How to inflate a car tire at gas station

How to Check Vehicle Tire Pressure and Inflate Tires

We all know that routine maintenance is important for everything from our computers to our cars. But sometimes, we fall short. One of the most neglected routine car maintenance tasks is to check tire pressures and inflate them as necessary. That’s why newer cars have tire pressure warning lights, or tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), that let you know when you have under- or over-inflated tires (when any tire is 25% underinflated).

Older vehicles don’t have this useful warning light. So, don’t wait for a rupture to check or change a tire. Use this guide to learn how to check the pressure (PSI) of your vehicle tires and how to inflate them to the proper air level.

Why should you check your tire pressure?

The number one reason why you should periodically check your tire pressure is SAFETY, but there are monetary and handling reasons as well:

  • Longer lasting tires
  • Improved handling and control
  • Reduced risk of accidents and blow outs
  • Better fuel economy
  • Reduced carbon footprint

Proper tire pressure (as recommended by the manufacturer) is needed to drive safely and efficiently. According to a 2009 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

“…about 28% of light vehicles on our Nation’s roadways run with at least one underinflated tire. Only a few psi difference from vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire inflation pressure can affect a vehicle’s handling and stopping distance. Poor tire maintenance can increase incidences of blowouts and tread separations. Similarly, underinflation negatively affects fuel economy.”

When your tires are underinflated, the tires get fatter, increasing their surface area. This causes high heat generation and extra resistance that could result in higher fuel costs, blown out tires, tire wear, and loss of control.

If you feel like you’re spending too much at the gas pump, it might be your tires. According to the US Department of Energy:

“You can improve your gas mileage by 0.6% on average—up to 3% in some cases—by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires.”

In addition to safety and fiscal concerns, keeping your tires properly inflated will also reduce your impact on the environment. When your tires are properly inflated, you’ll pay less for gas, replace your tires less often, and improve your handling and stopping distance. You’ll also feel better knowing that you are emitting less carbon dioxide and other harmful substances into the atmosphere.

What is the right PSI level?

PSI stands for pounds per square inch. The recommended PSI for your vehicle’s tires is determined by the vehicle’s manufacturer and the recommended tire size.

One big question that we get is whether you should follow the recommended PSI level on the tire itself or the recommended PSI level printed in your owner’s manual or on the placard inside of door edge, glove box door, or fuel door.

Do NOT use the max PSI that is printed on the tire sidewall. This is not the recommended PSI level. The pressure amount on the tire is normally the maximum allowed pressure. The correct PSI level is almost always less than what you see printed on the side of the tire. Over-inflation can lead to poor handling and comfort, overheating and blow outs. Over 40 PSI is a dangerous level for most vehicles!

Make sure you always use the recommended PSI as provided in your owner’s manual and don’t go any more than 5 PSI over the recommended level. You should make sure, however, that your tires are appropriate for your vehicle. You can do this by checking the car’s owner’s manual or the placard that is on the inside of the driver-side door, glove box, or fuel door.

Most car tire pressure recommendations range from 30-35 PSI.

How often should I check tire pressure?

A question in many minds is when is the appropriate time and frequency for checking and inflating vehicle tires.

A quick google search will reveal a variety of different opinions and suggestions. Some say that you should check your tire pressure every 2nd visit to the gasoline station, while others say once every 3-6 months is OK.

Most tire and vehicle manufacturers, on the other hand, will say that you should check your tire pressure at least once every month, or every second trip to the gas pump. Your tires will lose around 1 PSI each for every month that goes by.

Unfortunately, not one answer will fit every situation. There are several factors that influence how often you should check your tire pressure, including:

  • The weather (hot and cold seasonal changes)
  • Driving frequency and distance
  • Weight carried or towed

Did you know that for every 10°-drop in temperature, you lose 1 pound of pressure?

If you have a leaky valve or a small puncture, you will lose air pressure much more quickly. This is one more reason why you should frequently check the tire pressure on all of your tires.

Since tire pressure constantly fluctuates, it’s important to check it periodically (at least once a month) and add air as necessary.

How to Check Tire Pressure

Finding out the tire pressure of your tires is incredibly easy. All you need is a pressure gauge (click here for additional items you should have in your vehicle).

Just make sure that you are checking your tires when they are relatively cold. If you check your tire pressure after a long drive, you will get an inaccurate reading since heat will temporarily increase the tire pressure reading.

Unfortunately, not all pressures gauges are created equal. Some are better than others. We recommend shelling out a couple extra bucks for a digital reader. The pop-up, stick-type versions are notoriously inconsistent and unreliable. A reliable gauge will be well worth the investment. Prices range from about $5 for the stick-type and about $30 for the digital and dial-type pressure gauges.

You can also check your tire pressure at most gas stations or auto repair shops. Discount Tire offers free tire pressure checks and inflation.

Here are the steps for checking your tire pressure:
  • Check the tire pressure when the tires are cold—first thing in the morning is best. If you’ve been driving for a while, you’ll want to wait several hours before checking your tire pressure.
  • Remove the caps to your tires’ air valve (keep them in a safe place, like your pocket).
  • Place the tire pressure gauge on the air valve firmly to receive a reading.
  • Take the tire pressure reading 1-3 times to get a good average and reduce the risk of anomalies.
  • Check the tire pressure gauge reading against the recommended PSI levels recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Add some air until your reach the recommended PSI level.
  • If the reading is above the recommended PSI level, push down on the air valve to release air. Check the tire pressure again. Release more air if necessary. If you release too much air, you can always add some air back.

It should only take you a couple minutes to check the air pressure of your vehicle’s tires. As soon as you restore tire pressure to the recommended levels, you’ll start experiencing the safety and savings that come with this regular maintenance task.

Watch this video for more information on how to check your tire pressure:

How to Inflate Tires

Here are the steps for adding air to your tires:

  • Remove the valve stem caps on all of your tires (keep them in a safe place, like your pocket).
  • Use an air pump to fill the tires. Even though it’s possible to fill your tires with a regular old bicycle pump, this is not the most efficient method. Instead, go to your local gas station that has a coin-operated air pump (ask the attendant if you can’t find it). You can also purchase your own automatic air compressor, but it will cost you around $50-$150.
  • Inflate your tires when they are cold. If you’ve driven more than a couple miles, you’ll want to wait until they are cold. The best time to refill your tires is first thing in the morning.
  • You can usually set the desired PSI level on the machine at the gas station (probably around 30-35 PSI). If your local gas station’s air pump doesn’t have this capability, then you will need to fill up the tire, check the pressure with your gauge, and then add or release air as necessary. Some air pumps will have a built-in tire pressure gauge. Once the PSI level is set, feed coins into the machine until you hear the air coming through. It will be pretty noisy.
  • You want to act quickly because you only have a few minutes before the pump turns off. Bring the tip of the air valve to your closest tire valve (or the lowest tire). Hold it firmly against the valve as you listen to the air filling the tire.
  • Make sure your vehicle is close enough to the pump so you don’t have to move and pay for another air session.
  • Give the pump some time to fill up your tires. If you pre-set the PSI on the machine itself, you will hear a loud beeping noise when the desired PSI is reached. If not, fill up the air for around 5-10 seconds and then check the tire pressure with your pressure gauge. Check the air pressure as you go and refill or release air as necessary.
  • If you go over the recommended PSI, you can release air from the tire by depressing the center valve pin with your tire gauge or a similar tool (a fingernail can also do the job). Release the air in small increments and check the pressure as you go.
  • When you have reached the desired pressure, make sure you check all your tires again with your pressure gauge. If all is well, you are done adding air.
  • Remember those valve caps we told you to keep safe. You’ll want to screw them back on now.

Remember, just one drop in PSI can lower your gas mileage by about 0.2%. For every 3-4 PSI units that your tire is underinflated, you are burning around 1% more fuel.

If your tires are flat, then you probably have a leak. Add air and see if you can drive around without the pressure dropping. If you hear air escaping the tire while you are filling up, then it’s time to replace the tire.

Tip: Learn how to use the air pump properly first. Some automatic air pumps at gas stations have a handle/switch that you need to depress in order for the air to flow. When you let go of the handle, a tire pressure gauge will pop out showing you the tire pressure. At the same time, air will be slowly released. If your air pump has this kind of handle, then you will want to hold down the handle for most of the time, periodically releasing it to check the pressure reading. Consult your own tire pressure gauge for accuracy.

When should I replace my tires?

If you check your tire pressure at least once a month as recommended, you’ll also get a good idea of the general condition of your tires and when you should replace them.

We recommend using the penny test:


  • Take a penny and insert the top part of Lincoln’s head (head down) into one of the tire treads. If you can see his entire head, it’s time to replace your tire immediately.
  • Consider a replacement soon if only a small part of his head is cut off. You are good to go if Lincoln’s forehead is covered. Use the penny test on a few areas of each tire to get a more accurate reading.

Click here for more car maintenance tips. Click here for car winterization tips.

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How To Use A Gas Station Air Pump To Inflate Your Tires

If your car tires need a little air, you can always pull into the gas station to use the machine. However, you may not know how to use a gas station air pump, or you might be confused about how to properly inflate your tires.

In this guide, we walk through all of the steps with you, so you can pump up the car tires properly. Additionally, we show you some hidden benefits of using the gas station air. We also review the benefits of maintaining proper tire air pressures. 

How to Use a Gas Station Air Pump

To use a gas station air pump, you need to find the air compressor and park near it. Once you remove the air nozzle, you can pay for the air and adjust the settings. Remove the tire valve cap and inflate the tires. Check the pressures when you are done and return the hose to its original place. 

Here are more detailed steps on how to use the gas station air pump:

1. Locate Air Compressor

Unless you have used the air pressure machines before, you might not know where to find them or understand what they look like. Normally, the air machines aren’t right with the gas pumps, but off to the side somewhere.

There will be a sign on the machine that indicates its purpose. You might even see something, such as “Free Air.”

2. Park Near the Compressor

After you locate the air pump, you need to park as close as possible to it. The hose should be able to easily reach the tire or tires that need to be filled up.

If you park and realize you are too far away, just inch it a little closer. You can leave the car engine running to make it easier.

3. Remove Air Nozzle

Inspect the air hose to make sure it is in decent condition. If it isn’t, you might want to choose a different machine to use.

Once you’ve approved the hose, you want to move it to where the tire is, especially if you are paying for it. You want to be ready to fill up those tires when it goes on. 

4. Pay for Machine

Some machines are free and you won’t have to pay anything. Other times, you will be required to enter some quarters or use your credit card to get it started.

If you don’t have quarters, you might be able to get some change from the gas station. Once the money is inserted, the air will turn on for a specified amount of time. 

5. Set Appropriate PSI Mark

Some machines offer settings for the PSI. You can find this number on the card mounted on the inside of the driver’s side door jamb. 

This measurement shows what the tires should be inflated to. Adjust the settings to match this number. If the machine doesn’t offer this, you will need to keep a close eye on how much air is being put in the tire. 

RELATED: How to Find the Correct Tire Pressure For Your Car (4 Steps)

6. Remove Tire Valve Cap

Once the air hose is running, you want to remove the cap on your tire valve. Don’t misplace this tire cap, or the air could leak out while you drive. 

However, if you ever lose a cap or one gets broken, they aren’t expensive to replace. You can find them at most auto parts stores. 

7. Inflate Tire

Push the end of the nozzle onto the valve stem of the tire. You will need to apply some pressure to make the fit secure. 

Once you have them connected, air will flow into the tire. Once you have reached the target PSI, remove the hose nozzle from the tire valve. If the air pump has an integrated pressure gauge, you can do both these steps at the same time and inflate, release and check the pressure.

8. Check Pressures

You should always double-check the air pressure to ensure it is right. If the tires are still low, go ahead and put more air into them.

If you have overfilled the tires, you will need to push gently on the valve stem to remove some air. Either way, it should fall right in line with what’s on the door jamb.

9. Return Hose to Machine

After the tires have been pumped up, you are ready to put the equipment back. Put everything in its place where it belongs, not necessarily where you found it. 

It might be tempting to throw the hose on the ground, but this only ruins it for the next person. Just think about how you would feel if you needed air in a tire and the hose was destroyed because of negligence.

RELATED: How to Reset Tire Pressure Light (TPMS) – By Car Model 

Benefits of Using Gas Station Air Pump

There are many reasons to consider using the gas station air pump when your vehicle tires require pumping up. For starters, you might be able to find a free air pump, meaning you won’t have to spend anything. In fact, several states require that the air pumps be free to use.

Additionally, the gas station air pump is going to be available 24 hours a day. If you are driving home after a late night, you can still ensure that your tires are properly inflated. The gas station air pump is also quick, so you won’t be spending a lot of time waiting around.

When emergencies happen, it isn’t always convenient to drive all the way home. Plus, it might not be safe if the tires are getting low. Instead, swing in the gas station and pump them up so you don’t have to wait in line at the nearest tire center. 

Why Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

1. Increased Fuel Efficiency

When the tires become underinflated, gas mileage gets thrown out the window. As friction increases on the road surface, you pay more to operate your vehicle.

While you might only lose a few miles per gallon, every penny counts. This is especially true when gas prices are on the rise.

RELATED: Is It Dangerous to Drive with Low Tire Pressure? (& What to Do)

2. Increased Safety

Tires with excessive amounts of air inside can blow out on the road. The sudden loss of air can lead to an accident and injury.

An underinflated tire is just as dangerous. If it goes flat unexpectedly, you could be in a lot of trouble.

3. Better Handling/Grip

When the car tires are underinflated, they are more susceptible to hydroplaning. It’s easy to lose control of the vehicle when this happens. 

Additionally, with the right tire pressures, you gain more traction. This added grip allows you to brake better, accelerate easier, and navigate varying terrains. 

4. Longer Tire Life

Underinflated tires are going to wear out much faster than those at appropriate levels. If you want to put tires on the car less frequently, it’s important to keep them running with the right pressures.

You should check the tire pressures every month, at a minimum. Aside from this, you should double-check the pressure when the temperature drops or rises significantly. For every 10 degree change, the PSI can change by 1. Based on this, any sudden change could dramatically affect the pressure inside the tire and could put you in danger if you aren’t careful.

Categories: Tires, Guides

How to inflate a wheel without a pump? 5 myths and 2 risky ways - magazine Behind the wheel

A lot of articles on the topic "How to pump up a tire without a compressor" roam the Internet. Which of these techniques are effective and safe, and which ones should not be resorted to, says the expert "Behind the wheel".

If I change wheels, do I need to balance them every season?

Inflating a tire in the city is not a problem. There will always be a thrifty car enthusiast nearby who will lend a compressor. In extreme cases, you can drive to the nearest auto parts store and buy this useful device. But if the need to pump up the wheel caught on a long journey, on a deserted track, you will have to use your ingenuity.

A very banal way is to turn to professionals, that is, truck drivers. The fact is that any truck with pneumatic brakes can supply dried and purified air with high pressure through a hose that a thrifty truck driver always has with him.

Many gas stations now have tire inflators, and perhaps the easiest way is to hitch a wheel to it and return to your car the same way. If all of the above did not work, then read about the tricks that we personally tested for effectiveness:

1. Aerosol cans

Attaching the can (any) to the nipple is not that difficult. The pressure inside the cylinder is 1.8-2.8 bar. It is important that the content does not dissolve the rubber and does not harden, such as building foam.

Here, of course, canisters with compressed air are good, designed for blowing, for example, office equipment. But the internal volume of the wheel of a small class car is about 20-25 liters. For pumping, you will need several boxes of spray cans. Unacceptable!

2. Brake system

It is possible to connect the tire valve to the brake master cylinder connection after draining the reservoir. After that, we begin to press the brake pedal as is usually done when bleeding the brakes when replacing the brake fluid. To inflate the wheel, it will take a gigantic number of clicks. Unacceptable!

3. Turbocharger

Connect the hose to the air path after the turbocharger. The boost pressure in the line between the compressor and the intake valves of conventional (non-sport) engines is not enough to inflate the wheel. No matter how hard you go, it's unacceptable!

4. Flammable method

Advanced car enthusiasts know the method of transferring the bead ring over the hump of the rim using an explosion of fuel vapor. The Internet is full of videos on this topic.

It is usually advised to unscrew the spool from the valve. I wonder what will happen if this is not done? We need to keep up the pressure. We conducted an experiment and got an unsatisfactory result. With this method, it is possible to provide not much pressure in the wheel - about 0.2 bar. The method really allows you to brilliantly cope with the task of transferring the sidewall through the hump, but it is not suitable for pumping!

5. Fire extinguisher

And this is perhaps the most unusual way to inflate a tire. Having carried out an experiment with a large 6-kilogram fire extinguisher, it was possible to raise the pressure by a completely ridiculous amount of a couple of tenths of a bar. And this despite the inverted spool. Everything around was covered with a rather nasty powder. Unacceptable!

The average car owner usually has a powder-type fire extinguisher in the trunk. A powder fire extinguisher of a fairly large volume worked out of hand badly. The wheel has not been pumped up yet.

6. Exhaust system

If you can attach a hose to the exhaust pipe, then you can inflate the wheel in this way. The engine is able to provide a pressure of two or more bar with a sealed exhaust system and if you “give it a gas”. The method is acceptable, but only as a last resort. The fact is that with this method, the catalytic converter, and even the corrugation of the exhaust system, may suffer.

The hardest part was getting the tight connection between the thin hose and the exhaust pipe. A variety of caps from bottles, washers, plumbing drives can go into business. What will be at hand. Electrical tape will help seal the connection.

7. From other wheels

If you want to pump up a wheel, jack the car up! Debunking the Myth

With the help of a hose it is possible to transfer part of the air from the other wheels to the one we need to inflate. The method is complicated, because the valve mechanism will interfere with such a procedure. If we turn out the spools, we risk leaving several wheels without air. But even if you manage to get by with minimal losses, the pressure in all the wheels will turn out to be insufficient. In the best case, 75% of the pressure will remain in the wheels. Without preliminary preparation, which consists in assembling a hose with two tips like those installed on the compressor, we do not recommend trying this method!


Alternative ways to inflate tires are complicated, inconvenient, require advance preparation and can damage the vehicle. Therefore, we advise you to always have a serviceable and inflated spare tire. And just in case, you should carry a portable electric compressor with you. Useful not for yourself, but for a less thrifty motorist.

  • Inexpensive and very useful set of armlets and a knee pad will save clothes when repairing a wheel, mounting bracelets on wheels and other repairs.

How to almost instantly inflate a tire without a pump - Life hack

  • Life hack
  • Operation

During the existence of tires, people have repeatedly tried to make it easier for themselves to inflate them with air. And, it seems, everything has already been invented. But there are always enthusiasts who find simple and non-standard ways to solve a problem as old as the automotive world.

Maxim Stroker

It would seem that everything: in the field of automotive compressors, the limit of development has already been reached and we can put an end to it. But at the same time, “a couple of questions” remain for such devices. Let's start with performance. Most of them, even a relatively small wheel of the 16-17th “radius” pumps up for quite a long time. Powerful and productive pumps are many times more expensive than the average high-quality car compressor. However, they are much more massive.

In addition, if the wheel turned out to be disassembled, then it will not be possible to pump it up with a standard car compressor due, again, to its low productivity. Air will be bled into the gaps between the rubber and the disc - its pressure is not enough to straighten and press the edges of the tire to the rim. It is especially sad to learn about this nuance during an unplanned wheel repair somewhere in nature, a few kilometers from the nearest road or housing. But the need for fiction is cunning, as they say. To quickly inflate a wheel of any size will help a thing that is necessarily present in any car. This is ... a regular car carbon dioxide fire extinguisher!

True, in order to apply it to tire inflation, you will need to prepare in advance. First, you will need to build a special adapter hose between the outlet of the fire extinguisher and the “nipple” of the wheel.

For example, from a hose from an old or failed compressor and a threaded sleeve of a suitable diameter - to be screwed into the fire extinguisher fitting. Carrying this “adaptation” with you is much more convenient than a car compressor, at least in terms of its compactness. A standard automobile OU-2 contains about two kilograms of liquid carbon dioxide under a pressure of more than 5 megapascals.

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