Checking your tire pressure might seem like a remedial task, similar to the simple job of making sure there’s gas in the tank. However, believe it or not, checking tire pressure is something that often goes overlooked as people get caught up in their daily grind.
As seasonal changes yield different outdoor temperatures, your tires can perform very differently. For instance, the air pressurized in your tire can expand or contract according to use and ambient temperature, altering the contact patch, the behavior of your tire, and thus the way your vehicle performs. For the sake of motoring safety, it’s crucial to often check your tire pressure to make sure it’s correct before you drive. If you’ve never checked your tire pressure before, no worries — we’ve created a simple guide that’ll show you how.
Ways to check tire pressure
There are various ways to check the tire pressure on your vehicle. If you have a car that was made around or just after 1986, there’s chance your car comes with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Those chances increase as the cars get newer. For instance, the U.S. saw its first TPMS-equipped car in 1991, thanks to General Motors equipping the Chevrolet Corvette with the system. If your car was made after September 2007, your car unquestionably has TPMS, a federal safety mandate for light-duty vehicles (weighing less than 10,000 pounds), imposed through the United States TREAD Act of 2000. It’s a policy enacted following the historic and major Firestone tire recall of the late 1990s that affected Ford Explorer trucks equipped with faulty tires from the factory.
What does TPMS do? It automatically notifies you via a lit dashboard icon if you either have too much or too little air in your tires. Some of the systems are particularly rudimentary, with a single warning light suggesting one or more of the four tires isn’t filled properly. With more recent cars equipped with infotainment systems or trip computers embedded into the gauge cluster, there are more comprehensive TPM systems that tell you the approximate pressure of each tire.
Here are a few examples of TPM systems on newer vehicles:
If your ride doesn’t have a TPM system, or it does but it doesn’t display individual tire pressures, you’ll need to check the tires the old-fashioned way. First, you need to acquire a tire pressure gauge. These can be picked up very easily from places like your local gas station quick-mart, or any local automotive parts or general hardware department store. Most are just a few dollars, but the fancier ones can cost as much as $20 or $30.
These are the two most common types of tire pressure gauges, analog versus digital: