How to Check Tire Pressure

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Tire Pressure 101

Why is Proper Tire Pressure Important?


Tires are literally between you and the road, and play an important role in the accelerating, braking, and corner of your car. Properly maintained tire pressure promotes longer life, increased traction and handling, and reduces the chances of a loss of pressure that strands you at the roadside.


What do I need to Check and Fill My Tire?


You need a common tire pressure gauge, and a source of compressed air. There are many types of gauge, but they all essentially work the same way and fit a standardized tire valve stem. Compressed air is commonly supplied (sometimes at a cost) at gas stations, service centers, and car dealerships.


Step by Step: How to Check Tire Pressure

Tap each step to check off which ones you've completed

  1. Inflate tires to the recommended tire pressure when cold, like in the morning after the car has been sitting. Check your car's owner's manual for the recommended pressure, or inside the driver's side doorjamb where this vital information is displayed on a sticker.

    Tires heat up from friction with the road surface, increasing tire pressure. If you can't let them sit overnight, allow the tires to cool for three to four hours out of direct sunlight.

  2. Unscrew the cap on the valve stem.

    It's a good idea to keep a few valve stem cap spares in the glove box; they have a way of getting lost.

  3. Press the tire gauge against the valve stem in a swift motion, making a "flat" connection that seals completely. Swiftly remove the gauge from the tire's valve stem after the stick pops or the dial moves. If you hear escaping air, stop, reset the gauge (if necessary) and try again.
  4. Read the gauge to determine if the pressure is within recommended limits.
  5. If the tire pressure is lower than recommended, inflate the tire with an air compressor commonly found at gas stations and service centers.

    Some businesses may provide compressed air for free. You may have to ask an employee for the compressor's fitting if it's not permanently attached.

  6. After adding air, repeat steps three and four to determine if the tire pressure is now within limits.

    It's easy to overinflate a tire, but it's also easily remedied.

  7. If the tire pressure is higher than recommended, release air from the tire.

    Most tire pressure gauges have a small dot or bead on the backside that is designed to be pressed into the center of the valve stem, releasing air.

  8. Now that you've released some air, repeat steps three and four to determine if you need to add or remove air from the tire.

    As you dial in the correct pressure, add or release smaller and smaller amounts of air.

  9. Additional Tips:
    1. Never set tire pressure when the tires are hot and the pressures are inflated after driving.
    2. Many tires have a tire pressure value written on the sidewalls. This is generally the maximum[MP1] tire pressure, not the recommended pressure. Check your owner's manual or driver's side doorjamb sticker for the recommended pressure.
    3. Correctly inflated tires have a flat tread across the width of the tire that fully contacts the road surface.
    4. For heavy loads or sustained high-speed driving, some manufacturers recommend running a higher tire pressure. Consult the manufacturer's specifications for details.
    5. If equipped, periodically check the spare tire's pressure.

Results of Improperly Pressurized Tires


  • Underinflated tires will flex excessively, generating excess heat and buckling, and damage the tire with rapid wear on the edge of the treads.
  • Overinflated tires will ride hard, decreasing traction, and making the tire susceptible to ply breakage.