How to Check Tire Air Pressure – How Often, and Why it’s Important

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.

Correct inflation can influence your vehicle’s safety and performance more than you might expect, so knowing how to check your tire air pressure is an important skill to have.

If you’ve ever seen someone do this, you’ll know it’s a straightforward task.

You won’t need fancy, specialized equipment. Your level of expertise doesn’t matter either—automotive fluency isn’t required. All you’ll need is a good attitude and the ability to follow simple instructions.

A mans hand pressing a tire pressure gauge onto a car tire

In this article, we’re going to detail everything there is to know on how to check tire pressure. You’ll be accompanied every step of the way by our explicit instructions.

We’ve also included tips to keep in mind so you can do a productive and effective job. Even if the chore is simple, it isn’t an excuse to be careless. You’ll also understand why this is a beneficial skill to have and how often to inspect your pressure.

Skill Level: Beginner.

Time to Complete: Five to ten minutes.

Tools Needed:

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 to complete. You can do it from the comfort of your driveway rather than driving out to a garage, and you won’t have to rely on anyone else but yourself.

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 check this right away to 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 needs a different course of action.

Those are just a few motivating factors to think about. 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 stronger stopping power when you brake.
  • Increased handling, which means decreased chances of getting into an accident.
  • A car that’s easier to control and handle.
  • Improved fuel mileage.

Find Out the Recommended Pressure 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. 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:

  • Driver’s side door jamb.
  • Inside the glove box.
  • The trunk.
  • Inside the lid of your gas tank.

However, if you have changed tires since buying the car from new (or more importantly 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.

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 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 in your selection. Cheaply made tools won’t last for long, and the rating 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 the best tire pressure gauges on the market.

Tips for Checking 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. All the treads should have contact with

the road for good traction and control.

Cracks around the edges, sagging, or unevenly worn treads can signal poor inflation. This could mean either not enough air or too much of it—both are bad.

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 fate of manufacture, the type, and more.

The string of digits (or DOT number) is what we’re interested though, ad 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 life-saver 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 to Check Tire Pressure

Ready to check the air pressure? Stick to these simple instructions, and you’ll be done before you know it:

Keep Your Hands Clean

Wearing gloves to protect your hands is advisable. Your wheels take on all the dirt and debris of the road.

Tires Must Be Cold

Ensure all four tires are cold. You want to avoid a false reading.

Remove Valve Stem Cap

Unscrew the valve stem cap. 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.

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.

Read Gauge

Read the PSI on the gauge and remember it.

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. 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 pressure falls back to where you need it.

Don’t Forget Your Spare!

Check your spare at the same time. Might as well do this while you have your gloves on and gauge out.

Don’t Forget to Replace the Caps

When finished, don’t forget to replace the valve caps on every one of your tires, they help to protect them.

How Often to Check Tire 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.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned how to check tire pressure, you can rest easy you’ll be safer on the road and getting better fuel economy, as long as you adhere to a monthly inspection.

This beginner task could lead to you doing bigger and more complex jobs on your car. Even your favorite mechanic had to start somewhere—no one is born an expert. If you get the bug, check out the rest of the guides on our site!

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!

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From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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