Tips, Tricks & Trends

You May Have Been Using A Tire Pressure Gauge Wrong

A tire pressure gauge is one of the simplest tools a car owner can keep handy. They are easy to find and inexpensive, but it’s important that you keep a tire pressure gauge in each one of your cars. Most of us understand the general use of a tire pressure gauge, but there are some tips of the trade the help you get the most accurate readings, and there are some important things you should know. Having a tire pressure monitoring system in your car isn’t a substitute for routinely checking your tire pressure, and you’d be surprised to hear how adding this to your regular car maintenance can make a pretty significant difference in your car’s performance.

How to check your tire pressure properly

There are several different types of tire pressure gauges, but regardless of what kind you prefer, they seem pretty self-explanatory. To many people, using a tire pressure gauge is as quick and easy as screwing the gauge connector to the tire’s air stem and waiting for a reading. This isn’t the most effective way to get the car’s tire pressure and it may not be as accurate as you might think.

A mechanic measures a tire's pressure using a handheld gauge
Checking tire pressure on a car fitted with winter tires | Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS

RELATED: 5 Car Maintenance Costs That Are Worth The Extra Money

As you drive your car, your tires heat up due to friction, and this can affect the pressure inside of the tire. The best time to check your tire’s pressure is when they are at ambient air temperature, which means you haven’t driven your car in several hours. If you check your tire pressure on a quick stop at the gas station or immediately after you get home you will get a number that is higher than your standard ambient pressure.

Having the correct tire pressure is important

Ensure your tire pressure is accurately maintained isn’t just good for your car, it is also important for your safety. If your tire pressure is too high it can cause the tire to blow out, which can make pulling off to the side of the road a tricky task, and it can potentially cause an accident. If your tire pressure is too low your wheel could damage the rubber and cause the tire wall to fail. Either way, you are stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow. But what about in less dramatic situations?

Emergency jumper cabls and a tire pressure gauge.
A tire pressure gauge is included in most roadside emergency kits | SimeonDonov

RELATED: Three Do-It-Yourself Car Maintenance Projects to Try Next

Tire pressure is heavily affected by temperature, so that means as the ambient temperature outside changes month to month and season to season, your tire pressure might be lower or higher. It’s important to do a quick check of your tire pressure at least once a month to ensure they are correctly pressurized. When your tires are properly inflated your car experiences less friction, and it can even improve your car’s fuel efficiency.