Inflation is bad, except when it comes to tires. A flat tire can result from weather changes, a small puncture or simply neglecting to inflate the tire regularly, and it can cause a dire situation under less-than-ideal circumstances. Inflating your tires is an easy process that can save you a big headache — you just have to know how!
You'll find much conflicting advice between your owner's manual and what's printed on your actual tire, according to Howard Fleischmann, owner of Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair in Phoenix, Arizona.
"Do not go by what you see on your tire for pressure," he says. "This is only showing you what [is] the 'max' pressure this tire can hold. Instead, look in your car's owner's manual or on your driver's-side door's placard for the correct pressure, measured in psi. You should have a tire gauge in your car at all times for emergencies and for safekeeping."
Ideally, you should check your tires in the morning when they're "cold," not when you've been running around in your car all day, Fleischmann says. This will give you the most accurate reading of your tire pressure, and you can then decide to inflate them or leave them be.
Take a look at the type of valve cap your tires have.
"If your valve-stem caps are black or chrome, the tires are most likely filled with air," Fleischmann says. "If the valve-stem caps are green, blue or indicate 'N2,' the tire is most likely filled with nitrogen. In this case, you will need to locate a tire dealer near you that carries nitrogen."
Remove the valve cap and press your tire gauge onto the stem. Hold it there for just a second or two, then release. Find your psi level on the gauge and compare it to the ideal inflation level in your owner's manual or side placard. Use an air pump at a gas station to fill your tires as necessary or simply use your own air pump. Continue checking the tire pressure until the tires are properly filled.
Seasonal weather changes might affect your tire pressure and therefore your gas mileage. Fleischmann recommends checking your tire pressure once a month to ensure your tires are running as efficiently as possible.
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