You should check and (as necessary) pump your tires often. Besides the fact that it’s common sense maintenance for your car, properly inflated car tires save fuel – up to 3.3% of your total consumption.
I’d say a monthly check is a good idea, but it’s easy to forget. An easy way to remember pressure checks is to line them up with other regular maintenance – oil changes are a good idea. If you live in a northern climate, definitely check the pressure every time you switch your summer tires for winters (and vice versa).
You also may be able to tell, based on how your car rides, if your tires need more air. The handling, the smoothness, and rolling distance are different depending on your tires’ firmness. But don’t leave it to chance. Check.
If you can tell they need more air visually, then you’ve let them lose too much pressure.
What PSI is best for your tires? Check the owner’s manual.
Usually, the recommended PSI differs for the back and front tires.
You should only check tires when you haven’t driven on them for at least three hours (“cold” tires). Tire pressure will also change based on the weather – if it’s cold out and becomes warm, the air in the tires will expand, increasing the PSI. Of course the inverse is also true.
Filling tires to a higher level than is recommended in the manual (harder tires) will save additional fuel, but it’ll reduce your grip and increase the chance of a blow-out (both on the road and when you’re filling the tire). Therefore I do NOT recommend that you fill your tires beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation despite the fuel savings you’d enjoy. Personally, I overfill my tires by a few PSI.
So you want to add air to your tires. How should you go about it? (I know, I know, it’s excrutiatingly simple and everybody already knows. But this post is only 300 words thus far.)
Most of the air compressors that I’ve seen at gas stations now charge money. That’s ridiculous. It should be a free convenience for customers because it costs the provider next to nothing. I guess that’s the typical Canadian business model, amirite?
If you can’t find a free tire air compressor, buy a cheap tire pump and keep it in your trunk. It’s a good idea to have one for emergency purposes anyway.
This badboy was $9.99 at Canadian Tire. The compressor plugs into my car’s adapter, which makes it extremely convenient whether I’m at home or a gas station. You could buy a separate tire gauge for a few dollars, but if you can buy a cheap “all-in-one” device, why bother?
As for actually checking and filling tires, it’s extremely simple.
- Hook up your tire gauge (or gauge/compressor).
- Compare the pressure to the ideal level. If it needs more air, turn on the air compressor (or hook it up and then turn it on).
- Always exercise all safety precautions when checking and filling tires. For example, wear safety glasses in case there’s a tire blow-out and never leave a pump unattended. It really doesn’t get simpler than this. I’m trying to think of extra “steps” to add and it’s hurting my brain.