When it comes to cars, nothing will keep you from reaching your destination like a flat tire. And if you have no idea how to inflate a tire, you'll have to wait around for someone who does. Save time and skip the middleman by learning how to inflate your tires on your own, using our simple steps and expert advice.
Check your tire pressure
Invest in a good tire gauge and keep it in your car at all times for emergencies and general safekeeping.
"Don't get the five-dollar 'cheapo,'" advises Matt Allen, owner of Virginia Auto Service in Phoenix, Arizona, and host of Bumper to Bumper Radio at the city's news station, 92.3 FM KTAR. "You can buy a good-quality digital tire pressure gauge for about $20 at any automotive store, or you can spend as much as $70 or more for a fancier gauge."
See our tutorial for a detailed rundown of how to check your tire pressure step-by-step.
Find your air source
Whether you have a pump at home or head to the gas station, make sure you park the flat tire close enough to the pump to avoid maneuvering the hose in awkward positions.
"You want to avoid touching the paint on the car with the hose because it will scratch the car's paint," Allen says.
Remove your valve stem and then place the hose over the stem as you did with the tire gauge. Some tires are inflated with nitrogen — especially in newer models. That doesn't mean your tires can't use air, though.
"You can add regular compressed air to any tire inflated with nitrogen. Using 'regular' air will only dilute the purity of nitrogen in the tire," Allen says. "Have your regular service center refill [the tire] with nitrogen at your next service."
In general, a tire will inflate by one pound per square inch, otherwise known as "psi," for every second and a half the air nozzle is attached.
Using the same procedure as in step 1, check your tire pressure to make sure it's at the ideal psi detailed in your owner's manual or driver's-side-door placard. If not, continue to add air and check until the appropriate level is reached. To let air out, depress the core in the center of the tire valve. Every three seconds, the tire will let out approximately one psi, Allen says.
Replace the valve cap and go!
Screw on your valve cap, and you're done! Get back on the road.
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