Your car's tires have a big job: They're responsible for keeping you safely connected to the road. They need to be properly maintained if you want them to perform effectively. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that proper tire pressure is the most important aspect to consider when maintaining your car's tires. So, how much air should you put in your car's tires, and how can you keep track of tire pressure? Let's take a closer look.
How Much Air Should I Put in My Tires?
When it comes to tire pressure, requirements vary depending on the vehicle you drive. If you want to find out how much air your car's tires need, the first place to check is the vehicle's owner's manual. Here you'll find a listing of the recommended air pressure, shown in pounds per square inch, or psi. You'll also find the correct air pressure for your car's tires listed on a sticker located on the lower part of the driver-side door jamb. For many passenger cars, the recommended air pressure is 32 psi to 35 psi when the tires are cold.
There is also a tire pressure number shown on the sidewall of the tire itself. Don't inflate your tires based on this pressure. The pressure listed on the tire is the maximum amount of air it can hold, not the recommended pressure for optimum performance.
Car Tire Psi: Winter vs. Summer
Are you driving on winter tires or summer/all-season tires? It may matter when it comes to air pressure. With several automakers, the recommended air pressure for winter tires is higher than the pressure that's advised for summer or all-season tires. This difference can range from 3-5 psi.
How To Keep Track of Your Car's Tire Pressure
One way to keep track of your car's tire pressure is via a tire pressure monitoring system. Several years back, a federal law was implemented that makes it mandatory for all new cars to come equipped with this system. This law applies to all vehicles that were produced after September of 2007.
A tire pressure monitoring system lets you know if your vehicle's tires are significantly underinflated, with tire pressure that falls below 25% of the manufacturer's recommended psi. This system is helpful for identifying severe underinflation. However, in many cases, tire pressure may be low enough to negatively impact safety and performance, yet not low enough to reach the threshold established by the pressure monitoring system. That's why it's a good idea to establish a maintenance schedule that includes manually checking the air pressure in your car's tires.
To manually check the air in your tires, you'll need to know how to use a tire gauge. A tire gauge is a small tool that allows you to quickly determine the air pressure of each of your car's tires. Here's some guidance on how to use a tire air pressure gauge:
- To get an accurate reading, start with cold tires, if possible. Tires warm up quickly when in motion. Tires are considered cold if the car has been driven for less than a mile, or if it's been parked for three hours or more.
- Locate the valve cap on your car's tire and unscrew it.
- Place the pressure gauge on the stem of the valve. You'll hear air hissing.
- Depress the gauge firmly until the hissing sound disappears. At this point, the gauge should provide you with a reading. With a standard gauge, the reading will be seen on a small bar with the measurement units etched into it. With a digital gauge, the reading will be displayed on a screen.
If the reading you get on your gauge shows there's less air in your tires than the automaker recommends, inflate the tires using an air pump.
Many air pumps have a built-in gauge that makes it easy for you to tell when you've hit the desired air pressure. Still, it's easy to overinflate when adding air to tires. If this happens, it's helpful to know how to let air out of the tires with a tire gauge. To do this, use the back end of the gauge to depress the metal pin in the center of the tire's valve stem. This will cause a small amount of air to be released from the tire.
How to Put Air in Tires Without a Gauge or Tire Pressure Monitoring System
What if you suspect the air in your car's tires is low but you don't have access to a gauge or tire pressure monitoring system? If this happens, take your car to a gas station. The pump at most gas stations has a built-in gauge you can use to check air pressure. You can also take your car to a tire shop. The professionals will check your tire pressure and provide your car with air for a small fee.
Where to Get Air for Tires - Locations Near Me
You can do an online search to find places near you that provide air for tires. At some places, the air is free; at others, you'll have to pay for the air you receive. Often, you'll be able to get air at a gas station. You can also go to a tire shop or an oil change location.
Tires that aren't inflated according to automaker specifications can create a safety hazard. They can also cause your car to be less fuel-efficient; additionally, improper inflation can shorten the life of your tires. By maintaining adequate air pressure in your tires, you'll be able to avoid these problems.