How To Check Tire Pressure
First of all, let’s talk about why you need to check the air pressure in your tires.
Too low tire pressure
- can create uneven wear on the tread
- uneven tread will ultimately lead to buying replacement tires sooner than you’d need to
- can cause poor handling due to flexing of sidewalls in the tire
- can lead to disintegration of the tire, even to the point of explosion
Too high tire pressure;
- results in more wear in the center of the tire
- reduced road contact
It is recommended that you check tire pressures when the tires are cold. Gas (air) expands when hot and contracts when cold, so when the temperatures drop in the fall/winter tire pressures will naturally drop, because cold air is less dense. If you have to drive to a gas station to put air in your tires, check the pressure before you leave. Highway driving will warm the tires up. The best time to check is first thing in the morning outside as will be a good temperature before you drive, before temperatures increase and before the sun comes out also heating up the tire.
Tire pressure is measured in psi (pounds per square inch). A general rule of thumb is that for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in temperature, air pressure will change by 1 psi. This means that in Wyoming, the pressure in the tire could change by 5psi in a day! If your manufacturer recommended rating is 30psi, but you check you tire and its 26psi, you need to add air to make it 30psi.
How to check and add/remove air
- Make sure you have a dependable trustworthy gauge
- Remove dust cap a.k.a. valve stem cap (usually black plastic)
- Place your gauge on the valve stem (you may have to push hard)
- when you hear the hissing noise, that is your air in your tire. Check your gauge and take the reading
- If you are not near an air pump station, replace cap, check all tires and note the pressures down for each wheel
- If you are at an air pump station, place the pump nozzle onto the valve stem just like you did for the gauge.
- Press firmly and evenly so you don’t hear a loud hissing noise (unless you are removing air)
- Follow the directions on the pump to add air, as there are different types of pumps. Some you may have to push a button on the pump stand, push a lever on the hose or some not at all. They might just start the air when you insert coins.
- Hold the hose on there until desired pressure is reached. This could take several minutes depending on how much you need to add.
- Repeat for all 4 tires and its not a bad idea to also check the spare whilst your there.
TPMS is a tire pressure monitoring system that most modern vehicles have. This means you don’t necessarily have to check your tire manually. There are sensors on the wheels which relay the tire pressure information to a display in your vehicle. Usually on the dash where your electronic display is. You may have to scroll through the menu on your vehicle to do this. However, if there is an issue with tire pressure (ie. it goes above or below recommendations) an alert will pop up on your dash. The warning light for this is round (ish), yellow with an exclamation mark in the middle. This may also indicate a flat tire.
Do you have any other tips/advice for checking tire pressure?
Lauren has been working in the automotive industry both in the U.K and in the U.S. for over 10 years. A car geek, photographer, big game chaser and bagpipe player, powered by coffee. Send your questions to: