Since tires are the only connection between your vehicle and the road, ensuring that tires are well-maintained and at optimal pressure is critically important for safety reasons, extending the life of the tires, overall ride comfort and obtaining better gas mileage. Proper tire maintenance includes regularly checking the tire pressure.
How do you check tire pressure? It’s a fairly simple, if you follow these steps:
Invest in a good digital tire gauge. The old notched tire gauges of the past have been replaced by more accurate digital versions. Buy one of these for around $10 and keep it in your vehicle.
Locate the recommended tire pressure for your tires. This information is spelled out in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. It is also posted on the driver’s side door jam on a yellow sticker. Keep in mind that the recommended tire pressure may be different for front tires and back tires.
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Check tire pressure in the morning. Tire experts recommend checking the tires in the morning, when the tires are cold, or a half-hour after stopping, since it takes about that length of time for tires to cool down after operating the vehicle.
Now, you’re ready to go. Here are the steps to checking tire pressure:
- Unscrew the tire pressure gauge cap and set it aside. Putting it in your pocket is a safe place to keep it while you check the pressure of all your tires.
- Place the tire pressure gauge evenly on the tire’s valve stem. This is a pencil-width air nozzle located on the side of the tire. The air starts to escape, causing a hiss. Once you firmly press the gauge down on the valve stem, air flow stops and the tire gauge gives a reading of the tire pressure. In the older tire gauges, it blows out the metered stick. On digital ones, the tire pressure appears electronically on the gauge.
- Write down the pressure on all four tires as you record them, front to back. This will be helpful if you need to add or remove air from them.
If the tire pressure on the tires is below that recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, you need to add air to them. For example, say your tire calls for pounds per square inch (PSI) of 32 and your tire reads 29. You need to inflate the tire by 3 PSI to bring it up to specification.
Tire experts say that for every 3 PSI below specification, you burn 1 percent more fuel (and your tires have an added 10 percent more wear).
As for filling the tires with air, you have two choices. Buy a portable air compressor you keep in the garage, or refill the tires at a gas station.
Bottom line: Proper tire maintenance begins with regular (at least monthly) checking of the tire pressure in all four tires and taking appropriate steps to fill them to recommended specs.