When it comes to safety, a car’s tires are arguably one of its most important components. These pieces of rubber are, after all, are a big part of what’s keeping you and your speeding 1,000kg subcompact sedan firmly planted on the asphalt.
Frankly, to call your tires ‘vital’ is a major understatement. Every turn you make and every press on the brake pedal concerns them, so please give them the attention they deserve.
Today, let’s tackle a couple of things every motorist needs to know about inflating their car’s tires. We know, putting air into them is a relatively easy affair—but it’s boring, routine processes like this one that are often overlooked.
We cannot stress this enough. It’s too often we see careless motorists working on their tires in poorly lit areas or spots situated dangerously close to moving traffic. If you need to pop out a compressor and inflate your tires, park in a safe place on the side of a road (if possible) and set up an early warning device or two at least four meters away from your vehicle.
You should know your car model’s recommended tire pressure by heart. If you’re not familiar with it, you can check by opening the driver-side door and looking at the small print located in the door well. Follow this figure to the dot—not doing so could lead to poor fuel economy, messed-up handling, or even a high-speed blowout.
Keep in mind that in certain situations, it’s all right to deviate from the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. Driving on very soft surfaces like sand, for example, will need you to release some air from your tires to increase your their surface area and improve traction.
Adjust tire pressure according to your needs, but remember that doing so can affect traction, load capacity, braking distance, and, as mentioned above, fuel economy and handling.
Tire pressure can be a tricky thing to determine via feel alone, especially if you’re driving over roads or surfaces you’re not familiar with. Also, appearances can be deceiving when it comes to tires, so a visual inspection isn’t the most accurate way of determining pressure.
What’s more, flats or punctures can happen anywhere, including in far-flung areas kilometers away from the nearest fuel station—and even you manage to make it to that station, there may not even be a functioning gauge on hand.
For these reasons, we recommend keeping a small tire-pressure gauge handy inside your car at all times. It doesn’t need to be a fancy digital one, as even cheaper models bought online will do the trick. It’s a small price to pay for some much-needed peace of mind.
Some cars do not come with a spare tire. This means a call for a tow if you puncture one of your tires in a remote area—unless of course, you have a reliable compressor, a tire repair kit, or a portable CO2 tire inflator with you just to keep you afloat until you reach a nearby gas station or vulcanizing shop.
Please do remember, however, to just call for assistance if your tire is beyond repair. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Always put air inside your tires in short bursts. This is especially important to remember when using motorized air compressors, as leaving these running for too long can lead to an overinflated tire. Be sure to constantly check a tire’s pressure using a gauge to see how far off you are from reaching the recommended level, and adjust accordingly.
Make it a habit to routinely check your tires’ pressure first thing in the morning, or at least before driving out. This is because heat expands the air inside your tires, which affects the pressure your gauge displays. At the very least, wait a while after a drive before checking on your tire pressure to allow the tires to cool down.
Like we said, inflating your tires is a relatively simple task. If you’re at a gas station, make sure you pull up close enough to the compressor for the air hose to reach whichever tire needs filling. Remove the cap of your tire valve, and compare the reading of the gas station’s compressor to that of your tire pressure gauge to ensure it is accurate.
Take the end of the air hose and make sure air is flowing through. You should hear a hissing noise. Now, securely attach the end of the air hose and hold it in place as it fills up the tire, and as we mentioned earlier, be sure to check on the pressure of the tire being inflated as you go along. Release air accordingly if you go above the recommended tire pressure.
Remember to be patient. How long it takes a tire to reach its recommended pressure level will depend on whether or not you have a leak, as well as what type of pump you’re using (a manually operated pump will take quite a while longer compared to a motorized compressor).
Once finished, screw the tire valve cap back on. Be sure that all of your tires are evenly inflated to the recommended level by using a tire pressure gauge.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done. This is a very small piece of plastic that’s easy to lose track of when you’re in the process of inflating a tire, so make sure you place it securely inside a pocket before you get to work. More important, don’t forget to screw it back on once you’re done inflating your tire.
That’s about it. Again, make sure never to run on a tire that’s beyond repair. Call for assistance if it’s absolutely necessary.