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It’s dangerous to have improperly inflated tires on your vehicle. Under-inflated or over-inflated tires can affect the handling of your vehicle and they can fail suddenly, which can cause you to lose control.
A pencil tire pressure gauge is a simple and inexpensive tool that every vehicle owner should own and have easy access too. This article will show you how to use one to check tire pressure.
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Keep an Eye on Tire Pressure
It’s a good idea to check the pressure on all of your tires, including the spare, at least once a month. Of course, check the pressure immediately if you notice that a tire looks low. You might have a slow leak from a nail or other object.
You also want to use the tire size that’s recommended for your vehicle and the correct air pressure for each tire. This information is usually located on a sticker within the driver’s side door opening or B-Pillar (see sticker example above).
There are several reasons for driving on tires with the correct tire pressure:
- A properly inflated tire will provide better fuel efficiency and longer tire life.
- Improperly inflated tires are dangerous and can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and cause an accident.
- Over-inflation can reduce a tire’s ability to cushion shocks from potholes and objects in the road, resulting in tire failure.
- Under-inflation increases tire flexing and can result in tire overheating.
- Unequal tire pressures can cause steering issues.
Don’t forget about the spare! You don’t want to be stopped on the side of the road and discover, during the replacement of a flat tire, that your spare itself is very low or even flat.
What is Cold Tire Pressure?
It’s preferred to check tire pressure when the tires are “cold”, or before your vehicle has been driven and the tires have warmed up due to use on the road. As mentioned above, the correct tire pressure information is usually located on a sticker within the driver’s side door opening or B-Pillar. You can also find the max tire pressure located on the tire sidewall itself (see second picture in the slideshow above), but that is not the amount of pressure to maintain when filling the tire with air.
If you happen to need to add air to your tire while the tires are “hot”, such as at a gas station, just keep it about 5 psi above the recommend “cold” air pressure. Check the air pressure again when the tires are “cold”.
How to Check Tire Pressure
From pencil tire gauges to digital, there’s all sorts of different gauges to use. This article features the pencil tire gauge, which is both easy to use and inexpensive to purchase. As you may have guessed, a pencil tire gauge is about the size of a pencil, so it’s easy to keep one in your vehicle. We keep ours in the glovebox.
How to Use a Pencil Tire Gauge
- Locate the tire valve stem and remove the cap. Keep the cap in a safe place because it’s easy to lose!
- Place the pencil tire gauge head opening over the top of the valve stem.
- Firmly push down on the valve stem until the white gauge pops out of the bottom. The number PSI at the top of the exposed white gauge is the current tire pressure.
- Add or remove air from the tire according to what the correct air pressure is supposed to be.
- Replace the valve stem cap.
Pencil tire gauges usually include a deflator button on the back side of the gauge head. You can use that button to push down on the valve stem core, which will enable it to release air. Do this if the tire is over-inflated.