Tire pressure. We’re always talking about why it’s so important to check it. But how do you check it? It’s a simple, monthly tire maintenance procedure that can save your tires, your gas mileage, and maybe even your life. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but underinflated tires can be a safety issue nonetheless. Here’s how to make sure your tire pressure is right.

Just to review, tire pressure is vitally important. When your tires are underinflated, you’ll start to run into problems.

First, they’ll wear out faster. Your tires are designed to contact the road in a very specific place. Hint: It’s the part with the tread. When your tires are underinflated, another part of the tire, the sidewall, begins to make contact with the road. It’s like the part of your hand not covered by an oven mitt coming into contact with a hot cookie sheet. The sidewall isn’t as thick, so it’s vulnerable. Nor does it offer as much grip, so this can affect handling and braking.
Second, your gas mileage will suffer. Your car was designed to run at peak efficiency when your tires are inflated to the appropriate PSI. When the tires are underinflated, well, it’s a bit like putting on a pair of The Rock’s work boots and running a mile. You might be able to do it, but it’s going to cost you so much more energy than it would in your normal running shoes.

So how do you check it?

1. Visually Inspect Your Tires Often
Tires lose pressure over time. On a microscopic level, rubber is porous, so over a long period of time, air will escape, even if nothing is wrong with the tire. But sometimes something is wrong with the tire. That’s why it’s important to have a quick look at your tires every few days. If one of them is fully flat, you’ll likely know as soon as you try to get up to speed. But if it’s merely low, you might not be able to tell by the way it drives. 

To prevent violent blowouts at speed, a modern tire is designed to provide a tight seal around any foriegn object that punctures it, so you might have a nail stuck in your tire for days before the leak begins to show. Catch it early and you could prevent further damage. As long as the puncture occurs within the tread surface, it can be repaired for far less than the cost of a new tire. In fact, Zohr’s mobile tire repair service can repair  it at your home or office.

2. Use a Tire Gauge to Check Your Pressure Monthly
We recommend a monthly reading for a few reasons. First, slow leaks might not be visible to the eye. If you find just one of your tires getting low every month, there may be a problem with it. Second, ambient temperature can actually affect tire pressure. Cold air contracts, and that includes the air in your tires. So in the colder months, you can lose tire pressure. 

3. Break Out The Tire Gauge
Here’s where we get to the actual measurements. You can find a tire gauge at just about any gas station in America. There are different types of tire gauges, some more expensive than others, but the most common model looks like a silver pen, or that neuralizer thing from Men in Black. Get one for about a dollar, or head to an auto parts store for a digital tire gauge if you want to get fancy.

Remove the cap from the valve on your tire, then press the gauge onto the valve. It only takes a moment. A white stick will slide out of the back of the gauge. This will tell you your current tire pressure in PSI, or pounds per square inch. 

Repeat for all four tires.

4. Find Your Recommended Tire Pressure
It’s no good knowing how much air is in your tires if you don’t know how much should be in there. Your tires have plenty of info stamped into the rubber— brand, season, size, and even age. But they don’t have the correct pressure for your vehicle. That one is up to the manufacturer.

Tire information can usually be found on the driver side door sill. Open the door and look for a sticker with the recommended tire size. You’ll also see the proper PSI for your tires. 

5. Inflate
If one of your tires is low, you can fill it yourself. If you’re still at the gas station where you bought the gauge, look around the periphery of the gas pump area for an air compressor, usually a metal box on a post. Throw a couple of quarters into it, and as it roars to life, use it to fill your tire.

The nozzle on the end of the compressor hose works just like your tire gauge. Press it onto the tire valve. You’ll know you have a good seal when you don’t feel any air coming out of the valve stem or hear any loud hissing. Stop often to check the pressure with your gauge. 

Don’t overfill your tires. Though it’s almost impossible to pop one like an overinflated balloon at a gas station, overinflation can have negative effects on your driving dynamics. You might experience a stiff ride or a loss of traction.

When you’ve hit the right PSI, replace the valve cap and hit the road.

The rattling compressor at the gas station isn’t the only place to fill up, though. You can actually buy a small compressor to keep in your car. Some can plug into the lighter outlet and run off of the car battery. Most of these compressors feature digital PSI readouts or physical dials so you don’t overfill. Some even have an auto-shutoff feature that allows you to set your desired PSI ahead of time.

Now you’re ready. If that tire looks a little low, or feels a little wobbly, don’t just keep driving on it. Check it, fill it, or make an appointment for mobile tire repair at your home or office through Zohr.

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