Fixing Low Tire Pressure Is a Beginner-Level Repair Job for Most DIYers. Here’s Everything You Need to Know to Fix Low Tire Pressure at Home.
- DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Time Required: Five to ten minutes
- Tools & Materials:
What Is a Tire Pressure?
Tires contain air to cushion bumps as you drive down the road. Gas stations often have an air compressor that costs a dollar or two to use to fill up your tires. Tires generally lose about 1-3 PSI per month under normal conditions, so if you have to fill up by more than that per month, there could be a problem with the tires themselves.
If you find yourself refilling your tires very often, they might be due for a replacement. However, there’s no real need to visit a mechanic to fix low tire pressure.
Is It Safe to Drive with Low Tire Pressure?
Low tire pressure can interfere with efficiency and performance, and these problems will get worse as the tires deflate further. With underinflated tires, you run the risk of reduced handling, stopping power, and fuel economy. You also have a higher risk of a blowout, since the tire wears out far more quickly when underinflated.
It’s a good idea to not just avoid excessively low tire pressure, but maintain the optimal ratings for your make and model. You can see instructions for what PSI to fill your tires in your driver’s door jamb or the owner’s manual.
If you’ve never checked or filled tires before, it’s super easy. You just have to get the hang of connecting a gauge to a tire inflator valve.
When to Inflate Your Tires
Since driving, weather, and other factors can affect the rate of tire pressure loss, there’s no exact window to check your tire pressure. It’s easy to fix as soon as you spot it, so you can consider it a detail to check once a week or so, like your car’s fluids. It only takes a few minutes to check and fill up any low tires. Then you can log those numbers for future checks to see how quickly they’re dropping.
Be sure to check your tire pressure only when they are cold, before you’ve driven anywhere. Driving even a short distance will heat up the tires, causing the pressures to increase. The pressures recommended by the manufacturer only apply when the tires are cold, so it is important to measure and fill them under the same conditions.
Checking and filling up your tires is an easy habit to build. You could do it once a month, once a week, or just as a final check whenever you work on your car. Just remember, aside from when the temperature outside drops, like in the early days of winter, the tire pressure shouldn’t go down more than a few PSI per month.
What Are Common Symptoms Indicating You Need to Inflate Your Tires?
- Saggy-looking tires
- Outside tread wears faster than the inside
- Stiffer turning
- Flapping sounds while driving
- Lower than normal fuel economy
- Tire pressure dash light
Keep in Mind
While checking your tire pressure, consider also checking the state of your wheels. Always follow your car’s manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedules for all tasks on your make and model. Using FIXD can help you get maintenance done on time, from tire care to replacing brake pads and rotors.
How to Fix Low Tire Pressure
Step One: Check the Tire Pressure
Once you know the right amount of pressure for your tires, it’s time to check and correct them. Every tire has a lateral screw-looking tube, often with a cap on it that you have to unthread. This is the tire’s inflation valve, where you check the pressure, inflate, and deflate. Take your tire pressure gauge and meet the open end to the open valve. Try to meet the pins in their centers as evenly as possible. The gauge should display the current pressure.
Tip: To get an accurate reading, press the gauge as straight as possible until you don’t hear a hiss. It isn’t difficult and doesn’t take any strength, so there’s no need to use force. After doing it once, you’ll get the hang of it. You may want to get a stool to sit on if it makes it easier to get the right angle.
Step Two: Add Air to the Tire
There are plenty of portable air compressors that you can keep in the back of your car. Not only is using one at home more convenient than driving to a gas station, but it also avoids heating up your tires while driving to a gas station, which will prevent you from setting the correct pressure.
Plug the compressor into your vehicle’s power port, then screw the air hose onto the tire valve. Turn on the compressor, and it will begin to inflate the tire.
Step Three: Check and Refill Further if Needed
Once you’ve added some air, disconnect the pump and try reading the pressure again. If you still need some more, go ahead and reconnect and try step two again.
Some compressors have a built-in gauge, which you can use to measure your progress, then turn it off when you reach the correct pressure. If your compressor does not have a gauge, you will have to turn it off, remove the hose from the valve stem, and use your gauge to check the pressure as you go.
If you check the pressure and it’s a little too high, you can let the excess air out by sticking any small tool into the inflator valve’s hole. If you hear a hiss, the air is coming out. Tire pressure gauges usually have a nub on the back for this exact purpose. Once you’ve checked the tire and gotten the right pressure, put on the inflator valve’s cap and you just fixed your tire’s low pressure! Repeat these steps for every tire, and you’re set.
Still Need Help?
Remember to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and do any of the tasks advised for your make and model. Your tires will also have clear markings on the side about the maximum pressure they can stand. If you have any questions about tire pressure, call the FIXD Mechanic Hotline and talk to our Master Mechanics.
Disclaimer: The guidelines in this story are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual or repair guide before attempting repairs.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.