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How to Check Tire Pressure

BY: Andrew Giorgi
A closeup of a mechanic using a pressure gauge to measure a car's tire pressure.

Believe it or not, the holidays are already in the rearview mirror, and the new year is underway. Maybe you got that gift you were hoping for, or you’ve set a New Year’s resolution that you’re eager to keep. However, just because the calendar has changed and you may be ready for some changes yourself doesn’t mean the weather will, too. In fact, you’re likely to still be dealing with frigid temperatures for a few more months. 

If you’re a car owner, you’ll still have to actively maintain your vehicle to help make it to spring because just like the cold weather will continue to affect you, it’ll be doing the same to your car, like lowering its tire pressure. Driving with underinflated tires can be very dangerous, as you’ll have less traction on slippery surfaces like black ice or snowy roads, be more prone to tire blowouts and cause your fuel economy to suffer. 

To help you stay safe while on the road, let’s go over everything you need to know about tire pressure and how you can check the tire pressure on your vehicle.

What Is Tire Pressure?

Tire pressure, measured in PSI or pounds per square inch, is the air pressure required to inflate a car’s tires to their optimal levels to allow you to safely and smoothly drive. More specifically, all tires have a specific PSI rating, also known as the recommended tire pressure, which is dictated by the tire manufacturer or the automaker and will vary from tire to tire. You can find the tire pressure rating for your vehicle on a sticker in your driver’s side door jamb or by looking in your owner’s manual. Some tires may also list their recommended PSI directly on them, but it often may just show the maximum PSI the tire can handle.

Keeping your tire pressure at the correct PSI is vital to keeping your vehicle running as it should and preventing unneeded repairs. If your tire is low on air, it can cause drivability issues like loss of traction and an increased risk of blowouts. Your vehicle will also have to work harder to turn a low air-pressure tire, decreasing gas mileage.

How Does The Weather Affect Tire Pressure?

Have you ever gotten into your vehicle in the winter and noticed your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light on your dashboard is illuminated? Have you ever noticed that it only seems to happen during the winter? Well, it’s no coincidence that this happens when the temperatures start to fall. For every 10 degrees colder it gets, your tires can lose 1-2 PSI of pressure. 

For instance, if your car’s tire is at perfect pressure when it’s 40 degrees outside, it can be up to 6 PSI lower if the temperatures drop to 10 degrees. That could be the difference between a safe and smooth ride and a bumpy one where you’ll have less traction and potentially less overall control of your car. You’ll also get less gas mileage out of your car, as your engine will have to work harder. But why does this happen? Well, it’s science!

Tires lose air in the winter due to the air in contracts, thus taking up less space due to the colder temperatures, causing a loss of pressure. This is why it is very important to check your tire’s air pressure at least weekly in the winter months or more often if there are frequent shifts in temperature.

How To Check Tire Pressure?

Checking the tire pressure on your vehicle is one of the easiest things you can do to maintain your vehicle. With just a tire pressure gauge and an air compressor or air pump, you can keep your tires at the recommended PSI to keep your tires lasting for years to come.

1. Check Your Manufacturer’s Recommended Tire Pressure

The first thing you need to do before inflating your tires is to check your owner’s manual to find out what the correct tire inflation specifications are. Be cautious, however, as you may notice that there is also a recommended tire pressure on the sidewall of the tire, but that is the maximum pressure the tire can be inflated to and should not be used as a guide when inflating your tires.

2. Grab a Tire Pressure Gauge

A close-up of a person's hand checking the tire pressure of a vehicle using a tire pressure guage.

You will need a tire pressure gauge to get an accurate reading of your tire pressure. A tire pressure gauge is a tool used to determine your tire’s current pressure. These can be found at most gas stations and auto parts stores and come in analog and digital gauges. It is always a good idea to keep one in your glove box for easy access. Many air compressors have gauges built into the air fitting, so keep an eye out for it whether you’re filling up your tires at a gas station or if you own one. 

3. Remove the Cap on Your Air Valve

Once you have your tire pressure gauge, it is time to prep your tires to be inflated. Remove the air valve cap on your tire to protect the air valve from road grime and debris. If you notice that yours are missing, this is a great time to replace them and protect your tires from damage.

4. Press the Tire Gauge onto the Open Valve Stem

With the air valve cap removed, take your tire gauge and press it onto the open valve stem to get a reading on your tire pressure gauge. For manual gauges, you will see a small ruler-like rod protrude from the gauge, allowing you to read the tire pressure gauge. You will get a simple digital reading of your tire pressure on digital gauges.

5. Read the Air Pressure Gauge

When your gauge states the current pressure, note the reading and compare it to your manufacturer’s specifications. Manual gauges will require you to read the last number shown on the rod from inside and out. 

6. Add/Remove Air as Needed

Once you have compared the current air pressure with your specifications, you will need to remove or add air as needed. To add air, you need to turn on your air compressor or air pump, connect the air hose, and slowly add air until you reach the specification. If you have overinflated tires, you can use the back of your gauge to depress the Schrader valve (air valve) until you hear a hissing sound, which is the air escaping your tires. Do this until your reach your desired PSI. 

Be cautious, however, as releasing too much air could leave you with a flat tire instead of a properly inflated one. If you also have to add more in because you find yourself under-inflated, be sure not to over-inflate, as that can cause issues. For example, over-inflated tires can lead to a bumpier ride, poor handling, poor fuel economy and excess wear on your tire tread.

7. Replace the Cap & Repeat on All Tires

When you finish filling up your tire to the correct air pressure, make sure to replace the air valve cap. Repeat the following steps on all tires to ensure they are all inflated to the correct PSI.

How Endurance Can Help Protect Your Vehicle

While maintaining your tire pressure in the winter is important, this is a simple maintenance check that you should practice throughout the year. Many variables can impact tire pressure, so keeping an eye on the pressure levels can ensure you keep your car running at its best to help avoid unexpected repairs. For instances where you do experience an unexpected breakdown, an Endurance auto protection plan can help keep you protected.

By purchasing an auto protection plan from Endurance, you will get protection from unexpected repairs no matter your budget or needs, with plans starting as low as just $79 a month. Endurance offers plans for various vehicles, including high-end luxury vehicles, high-mileage vehicles, rebuilt or salvage title vehicles, and many more. Each protection plan from Endurance also comes with unrivaled standard benefits such as 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, rental car reimbursement, and trip interruption services, plus an entire year’s worth of FREE Endurance Elite Benefits. You will also have the option of taking your vehicle to any certified mechanic or repair shop. 

Get your vehicle protected by requesting a free, no-obligation quote or shop online today. You can also speak to our award-winning customer service team at (800) 253-8203 to learn more about how Endurance can help you. Don’t forget to also check out the Endurance blog for other extended warranty comparisons, DIY maintenance tips, vehicle buying guides, answers to your biggest warranty FAQs and more.

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