Our step-by-step guide explains how and why to check tyre pressures
Maintaining correct tyre pressures is essential for safe and efficient driving. Driving with underinflated or overinflated tyres can increase the risk of accidents, decrease fuel efficiency and cause uneven tyre wear.
In this guide, we’ll take you through the steps to check your car’s tyre pressures, including where to find the recommended pressure for your tyres, and how to adjust the pressure if necessary.
Checking tyre pressure in four steps
1. Gather the necessary tools
To check your car’s tyre pressures at home, at the very least you will need a tyre pressure gauge, which you can buy from as little as £5 at a car parts store or online.
You may well need to adjust the amount of air in your car’s tyres, so it makes sense to invest in a portable compressor. These typically plug into a car’s 12-volt socket and include a pressure gauge; they can be purchased from around £20.
Many modern cars come with a tyre inflator kit rather than a spare wheel, and in this you should find a portable compressor, saving you the need to buy your own.
If you don’t want to buy your own gear, or need to check your tyres immediately, most petrol stations have a compressor on their forecourt, though you’ll often have to pay £1 or so to use it.
2. Find the recommended tyre pressure
Your car’s recommended pressures can usually be found in the owner’s manual, on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb, or on the inside of the fuel-filler flap. It’s important to use the recommended tyre pressure for your car, as overinflated or underinflated tyres can affect your car’s handling and fuel efficiency.
3. Check your tyre pressures
Remove the valve caps from each tyre and screw in or press on the tyre pressure gauge onto the valve stem. The gauge will give you a reading of the tyre pressure in PSI (pounds per square inch) and/or bar (one bar = 14.5 psi). Compare this reading to the recommended tyre pressure for your car. Repeat this process for each tyre, including the spare tyre.
4. Inflate or deflate the tyres as necessary
If the tyre pressure is lower than the recommended pressure, you’ll need to inflate the tyre. If it’s higher, you’ll need to deflate it. To inflate the tyre, connect the air hose to the valve stem and add air until the pressure reaches the recommended level.
Most modern compressors feature a digital gauge that will either allow you to preset how much pressure you want to put into the tyre, or tell you precisely how much air is in the tyre. They should also deflate as well as inflate your tyres to this pressure.
Once you’ve got your tyres to the correct pressure, don’t forget to replace the valve caps.
What is the correct tyre pressure for my car?
Different cars require their tyres inflating to different pressures, even with variations between the same model of car, depending on what engine and wheels are fitted.
Tyre pressures can be different between front and rear wheels due to differences in weight distribution. In general, the front tyres will have a slightly lower pressure than the rear tyres, as the weight of the engine and transmission is usually over the front wheels.
Note there are often different recommended pressures depending on how many people or luggage you’re carrying, while front and rear tyres often require different pressures.
When should car tyre pressure be checked?
Given tyres are the only part of the car in contact with the road, it’s hard to overstate how important ensuring they are at the correct pressure is, so checking them at least once a month is recommended. Take the time to look and feel for cuts, bulges and other damage, too, and be sure to check the tread depth as well.
Where can I check my car’s tyre pressure?
You can check your car’s tyre pressure at most petrol stations, where they typically have tyre inflators and gauges available for use. Tyre shops will also usually check your pressures while you wait. It’s hard to overlook the convenience of buying your own compressor, though, if your car doesn’t come with one as part of a tyre inflation kit.
Why is it important to check a car’s tyre pressure?
Underinflated tyres can lead to decreased handling and grip, increased stopping distances, and potential blowouts, while overinflated tyres can reduce ride comfort, increase stopping distance, and also increase the risk of a blowout.
Correctly inflated tyres also promote better fuel efficiency, and tyre longevity, saving you money on both fuel and replacement tyres.
Car tyre pressure FAQs
Is tyre pressure checked during an MOT?
No, tyre pressure is not one of the components checked during an MOT test, although tyre condition is, and dangerously low tread depths will see a car fail.
Is tyre pressure checked during a service?
Tyre pressure is usually checked during routine maintenance, but it may not be included in all services. It’s a good idea to check with the garage to confirm what is included in your service.
How often should I check my car’s tyre pressure?
It’s recommended to check your car’s tyre pressure at least once a month, or more frequently if you drive frequently or cover long distances. You should also check your tyre pressure before long trips, as the extra stress on the tyres can lead to changes in pressure.
Can I check my car’s tyre pressure when it’s hot?
It’s not recommended to check your car’s tyre pressure when the tyres are hot or the ambient temperature is notably high, as the pressure reading may not be accurate. This is because as the tyre heats up during driving, the air inside the tyre expands, increasing the pressure.
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