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Car Care Tip: Ensuring proper tire pressure

Uploaded by PentastarVideo on Mar 22, 2011

Cold weather and driving can impact your vehicle's tire pressure. In this video, Chrysler Group gives an overview of how the changes impact tire pressure, and how to use your vehicle's systems to ensure you're driving with optimal tire pressure -- which helps your fuel economy. A Ram truck is used an example but the tips can apply to all Chrysler Group vehicles. At the end of the video is a particular note if you have a Ram 2500 Heavy Duty.

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Tire Pressure: Everything You Need to Know

Tire Pressure: Everything You Need to Know

You may be surprised by how great of an effect your car’s tire pressure has on your vehicle’s performance.

Jul 10, 2018

Often overlooked and even sometimes forgotten, your car’s tire pressure is an important factor in making sure your car runs optimally. These days, most modern vehicles come equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), which takes the guesswork out of wondering whether your car’s tire pressure is low or not. But what if your car doesn’t have TPMS? And if it does, are there still things you should know?

You may be surprised by how great of an effect your car’s tire pressure has on your vehicle’s performance. In fact, if you’ve noticed that your gas mileage has gone down a few MPG, it’s likely attributed to your car’s tires.

How do I know if my tires are properly inflated?

Even if your car is equipped with TPMS, you will want to know the recommended tire pressure for your specific vehicle. Typically, there is a sticker found inside the driver’s side door that will list the recommended tire pressure. This figure is normally indicated in PSI, which stands for pounds per square inch of air. In addition, your tire’s maximum air pressure will be labeled on the tire’s sidewall. That figure is the maximum PSI the tire can safely hold. In other words, don’t inflate your tires beyond the number found on the sidewall.

If you are not able to locate a sticker on the inside of your driver’s side door, refer to the owner’s manual to determine the recommended tire pressure for your car.

Keep in mind that the recommended tire pressure values could be different between your front and rear tires. Make sure you’re checking both front and rear values when you’re determining whether your tires are properly inflated.

Why is proper inflation important?

There’s a reason why vehicles have recommended tire pressures. Proper inflation of your car’s tires not only ensures it’s comfortable to drive and ride in, but it can also affect your fuel economy. More importantly, they ensure your tires are wearing out uniformly, extending the life of your tires.

Overinflating or underinflating your tires could have adverse effects on its performance. Not only do underinflated tires appear flatter, they have increased surface contact with the road. If driven over a long period of time, that contact can result in premature tire wear. Underinflation also has a direct effect on the car’s fuel economy.

Overinflating your tires with too much air can cause increased rigidity and stiffness, resulting in a harsher ride. Contact with the road is typically increased around the center area of the tire when it is overinflated, causing additional wear in the center. If you notice the sides or outer sections of your car’s tires are less worn out than the center, it’s a good chance they’re overinflated.
How to check your tire pressure

Checking your car’s tire pressure is a fairly straightforward and simple task. The easiest method is to use a tire pressure gauge that you can purchase online or at any automotive parts store for cheap. It’s normally recommended to check your car’s tire pressure levels when the tires are cold, or after the vehicle has been parked for at least three hours. Since friction causes heat, and heat increases tire pressure, doing a check after driving will likely give you an inaccurate figure. The recommended tire pressures you find in either the decal inside your driver’s side door or in your owner’s manual refers to the tire pressure before you start driving.

Using the tire pressure gauge, remove your valve stem cap and simply place the gauge on the stem with some pressure. A number will appear on the gauge, and it never hurts to check it two or even three times to make sure you have an accurate reading. Once you’ve checked the tire pressure on all four tires, make sure to replace the valve stem cap.

If you don’t own a tire gauge, nearly all public air compressors will have an integrated tire gauge. More modern units at gas stations may have digital readouts to show your tire pressure. If your tire is overinflated, you’ll want to let some air out to get it back to the optimal PSI range. Make sure to check it periodically while you’re letting air out, so you don’t end up underinflating your tires.
Types of air compressors

If you don’t live near a gas station with accessible air, you could invest into a portable air compressor that’s designed to inflate tires. There are, of course, heavy duty air compressors also available. But unless you plan to use it to work on your car, they’re not necessary just for putting air into your tires.

There’s a wide range of offerings when it comes to air compressors and tire inflators, ranging from extremely affordable to fancy digital systems that require a power outlet. There are also 12-volt portable air compressors, which means you can use the cigarette lighter in your car.

If you have access to an air compressor, you can just purchase a tire inflator and gauge, which are also available in digital form. But most car owners won’t have an air compressor in their garage, so you’re likely shopping for a portable air compressor.

When shopping for a portable air compressor, you’ll naturally need to determine your budget and whether the size of the air compressor matters to you. If time is an important factor, some air compressors do inflate tires quicker than others. Keep in mind, with a 12-volt air compressor, you will want to make sure your car’s engine is running while using the air compressor.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular air compressors currently available.

AAA Lifeline 300 PSI 12-volt DC Air Compressor

You’ve likely heard of the American Automobiles Association (AAA), but did you know it has its own branded air compressor? The 300 PSI portable tire inflator is capable of inflating a standard spare car tire in eight minutes, thanks to a heavy-duty motor. The compressor’s power cord connects to your car’s cigarette outlet and includes three nozzle adapters for different size inputs.

There’s a built-in pressure gauge on the face of the compressor, letting you know just exactly how much pressure is in your tire. Measuring 12 inches by 10 inches by 8 inches, it’s fairly portable and weighs only 2 pounds. There’s even a mini version that’s even smaller, which is ideal to keep in your car at all times. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, there’s a digital variant also available.


Great performance


Some users complain of built quality/short life

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Kensun AC/DC Swift Performance Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator

A bit more expensive but an extremely popular and highly-rated product on Amazon is the Kensun AC/DC Swift Performance portable air compressor. It is AC/DC adaptable, which means in addition to being compatible with your car’s cigarette lighter, you can plug it into a standard power outlet for home use.

It’s a bit heavier than AAA’s unit at 3.95 lbs, but it is comparable in size measuring 11.8 inches by 4.3 inches by 6.7 inches and comes with a convenient built-in carry handle. It is however, only available with an analog gauge.


Good performance
Can be used around the house


Only available with an analog gauge

VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor

For 20 years, VIAIR has bee one of the leading manufacturers of air compressors. If you follow the automotive aftermarket, you’ve likely heard of the company’s air suspension systems, which is a popular option for tuners. The company’s 85P portable air compressor is one of the most popular items within the category on Amazon, priced comparably to the Kensun AC/DC Swift Performance portable air compressor.

Weighing 5 lbs, it’s a bit heavier so keep that in mind if you’ll likely have to move it around when doing the front and rear tires. It measures 9.2 inches by 5.5 inches by 6.8 inches and is rated at 60 PSI or 1.26 CFM. There’s a built-in LED work light and the compressor is capable of inflating tires up to 31 inches in diameter.

The compact air compressor is a 12-volt unit, so it uses your car’s cigarette lighter for power. Most standard-sized tires can be filled in under three minutes, from 0 to 30 PSI.


Built-in LED
Comes with a deluxe carrying bag


Analog gauge

Black+Decker ASI300 Air Station Inflator

Priced as a mid-range option, Black+Decker’s portable air compressor can be used with either a standard power outlet or a vehicle’s lighter socket. It offers inflation power up to 160 PSI and has an integrated gauge that pays attention to the air pressure. That means you can set the pressure you want and the ASI300 will automatically shut off once it has inflated to that pressure.

It is heavier than other air compressors, weighing 6.1 pounds, while measuring 12.1 inches by 8.1 inches by 8.9 inches.

Black+Decker also offers a two-year warranty with its ASI300 Air Station Inflator.


Air dial for instant shutoff when correct air pressure has been reached
Two-year warranty
Can be used with either a power outlet or 12-volt car outlet



Porter-Cable 135 PSI Pancake Compressor

If you’re wanting to invest a bit more into an actual air compressor that could serve additional purposes than just adding air to your tires, the Porter-Cable 135 PSI Pancake Compressor is a fairly affordable option. This however, isn’t a portable air compressor you can just leave in your car and use whenever you need to put air into your tires. Instead, this is likely a compressor you leave in your garage.

Weighing 26 pounds, it features a 3.5-gallon tank and max 135 PSI for longer run time and quicker recovery. The company says it’s equipped with a durable oil-free pump for long life and no maintenance, while powered by a 120-volt motor.

If you do opt to purchase Porter-Cable’s 135 PSI Pancake Compressor, you can get a cheaper tire gauge and inflator that hooks straight into the air compressor.

How often should I check my tire pressure?

Nowadays with TPMS in most vehicles, there’s a good chance you will hardly check your tire pressure unless the light illuminates. Or maybe you go with the “eye test,” where you just look and gauge whether your tire is flat or not. It’s always a good idea to do a quick visual check before driving your vehicle, especially if you’re taking a long trip. But if you want to make sure your car is running optimally and you’re not sacrificing fuel economy, routinely checking your tire pressure is a good idea.

Checking your tires once a month is recommended, and if you keep a tire gauge in your car, it’s not a bad idea to just do a quick check while you’re filling up gas. It’s a relatively painless process and could go a long way in making sure your tires last as long as they should.
How do I use a tire pressure gauge?

Most tire gauges are straightforward to use, regardless of whether they have an analog or digital gauge. Conventional or standard tire gauges are typically compact and resemble a writing utensil. Simply attach the gauge to the valve stem and a plastic rod will extend from the gauge to show your tire’s PSI reading. If you’re using a conventional tire gauge, it’s recommended to check the tire pressure two or three times to make sure you have an accurate reading.

Most conventional tire gauges will also allow you to easily let air out of your tire by putting the opposite end into the valve stem.

While they do cost a bit more than a conventional tire gauge, digital tire gauges typically give a more accurate reading and are easier to use. All you have to do is turn on the gauge and place it on the valve stem to get a PSI reading. But since they are digital, they’ll require batteries so always keep a spare set handy.

Is it safe to drive my car with low tire pressure?

It is not recommended to drive your car for an extended period of time with low tire pressure. If your vehicle is equipped with TPMS and the light is on, you’ll want to address the issue as soon as possible. Low tire pressure not only results in uneven wear on the tire, it increases the risk of getting a flat.
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