How to Check Your Car's Tire Pressure

When was the last time you checked your vehicle’s tire pressure? It might be time to take a look. Tire pressure determines wear on the tires, so keeping the proper tire pressure can help your tires last longer, saving you money. You’ll also get better gas mileage.

Driving on tires with low air pressure will wear out the tread on the outside of the tire, causing more friction between the tire and the road and thus making the vehicle work harder. This is when fuel economy may decrease. The lower the tire, the more damage is done, and the lower the fuel economy.

Your Vehicle’s Ideal Tire Pressure

If you use your vehicle often, check the tire pressure once a month. If your vehicle has been sitting for an extended period of time, check the tire pressure before driving, as tires may lose pressure if unused. You’ll also want to check the tire pressure before going on a long trip.

Although we often rely on our car’s warning lights, be aware that a light will only come on if you have a tire pressure warning system on your vehicle. Your safest bet might be checking your tires manually and not relying on your vehicle to indicate a problem. Use a gauge, as the tire’s appearance might not change with a drop in pressure.

The prescribed tire pressure can be found in two places: on the driver’s side door and in the owner’s manual. Tire pressure is marked in pounds per square inch (psi). A typical 14-inch or 15-inch passenger car tire needs 34 psi, unless the tire is a low-profile or specialty tire. Truck tires vary and may call for as much as 45 psi.

How Do I Check Tire Pressure?

Once you find the proper tire pressure on the vehicle’s door, unscrew the valve caps on each tire. Press a pressure gauge onto the valve stem and hold it on tightly. This instrument will indicate the current pressure in the tires. If you have low tire pressure, air the tire up as soon as possible.

Air Pumps for your Tires

You can find air pumps at most gas stations, but have a few quarters ready. While some air pumps are free, others may charge up to a dollar. You can also buy a small electric air pump to keep in the trunk. Some air pumps run on 110 volts only, but you may be able to find an air pump that works on your vehicle’s cigarette lighter.

When filling your tires, press the air hose onto the valve. Listen for the hiss of air going into the tire. If the air hose has a built-in gauge, release the pressure until the gauge pops out. If you don’t have enough air, press the hose onto the valve stem again.

Keep in mind that if you don’t put enough pressure on the air hose, you will let the air out of your tire. Thus, if you find you have too much air – also a bad thing – you can let some of the pressure out of the tires.

For more information on taking care of your car, visit our Car Care Guide.

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