Checking your tire pressure at least once per month is critical for a number of reasons, safety being the biggest. Remember, your tires are the only thing that stand between your car and the road hurtling past underneath. If any one of them gives, you could be in for a world of hurt – or a long walk home if you don’t have roadside assistance and don’t know how to change a tire. Another reason is fuel efficiency. When tires are low on air, they cause greater drag and make your car work harder. The good news is, checking your tire pressure is simple and doesn’t even require any car tech savvy. Here’s how.
Get yourself a tire pressure gauge. These can be picked up at any auto parts store and only cost a few dollars. For about $15 you can get yourself a digital pressure gauge that may be easier to read, but the only drawback is that it’ll require you to keep a spare set of batteries on hand. With a no-frills tire pressure gauge, you can check your tire pressure any time.
Locate your tire’s valve stems. If your vehicle has fancy after market hubcaps, you may have to remove the hub caps to access your tire’s valve stems. Once you do, unscrew the cap (doing so won’t cause the air to escape) and put them in a safe place so you don’t lose them.
Insert the tip of the tire pressure gauge firmly into the tire’s valve stem. If you’re using one of those aforementioned no-frills tire gauges, the tip of the gauge will pop up and give you a reading on the amount of pressure (in PSI, or pounds per square inch) in your tire.
If you don’t have a tire pressure gauge, you may still be able to check your air pressure since many air pumps these days have built-in gauges in the nozzle’s mechanism. If there’s no gauge attached and you’re not sure if you need to add air pressure, don’t – eyeballing how much air pressure is in your tire is a bad idea that could result in dangerous over inflation and blow out. Warping can also occur if you over inflate, which can weaken the sidewall of your tire and compromise its safety.
As a rule, always refer to your vehicle owner’s manual and the maximum air pressure limit printed on the tire itself to ensure you don’t exceed either. Often times, the maximum tire pressure printed on the sidewall of your tire will be higher than the recommended limit printed in your owner’s manual. This is generally because tires that are inflated to slightly below maximum capacity offer a smoother ride. In either case, always err on the lower end for safety’s sake. If you have any trouble checking your tire pressure, there are plenty of auto mechanics who’ll do it for you for free. Register below to find a list of highly recommended mechanics in your area.
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Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker