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Tire Guides and Advice that make the Grade

How Often Should Tire Pressure Be Checked?

Properly inflated tires will last longer, get better gas mileage, improve safety, and perform their best. 

We’re all busy and may not want to take the time necessary to check the tire pressure of our tires regularly. But how often should tire pressure be checked really?

How Often Should I Put Air In My Tires?

Check your tire pressure monthly and at least three hours after you have driven your vehicle so they have time to cool down.

You should also check pressures before long trips and before carrying heavy loads.

Ensuring all four tires are at the recommended tire pressure is important to maximize tire performance and tread life. 

Let’s take a closer look.

Recommended tire pressure on door jam label
Tire Pressure Sticker In Driver’s Door Jamb

What Should My Tire Pressure Be?

The correct pressure for your tires is usually listed on a sticker in the driver’s door jam. If for some reason it isn’t located here, you can check the gas filler door, inside the vehicle’s glove box, or the owner’s manual.

The pressure shown on the sidewall of your tire is the maximum tire pressure and should never be exceeded.

Overinflated tires to this pressure will cause the tires to wear prematurely in the middle of the tread and dramatically shorten the life of the tires and cause them to perform poorly.

Underinflated Tires

Underinflated tires will cause uneven tire wear on the inner and outer shoulders. Tires without enough air pressure will be supported more by the tire sidewalls than the actual air in the tire. This puts much more stress on the tread underneath the sidewalls at the edge of the tires.

Since the tire tread isn’t properly contacting the road surface you are also losing tire grip which is a safety concern.

Tire blowouts can also happen easily without proper inflation. The sidewalls flex and are stressed beyond their limits if there recommended tire pressure isn’t helping hold up the weight of the vehicle. Eventually the vehicle tire will fail and this can instantly lead to a catastrophic accident.

Overinflated Tires

Tires with too much air pressure will cause the center of the tire tread to push outward and the tires will wear more in the center of the tread, causing them to wear out more quickly in the middle.

This not only causes the tires to lose tire life rapidly, but it also reduces performance since much of the tread surface isn’t properly contacting the road and can’t grip.

proper tire inflation diagram

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

When the tire pressure warning light comes on, this is to let you know that your tire pressure is significantly low and needs to be addressed immediately.

The tire pressure monitoring system isn’t meant to be the first line of defense against low tire pressure, but a failsafe for when your tires experience significant pressure loss.

Your tires lose air slowly over time and these changes can affect the performance of your tires before triggering a warning light on your dashboard.

When To Check Your Tire Pressure

It’s best to check your tire pressure when the tires are cold. This means when the tires are at the same temperature as the outside air.

First thing in the morning is usually the best time to perform a tire pressure check. This is because your tires will be cold due to not being used and will not be heated by the sun and the air inside them unusually hot.

Hot tires will cause the air to expand and increase the pressure inside them. If you’re checking the pressure when they’re hot you won’t get an accurate reading.

At What Temperature Should Tire Pressure Be Checked?

There is no best temperature to check your tires. It’s best to check your tire pressure as close to the average temperature that you’ll experience over the coming weeks as possible.

This may be mid-day, but it will obviously depend on your local weather patterns and the seasonal changes coming up.

The goal is to check air pressure when the tires are as close to the ambient temperature as possible.

How Often Should You Check Tire Pressure In Winter?

It’s always smart to regularly check your tire pressure, especially when the temperatures drop significantly. Keeping an eye on your pressures throughout the winter is also very important to ensure safety.

Checking tire pressure monthly throughout the winter is smart to make sure that your tires are performing their best and able to get the most traction possible in snowy and icy conditions.

How Often Should You Check Tire Pressure In Summer?

As temperatures rise, air pressure in your tires will usually rise as well. This is because hot air expands and cold air contracts. Therefore, hotter tires will cause air pressure to increase.

Checking tire pressure in summer is less important since tires lose pressure slowly over time and you’re not likely to end up in a situation where your tires are overinflated.

You should still check your tire pressure monthly to ensure that your tires are at the recommended tire pressure to get the most tread life and performance out of them.

CRAFTSMAN V20 Inflator, Tool Only (CMCE520B) , Red

Quality portable air pumps like the one above are much more accurate and reliable.

How To Check Tire Pressure

Most gas stations have an air compressor with a built-in tire gauge that will allow you to easily check your pressures. Unfortunately, there are a few reasons I don’t recommend using an air compressor at a gas station.

While a gas station air compressor is great for topping up your tires in an emergency situation, your tires will be hot when you arrive and you won’t be able to get an accurate reading.

Speaking of accurate readings, the equipment and tire gauge included usually take a lot of abuse and may themselves not be terribly accurate. It’s best to have a tire gauge handy in your glove box.

Additionally, often these free or cheap air compressors at your local gas station won’t even be working at all, let alone properly. I’ve driven to 3 different stations in a row looking for a functional air pump with no luck before.

How To Check Tire Pressure With A Gauge

As mentioned previously, it’s best to check your vehicle tire pressures when the tires are cold for a more accurate reading. Usually in the morning and before the sun has had a chance to heat up the black tires.

It’s best to check pressure with a quality digital tire pressure gauge. There are pencil(AKA stick) and dial pressure gauges as well. Digital is the easiest to read and most accurate.

If you use an compressor at your local gas station it will be built into the hose and be a pencil gauge where the air pressure pushes out a slide that indicates pressure. It’s better to use your own gauge, but the built in one will work in a pinch.

Remove the tire’s valve stem cap and press the gauge onto the valve stem tip. Ensure the reading matches the vehicle’s recommendation for pounds per square inch found on the sticker inside the driver’s door jamb. Add air as needed until the gauge matches the psi listed on the tire information label in the driver’s door jamb.

How To Check Tire Pressure On Your Dashboard (TPMS)

More advanced TPMS systems will show individual tire pressures on your dashboard. This may be on the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel or the display on the center console.

These systems usually require the wheels to spin to activate the sensors. If you don’t have a tire gauge handy, you may need to drive a short distance between each fill to check the pressure before it will register a change.

How Often Should Spare Tire Pressure Be Checked?

As a general rule, spare tires should be checked at the same time you check your other tires. It will lose pressure slowly as well and it’s important to ensure your car or truck has a properly inflated spare.

If you don’t have a portable compressor when you need your spare tire and the pressure is too low, there isn’t much point in carrying around a spare.

If you don’t regularly check your spare you won’t know whether it can still hold the proper pressure to get you back on the road either. 

I’ve personally been stranded with a spare without air and no compressor to fill it. It’s extremely frustrating to say the least. A flat tire is enough of an inconvenience alone, let alone not being able to quickly fix it.

Why Do My Tires Need Air So Often?

Tires usually lose one pound per square inch per month. This is perfectly normal and due to osmosis through the rubber compound of your vehicle tire or the seal around the valve stem.

All your tires will slowly lose pressure this way and need periodic tire pressure tests with a quality tire pressure gauge to ensure they maintain the proper pressure.

Resources

Below are some links you may find helpful when learning about tires

Final Thoughts

Keeping a tire gauge in a handy location inside your car or truck is a good rule. I also recommend purchasing a portable compressor and keeping it in your vehicle trunk or other storage compartment.

It is essential to take proper care of your vehicle tires. Making sure your tires are at the recommended tire pressure will save money and help ensure you’re safety and the safety of others on the road.

Good luck and happy motoring.

About The Author
Will Creech
Will has been an automotive enthusiast since he was old enough to make engine sounds. Formerly a member of the contract training team at Discount Tire, he is unusually knowledgeable on all things related to tires. He is now the owner of and main contributor to TireGrades.com.
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