How to Properly Inflate Tires

Check your tire pressure regularly to ensure proper inflation. (Photo credit: State Farm)We’ll say it right now - nobody ever really wants to stop to put air in their tires. But, if you own or drive a vehicle, properly inflated and maintained tires are essential to your safety and the upkeep of your car or truck. 

Under-inflation is one of the leading causes of tire failure which, according to the NHTSA, accounts for about 9% of vehicle crashes. Under-inflation causes too much of the tire’s surface area to be in contact with the road, which can increase friction and can cause the tire to overheat. This combination of low pressure, increased contact with the road surface, and overheating can then lead to premature tire wear, tread separation, and blowouts. 

Below are a basic list of tools and instructions you’ll need to properly inflate your vehicle’s tires. 

Tools Required

  • Air compressor
  • Tire pressure gauge

Inflation Procedure

  1. Obtain a tire gauge. Tire gauges (stick, digital, and dial) can be found at any parts store and will cost generally between $5 and $15.
  2. Refer to your vehicle’s manual or the sticker placed on the driver side doorjamb to learn the recommended tire pressure.
    1. Make sure all the drivers in your house know to check the guidelines in the vehicle owner’s manual or tire sticker attached to the inside of their vehicle’s door to determine the correct tire and air pressure for their vehicles. New drivers in your household may not know that their vehicle’s optimal tire pressure is NOT the tire pressure listed on the white walls of their tires.
  3. Gain access to an air compressor. If you don’t have a personal air compressor, most gas stations host air pumps in their lots for public use. Sometimes they charge a small fee (typically under one dollar). Make sure you pull your vehicle close enough to the air pump that its hose can reach all four of your tires.
  4. Remove the tire’s valve stem cap (& place it in your pocket so it doesn’t get lost).
  5. Check the current pressure of your tires. If your gauge is reading lower than what your vehicle’s manual or doorjamb sticker recommends, add air. If it is above what is recommended, press the center pin of the valve stem down to bleed air from your tire.
    1. For an accurate read, make sure the car has been parked for three or more hours and the tires are cool before checking the tire pressure. Tires heat up as a vehicle is driven, which increases the air pressure and makes an accurate reading difficult.
    2. If you don’t have your own air pressure gauge, the handles of public air pumps often have gauges built into the bottom ends which pop out to read air pressure levels. However, as these built-in gauges don’t have the best track record for accuracy, use your own gauge if possible.
  6. Replace the valve stem cap once the tire pressure is reading the correct levels. 
    1. Be careful not to over inflate your tires. The maximum tire pressure for each tire is actually noted on the wall of that tire. Do not exceed this number. Over inflating tires can promote tire wear in the center of the tire.
  7. Repeat the process for each tire. 

Simple, right? Makes sure to keep up with your tire pressure. Typically, tires can lose up to a pound of air each month, so it’s recommended to check them frequently. Tire pressure also drops by about 1 pound per 10° of temperature.

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