How To Check Tire Pressure
Proper tire maintenance keeps you safe and your car running its best. One of the most important—and most often overlooked—regular maintenance you should be doing is checking the pressure of your tires regularly.
Car tires don't have to be punctured to leak air. And unlike your gasoline gauge, most cars don't alert you to check your tire pressure. This guide will guide you through how to properly check the pressure of your tires, and why you should keep it at the top of your routine.
Why Is Tire Pressure Important?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, underinflated tires have a higher risk of damage and failure. Not only will they wear out faster if underinflated, but faster deterioration can also lead to reduced control of your vehicle, tire blowouts, and crashes.
In addition to safety, there's also an environmental and economic benefit to keeping your tires full of air. Gas mileage is reduced by .2% for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch) your tire pressure drops below the recommended level. By keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, you could save yourself up to 3% in gas mileage, depending on your vehicle and driving habits.
Not only are you saving more money in reduced visits to the gas pump, but you're also ensuring our planet continues to grow and thrive for drivers of the future.
Open your car's glove compartment, pull out your owner's manual, and look up “tires." You should find details including front and rear “PSI" listings. PSI stands for pounds per square inch. This number is determined by your vehicle's manufacturer, and it's how you can tell if your tires are properly inflated.
PSI is based on your vehicle's:
- Total weight and size.
- Towing weight capability.
- Recommended tire size.
It's important to note that you should always use the pressure recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer to ensure optimal vehicle performance. This means you need to ensure that your tires are appropriate for your vehicle, and that the PSI recommended for the tire matches what your vehicle's manufacturer recommends for your car.
When to Check Tire Pressure
Even brand new tires with minimal wear and tear lose air constantly. Factors that can affect tire pressure include:
- Hot or cold temperatures.
- Driving distance.
- Towing or carrying added weight in your vehicle.
Most tire and vehicle manufacturers recommend checking your tire's pressure each month, as they can lose multiple pounds of pressure within that time from simple daily use.
In addition, it's important to check pressure as temperatures heat up. Tires react quickly to changes in temperature, and a rise in heat can cause rapid pressure loss.
Leaky valve systems, low leaking punctures, and other often hidden damage can also decrease air pressure—all the more reason to check your tires regularly.
How to Check Your Tire Pressure
Checking tire pressure is easy. You can do it right at home or at the gas station. Just be sure you check the pressure when your tires are cold, or haven't been driven in several hours. This will give you the most accurate reading.
The most important piece of equipment you need is an accurate tire pressure gauge. You can find battery-operated digital gauges, or more traditional stick-type gauge found at most gas stations. A good gauge shouldn't set you back more than $15—a worthwhile investment for a longer life for your tires.
Make sure you have your manufacturer's PSI handy when you're checking your tire pressure, and then follow these steps:
- Remove the end caps on your tires' air valves (don't lose them!).
- Place the tire pressure gauge into the valve stem and press down quickly to get a reading.
- Check the PSI reading. Compare that to your vehicle's recommended PSI.
- It can often be tricky to get the gauge to press fully onto the valve, resulting in an off reading—so take a few readings to eliminate any anomalies.
- If the reading is above the recommendation, push in the valve to let out some air (you might have to do this a few times to get it right).
- If the PSI reading is below the recommendation, fill your tire with air until you reach the ideal level (this may also take a few tries).
In all, checking the air pressure on your tires should take just a few minutes and is well worth the savings and protection you'll gain!
Signs You Need New Tires
By checking tire pressure once a month, you'll get a good idea how they are performing. If your tires are fairly new and continue to leak air, you should consult your dealer or mechanic. You may have a faulty valve or other damage that is difficult to detect... which could unfortunately result in the need to replace the tires completely. But with proactive maintenance, you could catch an issue before it becomes a problem, and just end up needing a small repair.
For more suggestions to keep your car running its best, check out our library of Vehicle Maintenance Tips.