Your tires keep your car moving, and their condition can affect your overall safety and driving conditions. You might know intellectually you should check tire pressure, but did you know it’s recommended to do so once every month? It’s true. All the wear and tear on your tires can impact your tire pressure. If you don’t have the optimal tire pressure, it’s likely your tires are underinflated, which can lead to uneven tire wear patterns or a tire blowout, which can be dangerous. On top of that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), having properly inflated tires can save you up to 11 cents per gallon of gas. The agency also reports that only 19% of consumers have properly inflated tires. That’s why it’s important to check tire pressure as part of your regular car maintenance. Here’s how to check tire pressure and why it’s important.
Where to find the ideal tire pressure for your vehicle
Your car has an ideal tire pressure range. Tire pressure is measured as pounds per square inch (PSI) or kilopascals (kPA), explains NHTSA. This information can be found in your owner’s manual or driver’s side door.
America’s Tire notes that many passenger cars will have a tire pressure range of 30 to 35 PSI; however, some cars may deviate from that.
When in doubt, review your owner’s manual, which is your go-to guide on how to take care of your vehicle. You should always go with what’s listed in your manual and not necessarily what is listed on the tire, recommends the NHTSA.
How you can check your tire pressure
In order to check tire pressure, you need to have a tire pressure gauge on hand. You can typically find these at your local gas stations as well. But here’s why it might make sense to get a tire pressure gauge of your own.
The NHTSA recommends checking your tire pressure first thing in the morning when your tires are cold — at least three hours of being in rest mode and not driving. When you drive your car, your tires heat up, which can affect the tire pressure, and give you an inaccurate reading. So unless you live next door to a gas station, having your own tire pressure gauge can help.
Here’s how to check tire pressure:
Step 1: Review the ideal tire pressure listed in the owner’s manual of your car.
Step 2: Get a tire pressure gauge to accurately assess PSI.
Step 3: One by one, go to each tire, take off the cap and place the tire pressure gauge in the valve. There are manual and digital tire pressure gauges available. Press down the gauge long enough to hear a hissing sound resulting in a reading.
Step 4: Review the tire pressure readings for all tires and compare them to the ideal tire pressure listed in your car’s manual.
Step 5: If needed, take action and either add air or release air from tires (more on that soon)
Step 6: Make sure the tire pressure in all four tires is at the desired level.
Step 7: Schedule a tire pressure check for one month later, and repeat.
When your tire pressure is too low…
If your tire pressure is lower than what is recommended in your owner’s manual, you need to take action and fill up your tires. How much you fill up your tires will be the net missing amount.
In other words, take the recommended PSI and your current tire pressure measured in PSI, and that’s how much you need to fill up your tires. You can typically do this at your local gas station.
- Park your car close enough to reach your tires, take off the valve caps, and lock the air pump onto the tire.
- Turn on the pump or compressor and inflate your tire to the recommended PSI.
- Turn it off.
- Do this for all four tires and put caps back on.
- Review all tires and that your levels are set.
When your tire pressure is too high…
Your tire pressure can also be too high and be overinflated, which can also be dangerous. Overinflated tires can mean less traction on the road, more wear and tear, and can increase the likelihood of a tire blowout as well.
To get tires back to the appropriate pressure, the NHTSA states “If the tire pressure is too high in any of the tires, slowly release air by gently pressing on the tire valve stem with the edge of your tire gauge until you get to the correct pressure.”
How often should you check your tire pressure?
Your car carries a lot of weight and sometimes hits objects, curbs, or debris. That, plus the weather can impact your tire pressure.
To stay safe and be fuel-efficient, the NHTSA recommends you check tire pressure once a month. It’s best to check your tires before driving when they are considered cold. After driving, your tires can heat up and affect the accuracy of the reading.
So be sure to put “check tire pressure” in your digital calendar as a recurring event so you can keep up with proper car maintenance.
The bottom line
Your car tires are basically like a vital organ for your vehicle. You want to keep them in great shape for your safety, fuel efficiency, and driving conditions. Learning how to check tire pressure isn’t that hard, but it’s more important to remain consistent and check it once a month. Keeping up with regular car maintenance can be a good preventative measure for trouble down the line. As part of your car maintenance, you can also do a car insurance audit and make sure your coverage is the right fit for you. Not driving so much these days? You could score additional savings by making the switch to pay-per-mile car insurance. If you’re still paying for miles you aren’t driving, it’s time to rethink your auto insurance. Get a free quote with Metromile today.
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.