Fun Fact: If you keep your tires properly inflated, it can actually save you money and keep you safe on the road, which is why it's important to check tire pressure regularly.. Proper tire pressure significantly extends the life of your tires, increases fuel efficiency, and the most important part - provides the traction your car needs to brake safely under regular, and emergency driving conditions.

When Should You Check?

Eventually some air will leak out of your vehicle's tires, it's unfortunately inevitable. That’s why it's important to check tire pressure regularly, at least once per month. If your car has a tire pressure monitoring system, it's best to never ignore the low tire pressure indicator light. Temperature changes can impact tire pressure, so it’s a good idea to perform a check when the seasons change, or if there's any extreme weather conditions.

What Tools Do You Need?

The tools required to monitor and adjust your tire pressure are very affordable and easy to grab form your local hardware or auto parts store. What you need is a tire pressure gauge, and access to an air compressor, that's it! We recommend you keep the air pressure gauge and compressor in your car for easy access, you never know when you’ll need them. That's why we suggest opting for a dial tire pressure gauge instead of a battery-operated digital gauge, that way you don't need to worry about dead batteries. You could also go for stick and pen gauges, but that could make reading the inflation pressure a bit more difficult, unlike dial gauges. Many gas stations offer air pumps, either free of cost or for about a buck, but like the McDonald's ice cream machine, they're often out of service. If you buy a small, portable air compressor that plugs into the 12-volt outlet in your car, you’ll have free air whenever you need it.

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Correct Tire Pressure

The manufacturer-recommended tire pressure information for your car is on on a sticker on the interior of the driver’s side door jamb. If you can’t find it, check your owner’s manual for the recommended psi (pounds per square inch). There’s likely more than one tire pressure setting listed. You just use the tire pressure that matches the size and position of the tires on your car. Even though it sounds easy, do not use the tire pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall. This is actually the safe maximum pressure for the tire.

Checking the Pressure

Each tire has what’s known as a Schrader valve, it features a needle in the center that releases air when depressed. At the end of the stem, there should be a plastic or metal cap that keeps the valve inside clean. If any of your tires are missing its valve stem cap, replacing it doesn't cost much and should help keep its valve clean and working.

Don't forget! The temperature can impact the tire pressure, so check your pressure before you’ve take off or wait until the tires have cooled down. To check cold tire pressure, simply press the end of the tire gauge over the end of the valve stem, taking care to align it so no air escapes during the reading. Initially, some air might hiss out, but if the gauge is properly aligned and you apply the right pressure, the gauge will seal to the valve stem, and you’ll get an accurate reading.

If your tire is under-inflated however, you’ll need to add air up to the correct psi by pressing the hose of your air compressor over the valve stem in the same way you used your gauge. Whether you use a portable compressor or a fixed one at a service station to inflate your tires, the key is keep adding air until you reach the correct pressure. Most compressors have a built-in gauge, but these aren't always accurate. To be safe while inflating the tires, periodically disconnect the compressor and use your own gauge to check the air-pressure level.

If your tire is over-inflated, you can release some air by depressing the center needle momentarily and re-checking with the gauge until you hit the correct pressure.

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The Bottom Line

By giving your tires a little attention, you can double their life, improve fuel economy, prevent failure or blowouts, and keep you and your car safer on the road. By having optimal tire pressure, you can also help prevent a flat tire. If you have a spare tire in your car, be sure to check its air pressure regularly!