Driving to your mechanic or a nearby garage for a tire checkup on a regular basis can be tedious. Despite this, you shouldn’t neglect to keep an eye on the PSI in your wheels.
Proper tire inflation can influence your vehicle’s safety and performance more than you might expect, so being able to check the air pressure in your tires is a good thing to know. As demonstrated below, it’s also a piece of cake when you know what you’re doing!
In this article, we’re going to detail everything there is to know about checking tire pressure, including how to identify underinflated tires or overinflated tires, how to get the correct PSI, and whether you should use an analog or digital tire gauge.
Skill Level: Beginner.
Time to Complete: Five to ten minutes.
- Tire gauge.
- A reliable air pump or compressor (most gas stations have one, or you can buy your own)
Check Regularly – Your tires can lose one to two PSI per month, so low pressure awaits if you leave it too long between checks.
Don’t Forget Your Spare! – When inflating your tires, be sure to check the spare too. You don’t want to find out it’s underinflated in an emergency.
Bear the Benefits in Mind – This is another chore most of us would prefer to skip, but it can improve handling, boost fuel economy, and make your tires last longer.
Why Should You Learn to Check Your Tire Pressure?
First of all, you’ll be saving yourself time and effort. This task takes approximately five minutes and you can do it from the comfort of your driveway rather than driving out to a gas station.
You can also put your knowledge to good use by helping others who aren’t ready to learn how to do this yet.
Also, if your dashboard is telling you there’s a pressure problem in your tires, you’ll need to immediately determine if there is an actual problem with the tires or if the low tire pressure light is on but the tires are fine, which will require a different course of action.
Another important aspect to consider is your safety and that of your car.
Driving with the wrong PSI in your wheels can be hazardous. You may also be inadvertently increasing your future expenses.
Proper inflation has these versatile benefits:
- Extended lifespan of tires.
- Better traction for improved stopping power when braking.
- Better handling.
- Improved fuel mileage.
First Things First: Purchase a Tire Pressure Gauge
A gauge should be a standard piece of equipment for any vehicle owner. This device will allow you to check your tire air pressure as often as you like.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind before you buy:
The Type of Gauge (Needle, Dial, Or Digital)
There are three varieties. Needle gauges are the most basic, resembling long sticks or pens with the display at the end.
Dial models are the most common types. The display looks like a clock face with PSI levels on it. A built-in needle will shift and settle to indicate internal pressure.
If you want something more, you can go for a digital gauge. They’re typically the most accurate, and you can read the figures off of a screen.
Quality and Durability
Whichever type you end up picking, you should make quality a priority. Cheaply-made tools won’t last for long, and the reading could be inaccurate.
Cost and User Friendliness
Digital and dial models are on the higher end of the price range. Needle gauges are cheap but can be hard to read due to the tiny display.
Both needle and dial types are self-sustaining, simple tools. Certain digital models need batteries to work, which means you have to be careful storing them.
You can check our guide here for a selection of our favorite tire pressure gauges.
How to Check Tire Pressure
Ready to check the air pressure? Stick to these simple instructions, and you’ll be done before you know it:
1. Find Out the Recommended PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) for Your Tires
You won’t get very far without this information. You’ll need to find the recommended tire pressure in pounds per square inch (PSI).
The vehicle owner’s manual will tell you the suggested PSI (a minimum and maximum tire pressure). However, it may only be relevant to the factory-fitted tires, and you might have changed brands since then.
You can also inspect several locations on or in your car for this figure. You’ll find a small label or sticker in one of these places:
- Inside the driver’s door jamb.
- Inside the glove box.
- The trunk.
- Inside the lid of your gas tank.
However, if you do not have the exact same tires fitted at manufacture, then you must ignore the advice in your manual and other places, and inspect the sidewall of the tire for this information instead.
2. Keep Your Hands Clean
Wearing gloves to protect your hands is advisable. Your wheels take on all the dirt and debris of the road.
3. Tires Must Be Cold
Ensure all four tires are cold. You want to avoid a false reading.
4. Remove Valve Stem Cap
Unscrew the valve cap from each tire’s valve stem. You’ll spot it somewhere on the outer rim of the tire.
Put it in your pocket or a secure place close by. You don’t want to lose it.
5. Insert Tire Pressure Gauge
Insert your pressure gauge into the valve stem. Do this swiftly and hold it steady so you get an accurate reading.
A hissing noise indicates air escaping and that the gauge isn’t positioned correctly. Adjust as needed until you don’t hear any air escaping.
6. Read Gauge
Read the PSI on the gauge and remember it.
7. Add or Remove Air as Needed
If you don’t have an air compressor, drive to your local garage or gas station to inflate your tires with the air hose. For those of you who have one at home, add air as needed.
Check your gauge every five to ten seconds. If you’ve gone above the recommended PSI, let some air out until the inflation pressure falls back to where you need it.
8. Replace the Caps
When finished, don’t forget to replace the valve caps on every one of your tires.
Tips for Checking Your Tire Pressure
We have a few tips to share with you. Hopefully, these suggestions will also clarify a few questions you may have had:
What Correct Inflation Looks Like
Optimal inflation translates into even pressure in both front and rear tires. All the treads should have contact with the road for good traction and control.
Cracks around the edges, sagging, or uneven tire wear can signal poor inflation. This could mean either not enough air or too much of it, and you want to avoid both.
Don’t Check Hot Tires
You have to wait until all four tires are fully cooled down. As you drive around, the air inside will heat up and expand.
This can give you a faulty reading and you may think you have optimal inflation when you don’t.
Recommended PSI or Kpa on Your Tires
As mentioned above, the best place to get the correct tire pressure is from the wall of the tire itself. In fact, the wall of every tire has lots of helpful facts on it. You can learn the date of manufacture, the type, and more.
The string of digits (or DOT number) is what we’re interested in though, as it tells you the minimum and maximum PSI or kPA (kilopascal).
Why not use the max as your recommended pressure? Well, this is the maximum quantity of air the unit can hold safely. The figure for normal vehicle operation will usually be lower.
What Are Your Regular Driving Conditions?
Those of you with specialty tires (e.g., high-performance sports models) may require a specific PSI. The one suggested by your manufacturer may not be enough.
Transporting heavy loads, sports driving, or towing trailers is hard work. This might necessitate a higher PSI than usual to compensate for the additional strain.
Remember Your Spare
Your spare can be a lifesaver in an emergency. You don’t want to be stuck with a flat tire and discover that your spare is also deflated.
Check it every so often. You don’t have to do this every time you inspect the pressure in your tires, but don’t forget it entirely.
Also, read this guide we put together to know how long you can drive on a spare tire safely.
How Often Should you Check Your Tire’s Air Pressure?
You’ll lose approximately one to two PSI per tire per month. This may be higher or lower based on your driving conditions and vehicle.
Aim to get your gauge out once a month. Think of all the advantages of correct inflation if you need some motivation.
Now that you’ve learned how to check tire pressure, you can rest easy, knowing you’ll be safer on the road and getting better fuel economy, as long as you adhere to a monthly inspection.
Do you have any questions, suggestions, or stories for us? Please leave us a comment below. We’ll make sure to answer each one of you!