Know Your Tools
A standard tire pressure gauge, which should run you $5 or less, will do the job. Digital tire pressure gauges are also available, but they’re more expensive and don’t elevate the process enough to justify the price difference for most people.
We do recommend you always keep your own tire pressure gauge in your glove box, as the gauges offered at a gas station’s free air pump are likely to be overused, beaten up and can be inaccurate.
Know Your Number
The ideal tire pressure (measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI) for your vehicle can be located on the sticker inside the driver’s side door or in the owner’s manual. Mid-size sedans will generally have a recommended PSI between 30 and 40, the larger the car, the higher the recommended PSI will be.
You may see a number on the tire itself, but it’s important to know this number indicates the maximum pressure the tire itself can handle and that this number is different from the ideal tire pressure for your vehicle.
Know What It All Means
It is important to know your number and to stay true to it to ensure proper function and overall driving safety, as under-inflated tires wear unevenly and can become hazardous and driving on over-inflated tires increases your chance for a blowout.
It is also important to ensure all tires are inflated equally to ensure equal wear, evenly inflated tires will also increase your fuel efficiency.
Know The Next Step
To complete a reading, remove the cap from the valve on your tire and place the pressure gauge firmly over the valve stem. The gauge will extend and give you a reading.
For an accurate reading, always check pressure on cold tires, morning is a great time to perform this test, but any time a car has been sitting for at least a few hours will do.
If the PSI reading indicates your tire is over-inflated, you can use the knob on the back of the pressure gauge to let some of the air out.
If the PSI reading indicates your tire is under-inflated, most gas stations offer use of an air hose either for free or for just a few cents. It is best to try to keep travel under a mile when driving on under-inflated tires. Fill the tire until the reading matches the ideal number for your vehicle, tighten the cap back on the valve and you’re done!