How to Check Tire Pressure and Inflate Tires
The need to check tire pressure and maintain proper tire inflation can’t be emphasized enough. It’s one of the least expensive preventive maintenance measures you can take to manage the total cost of vehicle ownership. Knowing how to check tire pressure and maintain the proper levels is a must for driver & passenger safety to prevent blow-outs or maneuverability problems while driving. It can also save money through better fuel economy, not to mention fewer tire replacements through even tread wear over the tire’s life. As a general rule, tires that are 10 psi under the manufacturer’s recommended pressure can decrease fuel economy by 3 percent and tire life by 45 percent.
Properly Check Tire Pressure
To properly check your vehicle’s tire pressure, you will need a quality tire pressure gauge and the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure for the tires on your vehicle. Tire gauges come in a variety of styles and can be found at most automotive parts stores. Investing in a high-quality gauge is essential for accurate readings, and will probably cost you $10-$15. The manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure is listed in the owner’s manual, or on a sticker on the driver’s side door, rear driver door, or door jamb. Note that there may be different pressure requirements for the front and back tires and that the recommended pressure will probably not match the pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire, which is the maximum inflation pressure.
It is recommended that you check your tire pressure when the tires are cold, preferably in the morning or before heading out on a trip. However, if you do decide to check the tire pressure when the tires are warm, i.e. after you have been driving for more than 15 miles or 15 minutes, then it is recommended that you add an additional 4-psi to compensate for the higher pressure condition. When measuring the pressure, press the tire gauge firmly against the valve stem and hold it for a second. If you hear any air leaking while holding the tire gauge in position, move the gauge around until it seals and the hissing stops. Failure to do so will result in an inaccurate reading. Be sure to record or keep track of which tires are below the recommended pressure settings.
Inflating Your Tires
If you use the air pump at a local gas station or convenience store, make sure it’s less than a mile away, and make sure you have your tire gauge. Don’t rely on the gauge attached to the air hose, as it is likely very inaccurate. As you fill each tire, check tire pressure occasionally using the tire gauge. Over pressurize the tires slightly, then bleed them back down to the appropriate pressure levels after all are filled by pressing lightly on each valve stem with the tire gauge to let air escape.
Check tire pressure at least once a month. Pick a date you will remember, like the first day of the month, the first Saturday, or payday, and be consistent about checking the pressure on that day. It is especially important to check your tire pressure around season changes. The rule of thumb is for every 10° Fahrenheit change in ambient air temperature, your tire’s inflation pressure will change by about 1 psi (up with higher temperatures and down with lower temperatures). By doing so, you will reduce the amount of fuel you use, maximize the life of your tires, and keep you and your passengers safe on the road.
Virginia Tire & Auto will gladly check your air pressure for free at any of our 14 convenient locations.