Maintaining proper tyre inflation is relatively simple and essential to the overall tire performance of your vehicle. A properly inflated tyre will provide more milage, quicker steering response, savings in fuel costs, and a smoother ride. Both underinflation and overinflation can cause headaches like premature treadwear and possible tire failure. The best way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your tires is to check your tyre pressure on a monthly basis.

Knowing how to use a tyre pressure gauge is very simple. Here’s how to check tire pressure and refill your tires.

Checking Tire Pressure
Items You Need When Checking Tire Pressure
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Air compressor
  • Pen and paper

Your tyre pressure gauge can be digital or standard. Auto parts stores typically carry both. Many auto parts stores sell portable air compressors that run from your car battery or 12v power port. Alternatively, you can use the air compressor found at most filling stations.

How to Check Tyre Pressure

1. Start with Cold Tires if Possible

Vehicle manufacturers specify PSI – literally “pounds per square inch” of pressure – assuming tyres are cold. Tyres are considered cold when the vehicle has been parked for three hours or more, or if the vehicle has been driven less than a mile (1.6 km) at moderate speed. PSI is the unit your pressure gauge uses to provide readings.

2. Check the Manufacturer’s Recommended PSI

PSI is measured by the notches on a tyre air pressure gauge or with a number reading on digital gauges. To find out what PSI is right for your tyres, consult your owner’s manual or the sticker on the driver’s side door. When buying new tyres, or getting a rotation, it’s a good idea to ask what the ideal pressure is.

3. Write Down the PSI for Each Tyre

If your front and rear tyres require different pressure levels, write down the correct PSI for each to avoid getting confused as you move around your vehicle checking tyre pressure.

4. Check Tyre Pressure with Your Gauge

Remove the valve cap from one of your tyres. Then place the pressure gauge on the valve stem and press down hard enough so the hiss sound disappears and your gauge provides a reading. With a standard gauge, the air pressure will push a small bar out from the bottom of the gauge. Measurement units are etched into the bar. A digital gauge will show you the reading on a screen.

Write down the reading and repeat this process for all four tyres.

5. Fill to the Recommended PSI

Use an air compressor to refill any tyres with low pressure. Many air compressors are different, so read directions carefully to be sure you’re using it correctly.

If you’re using the air compressor at a gas station, be sure to park so that the hose will reach all four tires. Insert change into the machine until you hear the motor running. Fill each tyre by placing the end of the hose over the valve stem and pressing on the lever.

Using a filling station air compressor means your tyres might be “hot.”  If it is necessary to adjust inflation pressure when tyres are “hot”, set their pressure to 4 psi (14 kPa) above the recommended cold inflation pressure. Recheck the inflation pressure when the tyres are cold.

After filling your tyres, use the gauge to check pressure again. At this point, it’s okay if you overfilled the tyres because you can always let some air back out. Never drive on overinflated tires. Overinflation can result in decreased traction, premature wear, and decreased impact absorption.

6. Repeat: Check Tire Pressure Monthly

Make the above procedure a monthly ritual. Regularly checking your tyre pressure is the best way to ensure your tyres never dip far below the optimal PSI.

Tire Pressure Gauge Accuracy

Accuracy matters and you should keep that in mind when choosing a gauge. For just little amount, you can find a quality, accurate tyre pressure gauge that gives accurate readings. If you’re not sure which one to purchase, ask a professional technician which he or she prefers.

A digital tyre pressure gauge will provide accurate readings, but don’t forget that it operates on a battery. If you think replacing the battery will prevent you from using it, it’s best to go with a standard gauge.

It’s best to use your personal tyre gauge versus those available attached to air hoses at service stations. Of all the pressure gauges out there, they’re the most likely to be weathered, and possibly inaccurate.

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