The GM auto manual I have doens’t have a mileage interval. It tells me, basically, that when the light on the dash comes on, get the oil changed. If I haven’t seen the light in a year, get the oil changed.

    No wonder we consume so much oil. It’s because we waste so much oil.

    Here’s a nugget:

    “The Department of Energy’s designated economist on this issue indicated that, of the 130 billion gallons of fuel that the Transportation Research Board (TRB) estimated were used in passenger cars and light trucks in 2005, about 1.2 BILLION GALLONS WERE WASTED as a result of driving on underinflated tires.”

    The link to the 19 page pdf article is:

    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07246r.pdf

    1.2 billon gallons isn’t just gasolne. It is also counting in petroleum used in manufacturing tires, some of which are replacing prematurely worn tires.

    There are solutions. There are convenient ways to doing the all important monthly tire pressure checks. I am very much involved in selling nitrogen Tire Inflation Maintenance products. Yes, I make part of my living doing so. No, Paul, it is not for Nitrofill but another brand of that product provider. You can put all of those companies, including eliminating me from making part of my living selling the products, when you can convince the owners of the estimated 254.4 million registered passenger vehicles (notice trailor type registrations were not included such as r.v.’s, boat and utility type trailers also bleeding air at the rate of 1 to 2 pounds per month)to do the one thing every owners manual in North America says to do: Check and adjust the tire pressure.

    In kind

  • mike says:

    G.E. says, “I always visually look over my tires when filling up my gas tank.”

    Back in the olden days this would generally be okay as softer and more plyable tires would show themselves visually to be underinflated with just a small pressure loss. However, today’s tires are much more rigid and stiff. Especially with run flats, high performance and low profile tires. These could be better than ten perecent sometimes upwards of 30 percent low on inflation pressure before they really show the effect. And, frankly, if you see odd wear patterns, it’s kind of alreday too late to make monthly checks a priority. Although a pressure gauge has always been the best instrument for determining tire pressures, it is much more important today than relying on “visual inspection.”

    Amazing how some of the simplest of things to do in vehicle preventative maintenance has become such an inconvenience.

  • The Waz says:

    Gee. NOWHERE can one find recommended tire pressure for an 88 Olds Cutlass Ciera. I’ve tried 2 1/2 hours worth of browsing.

  • Paul says:

    @The Waz – I *believe* it is 35 PSI but it should be listed on a sticker inside one of the door jams (typically driver’s).

  • Ed says:

    You don’t actually say HOW to inflate the tires. Where do I find the little nozzle? I don’t learn well from video, and finding a time/place where I can turn on the sound of my computer and watch a video is difficult, so the youtube video is useless to me.

  • mike sanchez says:

    my tires are inflated to 33 lbs but but the lo pressure lite stays on whatcan I do

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