You know that feeling when you’re cruising down the road and your steering wheel starts shaking? Not a good sign. Low tire pressure is dangerous and reduces your gas mileage, so keeping your tires properly inflated is important for safety and your wallet. The good news is, that putting air in your tires is something you can easily do yourself. No fancy tools or mechanical skills are required.
All you need is an air compressor, an air hose, and a tire pressure gauge which you can pick up at any auto parts store for under 20 bucks. Find the recommended PSI for your tires listed in the owner’s manual or on the placard located in your driver’s side door jamb or fuel door. Then screw the air hose onto the valve stem of your tire, check the pressure with the gauge, and fill ‘er up.
Repeat with the other three tires and you’ll be riding smoothly and saving money in no time. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Keeping your tires inflated is one of the easiest ways to extend the life of your tires and improve your vehicle’s performance.
Checking if Your Tires Need Air
If your tires are looking a little saggy or flat, it’s probably time to add some air. The first thing to do is check the air pressure in each tire. You’ll find the recommended PSI, or pounds per square inch, listed in the owner’s manual or printed on the tire placard located in the driver’s side door jamb or fuel door. For most passenger vehicles, it’s typically around 30 to 35 PSI.
To check the pressure, you’ll need an accurate tire pressure gage. The old-school stick gages can work in a pinch, but digital gages tend to be more precise. Place the gage over the valve stem—that’s the metal stem that sticks out of each wheel. Press down firmly so no air escapes. The gage will pop up and show you the current PSI reading. Compare that to the recommended pressure for your tires. If it’s below, you’ll need to add air.
Head to your local gas station or auto parts store and use their air compressor. It’s best to add air when the tires are cold for the most accurate reading. Remove the valve stem cap and firmly press the air chuck onto the stem. Hold it in place as you turn on the compressor. The gauge will show the PSI rising. Release the lever when it reaches the recommended pressure. Repeat with the other tires.
Replace the valve stem caps and you’re good to go. Properly inflated tires improve gas mileage, handling, and tread life. So keep your tires pumped up and you’ll keep rolling safely for miles to come. Regular tire pressure checks and maintenance are well worth the time and effort. Your vehicle and wallet will thank you!
Finding an Air Pump
So your tire pressure light came on, or maybe you just noticed your tires looking a little low. Either way, it’s time to put some air in those tires.
Finding an Air Pump
The first step is locating an air pump. You have a few options:
- Gas stations often have air pumps that are free to use. Just pull up to the air pump, grab the hose, and get pumping.
- Many auto parts stores like AutoZone or O’Reilly offer complimentary air pumps for customers.
- If it’s after hours, you may need to use an air pump at one of those self-service car washes. They typically charge around $1 to $2 in quarters to use the air pump for a few minutes.
- As a last resort, you can purchase a portable air compressor or tire inflator to keep in your trunk. They start around $30 to $50 and can be a lifesaver in an emergency.
Once you’ve found an air pump, park next to it with your tire’s air valve facing the pump. Turn off your vehicle’s engine. Locate the valve stem—the metal stem sticking out of each wheel rim. Unscrew the valve stem cap and press the air chuck (the end of the hose with the nozzle) onto the valve stem. Hold it firmly in place.
Check your owner’s manual or the sticker inside your driver’s side doorjamb for the proper PSI (pounds per square inch) for your tires. Then turn on the air pump using the switch or button and watch the gage to inflate your tires to the recommended pressure. Don’t over or under-inflate.
When done, turn off the pump and detach the air chuck. Put your valve stem caps back on, get in your vehicle, and drive to spread the air out in all the tires. Recheck the pressure with your own gauge to make sure they’re even. Now you can get back on the road with confidence and peace of mind.
Removing the Valve Stem Cap
Removing the valve stem cap is a crucial first step to putting air in your tires. This small piece of metal or plastic covers the valve stem—the narrow metal tube that sticks out from your wheel rim. Under that cap is where you’ll connect the air chuck from the gas station air pump.
To remove the cap, simply unscrew it by turning it counterclockwise with your fingers. Have a firm grip on the cap as you unscrew it since air will start escaping as soon as it’s loosened. Make sure not to bend or damage the valve stem as this can cause air leaks. Once the cap is off, you may hear the sound of air slowly seeping out. That’s normal, so don’t panic.
You’ll want to move quickly to attach the air chuck to the now-exposed valve stem. The air chuck, also known as an air filler or tire filler, is the device on the end of the air hose that connects to the valve stem. It has a hollow metal tube that fits snugly over the valve stem. Push down firmly on the air chuck to securely connect it to the valve stem and stop any air from escaping. Wiggle and twist it a bit to ensure an airtight seal.
At this point, you can turn on the air compressor to start refilling your tire. Keep an eye on the pressure gauge, usually located on the air chuck or pump, to monitor the PSI (pounds per square inch). Most vehicles require between 30 to 45 PSI, so check your owner’s manual for the recommendation specific to your tires. Once it reaches that level, turn off the pump.
Double-check that the air chuck is still securely attached, then remove it by pulling it straight off the valve stem. Quickly replace the valve stem cap by screwing it back on clockwise with your fingers. Tighten it firmly by hand to avoid stripping the cap or valve stem. Congrats, your tires now have the proper amount of air! Be sure to repeat these steps for any other tires that need air.
Attaching the Air Chuck
Attaching the air chuck to your tire valve stem is a crucial step and one you need to take care with. If done incorrectly, you could end up releasing the remaining air from your tire instead of adding more.
The air chuck is the device that attaches to your tire’s valve stem—that metal stem sticking out of your wheel—to add air. It has a gauge that shows the tire’s pressure as you fill it. To attach the air chuck, first remove the cap from the valve stem.
Next, place the air chuck over the end of the valve stem. You’ll have to press down firmly to get it started, as there’s already air pressure in the tire pushing back. Really put your weight into it, using both hands if needed, to create an airtight seal. If it’s not on tight enough, air will hiss out and the gage won’t provide an accurate reading.
Once the air chuck is securely attached, check the gauge to see what the current pressure is. If it’s below the recommended range listed in your owner’s manual or on the tire placard located in the driver’s side door jamb or fuel door, you’ll need to add air.
To add air, press and hold the lever or button on the air pump. Keep an eye on the gauge as the pressure builds to make sure you don’t overinflate the tire. Release the lever periodically to check the pressure, then continue filling until it’s in the recommended range.
When done, remove the air chuck by twisting it counterclockwise. Put the valve stem cap back on to protect the valve. Double-check all your tires to ensure even pressure on each one. Properly inflated tires improve gas mileage, handling, braking, and the life of the tires.
Driving with under-inflated tires is dangerous, so keep a close watch on your tire pressure and refill as needed. With the air chuck attached securely and the proper technique, you’ll be filling your tires in no time.
Reading the Tire Pressure Gage
Reading a tire pressure gauge is actually pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. The gauge itself will have a long hose attached to it that fits over your tire’s valve stem, which is the metal stem that sticks out of your wheel. When you place the hose over the valve stem, it allows air to flow between your tire and the gauge so you can get an accurate reading of the PSI or “pounds per square inch” of air pressure currently in your tire.
Most gages have a dial or digital display with a range of numbers to indicate the PSI. The ideal PSI levels for your specific tires will be listed in the owner’s manual for your vehicle, or you can check the sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or fuel door. A typical range is between 30 to 45 PSI for most passenger vehicles. If the gauge shows a reading lower than the recommended level, you’ll need to add air to your tire. Higher than the recommended level, and you’ll need to release some air.
To get an accurate reading, place the gauge over the valve stem and press down firmly so no air escapes. It may take some wiggling and adjusting to get it secured in place. Hold the gauge in place as you check the dial or digital display for the PSI reading. Make note of the reading for each tire and add or release air as needed at an air pump. Re-check each tire with the gauge to ensure you have the proper PSI in all four tires.
Proper tire pressure is important for safety, handling, and maximizing the life of your tires. Under-inflated tires reduce gas mileage, affect braking and handling, and wear out more quickly. Over-inflated tires also reduce tread life and make the ride bumpy and uncomfortable. Most tire shops and gas stations will check your tire pressure for free if you don’t have your own gauge. For the best results, check your tire pressure at least once a month or if you notice your vehicle pulling to one side or vibrating at high speeds.
Adding Air to the Tire
Now that you’ve gathered the necessary tools and checked your tire pressure, it’s time to actually put air in your tires. This is a straightforward process, but there are a few tips to keep in mind to do it properly.
Connecting the Air Compressor
The first step is connecting your air compressor hose to the valve stem on your tire. The valve stem is the metal stem that sticks out of the wheel—it’s what you normally attach the tire pressure gauge or cap to. Connect the hose end of the air compressor to the valve stem, making sure it’s fitted snugly so no air escapes. You may need to apply firm pressure to get it on.
Checking the Tire Pressure
Once the hose is connected, check the tire pressure reading on the air compressor gauge. This will tell you how much air is currently in the tire. Compare this to the recommended PSI listed in your owner’s manual or on the tire placard located in the driver’s side doorjamb or fuel door.
Adjusting the Air Pressure
If the pressure is too low, turn on the air compressor to inflate the tire. Press and hold the lever or button to add air, checking the pressure frequently with the gauge. Add air in short bursts, releasing the lever in between. It’s easier to add small amounts of air at a time rather than trying to get the exact pressure all at once.
When the tire reaches the recommended pressure, turn off the air compressor and disconnect the hose. Put the valve stem cap back on. Repeat the same steps for the remaining tires. Driving on under-inflated tires can reduce gas mileage and handling, and over-inflated tires can affect braking and increase wear, so proper inflation is important for safety and performance.
Checking and maintaining the right tire pressure helps ensure safe and efficient driving for you and your passengers. Keep an eye on your tire pressure and inflate as needed—your tires and wallet will thank you!
Holding the Chuck in Place
Once you’ve got the tire pressure gauge attached to the valve stem, the tricky part is holding it in place so air doesn’t escape while you inflate the tire. This step requires some dexterity, but with practice, you’ll get better at it.
To hold the chuck (another name for the pressure gauge) firmly on the valve stem, place one hand over the top of the gauge to press down with the heel of your hand. Use your other hand to grip the sides of the gage and push inward while also turning it slightly to the right or left. This helps form an airtight seal. Apply firm and steady pressure as you inflate the tire. If you feel air escaping, don’t panic – just remove the chuck, reposition your hands, and try again.
As you pump more air into the tire, the pressure reading on the gauge will increase. Keep inflating until it reaches the recommended PSI listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or on the placard located in the driver’s side door jamb or fuel door. For most passenger vehicles, the recommended pressure is between 30 to 35 PSI. Don’t rely on the max PSI printed on the tire itself.
Once the target pressure is reached, turn off the air compressor immediately. Firmly hold the chuck in place for 30 seconds as air pressure stabilizes. Then carefully remove the chuck from the valve stem. Replace the valve stem cap to keep dust and grime out of the tire.
Checking and maintaining proper tire pressure is the easiest thing you can do to maximize the life of your tires, ensure safe handling and braking, and increase your fuel efficiency. To find an air compressor, get a quality tire gauge, and make it a habit to check your tire pressure at least once a month. Your tires and wallet will thank you!
Rechecking the Tire Pressure
Now that you’ve checked and filled your tires to the proper pressure, it’s important to recheck them to ensure they stay inflated. Tire pressure naturally drops over time due to small punctures or the permeation of air molecules through the tire. For the best performance, handling, safety, and maximum tire life, check your tire pressure at least once a month.
Check When Tires Are Cold
The most accurate reading will be obtained when the tires are cold, meaning they haven’t been driven for at least 3 hours. As you drive, the air in the tires heats up and expands, increasing the pressure. So if you check them right after driving, the reading will be higher than the actual cold pressure. For the proper cold pressure for your specific tires, check the placard located on the driver’s side doorjamb or the owner’s manual.
Use a Quality Tire Gage
Invest in a high-quality dial or digital tire gauge to get precise readings. Press the gage firmly onto the valve stem to get a tight seal. Release the air pressure reading button or lever and check that the gauge returns to zero. If not, the gauge may need calibration or replacement.
Adjust as Needed
If the pressure in any tire is off by more than 3 PSI from the recommended cold pressure, adjust it using an air compressor or portable air tank. Be very careful to not overinflate the tires. After adjusting the pressure in one tire, recheck the levels in the other tires. Continue rechecking until you have the proper pressure in all four tires.
Driving on under-inflated tires reduces handling, braking, and fuel efficiency, and also wears out tires more rapidly. Over-inflated tires may burst, especially on hot days, and also reduce handling. Proper tire care is essential for safe driving and maximum tire life, so make checking your tire pressure a monthly habit. Staying on top of this simple maintenance task can save you money, improve safety, and help the environment.
Replacing the Valve Stem Cap
Replacing the valve stem cap on your tire is an important final step after adding air. The cap protects the valve stem from dirt and debris that could damage it or cause air leaks.
Locating the Valve Stem
The valve stem is the metal stem that sticks out of your wheel. It’s what you attached the air chuck to in order to inflate your tire. The cap for the valve stem will be a round plastic or metal piece that screws or snaps onto the end of the stem.
If your cap is missing or damaged, you’ll need to replace it. You can find replacement valve stem caps at most auto parts stores, service stations, or tire stores. Bring your vehicle information like the make, model, and tire size to ensure you get the right size cap. The caps typically only cost a dollar or two, so it’s a cheap but important part to replace.
Installing the New Cap
To install the new cap, simply screw it onto the threads at the end of the valve stem or snap it over the end of the stem, depending on what type you have. Screw-on caps should turn easily by hand. Press down firmly on snap-on caps to ensure they fully cover the end of the stem.
Double-check that the new cap is secure but still allows air to escape when you press down on the stem. If it’s too loose, it won’t protect properly. If it’s too tight, it could damage the stem. Make sure the cap is installed straight and level for the best fit.
Replacing your valve stem caps, especially after inflating your tires, helps ensure you have a safe, secure seal that maintains proper air pressure for safe driving and maximum tire life. It’s a tiny part that plays an important role, so don’t forget to replace it when needed!
So now you know the basics of how to properly inflate your tires. It may seem like a mundane task, but maintaining the right tire pressure is critical for safe driving and maximizing the life of your tires. Check your tire pressure at least once a month to make sure they’re inflated to the recommended PSI found in your owner’s manual or on the placard located in the driver’s side door jamb or fuel door.
Investing just a few minutes to check and adjust your tire pressure can save you money on gas, prevent uneven tread wear, and give you peace of mind that your vehicle is road-ready for any adventure. You’ve got this! Now go forth, be safe, save money, and enjoy the ride.