How to fill your tires with air
A companion to “How to check your tire pressure”
How to fill your tires with air—techniques for reaching the recommended tire pressure and reducing tire wear.
Milk & cookies. Pen & ink. Table & chair. Some things just naturally go together—like checking the air in your tires and filling them to the recommended tire pressure. There’s a good reason for doing this. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, driving on underinflated tires can not only cause unsafe handling problems, but also contribute to tire wear and reduced gas mileage.1
What happens when you drive on underinflated tires?
Tire pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). The recommended tire pressure or psi specified by your vehicle’s manufacturer is there to ensure that you get optimum performance every time you drive. This includes optimum tire wear and comfort.
Granted, underinflating your tires to make them softer can result in a smoother ride and a larger contact patch (area) with the road surface. But not without some tradeoffs.
When an underinflated tire (even by as little as 6 psi) hits a pothole, it increases the possibility of damaging it. With decreased tire pressure, the center of the tire’s tread bows in slightly, causing the tire to ride on its outer edges. The result is excessive wear on the tire’s inner and outer shoulders. In addition, the softer sidewall of an underinflated tire can exaggerate the sway your vehicle experiences when cornering, and may cause a top-heavy vehicle to roll over.2
Tip: Make it a habit to check your tire pressure once a month.
Position your car next to the air pump so that the air hose will reach all four tires
Unscrew the valve stem cap of the first tire and put it where it won’t get lost—like in your pocket
Use your tire pressure gauge to check the psi of the tire.
Place the air hose nozzle over the valve stem as you did with the tire gauge and add air in short bursts until you reach your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure. Follow the tire pressure chart affixed to your vehicle’s inside doorpost or inside the glove box. As a rule of thumb, a tire will inflate by one pound per square inch every second and a half.
Some vehicles require all four tires inflated to the same psi. Others require a differential between the front and rear.
Check your tire pressure with your gauge to make sure it's at the recommended psi. If too low, continue to add air in short bursts and recheck.
If you add too much air, let some out by pressing the pin in the center of the tire valve with the back of the air hose nozzle or your tire gauge.
Generally, the tire will let out approximately one psi for every three seconds the pin is depressed.
Replace the cap on the valve stem and move on to the next tire.
Tip: Driving heats up your tires, which increases the psi. It’s best to check them in the morning while they are still relatively cold. You can also check them after your car has been sitting for a few hours or driven for just a few miles.
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