At some point, most car owners will notice that a tire is a little low. This is normal and checking tire pressure is one of those routine maintenance jobs that every vehicle owner should do regularly. Sometimes, you can rush into your local service station and get the tire pressure back to normal. Other times, you might find yourself adding air to your tires at a gas station.
For pocket change, you can fill your tires at the same place you get gas but for some drivers, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
How to Inflate Tires at a Gas Station
If you’ve never inflated a tire before it can be intimidating, especially in a public place like a gas station. The last thing you want is for a neighbor to see you struggling with the air pump machine or a tire valve stem.
To prevent this embarrassing scenario, here are a few tips on how to put air in your vehicle tires at a gas station.
- The first step is to remove the valve stem. Don’t put the small cap on the ground. Chances are it will get lost and then the tire will be constantly leaking air until you buy a new cap. Put it in your pocket or the vehicle’s cup holder so you’ll know where it is when it’s time to put it back on.
- Put the required amount of change in the air pump. Yes, you have to pay to use most gas station air pumps. Most only charge 25 cents or less. Drop the change into the coin slot and follow the instructions on the machine. The directions are typically placed on the machine’s front.
- Start inflating the low tire. The best time to put air in your vehicle tires is when they’re cold. You will get a more accurate pressure reading so you’ll know exactly how much air to add. Most gas station air pumps have PSI (pressure per square inch) gauges that automatically register tire pressure.
- Set the PSI level on the air pump. Most vehicles have a recommend PSI level between 30 – 35. This is where you want to set the level on the air pump. If the machine doesn’t have a PSI gauge you will have to do it manually. You can get a tire pressure gauge at any neighborhood auto parts store. The pressure gauge simply inserts into the valve stem. Check the reading and add or let the air out until the tire pressure is in the optimal range.
- Turn the air pump on. Once you’ve selected the tire pressure and pressed the ‘start’ button, you need to move quickly. The machine is timed so you will have to add more coins if it stops before you’re finished. Place the air hose against the valve and either watch the PSI gauge on the machine or manually check it periodically as the tire is filling.
- Park close to the air machine. You already know that you have a limited amount of time once the machine starts to fill your tires. This means that you won’t have time to reposition your car once the air pump is turned on. Make sure that the hose can reach the tires that need to be filled. Otherwise, you will be spending a lot of time and pocket change moving your vehicle and restarting the machine.
- Don’t rush inflating your tires. It only takes a few minutes of your time to ‘top off’ your tires air pressure. You don’t need to rush it, nor do you want to. If you rush it, chances are there will either be too much or too little air in the tires. This can lead to problems with traction and even braking.
- Recheck tire pressure. When you’re finished filling the tires, recheck the air pressure. This applies, even if the machine gave a warning beep when optimal tire pressure was reached. If the pressure is low, add more air to the tire. If it’s too high, simply release some air by not putting the tire valve immediately back on. Wait a few minutes and recheck the pressure.
What you don’t want to do if tire pressure is too high is to drive with the valve cap off. This is also why you put the cap in your pocket or other safe, easy to remember spot. Driving even a few miles without a valve cap will have you back at the gas station refilling the air in your tires.
How to Check Tire Pressure
Checking the tire pressure isn’t difficult. It’s a simple procedure that you can easily do in seconds. First, you will need a tire gauge. If you don’t have one in your emergency vehicle kit, you can find one at the local automotive parts store for a few dollars.
- The first step is to remove the tire valve cap. Remember, to store the caps in a safe place so you can find them again.
- Place the gauge on the valve stem. You want to hold the gauge firmly and steadily against the stem to get an accurate reading.
- Take the tire pressure (PSI) reading. To get an accurate reading, you’ll want to check the pressure a couple of times. Sometimes it takes a few minutes after driving to get an accurate reading.
These three simple steps are all you need to do to check the tire pressure.
Even new tires will lose some air pressure over time. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to replace them unless you are continually putting air in them.
Most gas stations have air pump machines that allow you to set the pressure, but if it doesn’t you can also use a tire pressure gauge. What is important is that you stay within the optimal range.