How To Put Air in Tires Without a Gauge

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Are your tires showing a bit of bulge around the sidewall? Or maybe you’ve been noticing some problems keeping the car straight when you’re steering. It could be that you’ve lost some tire pressure on one of your tires, and you’ll need to check it and reinflate them.

A tire pressure gauge is an incredibly useful tool for measuring your tire pressure, but sometimes you don’t have one at hand. If you want to know how to put air in tires without a gauge, we’ve compiled a guide with all you need to know about tire pressure.

Here are some of the things we’ll go through in this guide:

  • Can I put air in my tires without a gauge?
  • How do I put air in my tires at a gas station?
  • How do I know if I put enough air in my tires?
  • Is it normal for tires to lose pressure?

How To Put Air in Tires Without a Gauge

Can I Put Air in My Tires Without a Gauge?

Yes, you can put air in your car tires without a gauge, but it’s not ideal. The pressure gauge doesn’t inflate the tire, it only gives you the exact air pressure reading.

A tire pressure gauge is an incredibly useful and low-budget tool that doesn’t take more space in your glove department than a pen. Using a gauge is the only way to know your air pressure isn’t too low, and also that you don’t add air after the ideal point.

To inflate the tire, you’ll need an air compressor or air pump. In normal conditions, the best way to add air to your car tires is at a gas station, because they usually have a built-in air gauge.

How Do I Put Air in My Tires at a Gas Station?

Here’s how to put air in tires without a gauge at gas stations.

  1. The best time to inflate a tire is when they’re cold, so try not to drive more than a couple of miles on them before inflating them. If you’ve been driving more, let the tires cool down for half an hour if you can.
  2. Find the air compressor at your gas station and make sure you drive close enough to reach the tire.
  3. Locate the air valve stem on your tire and open the cap. Keep the cap in a safe place! They’re tiny, and if you leave them on the ground, you might lose them.
  4. Check the instructions on the compressor. If you need to feed coins into the machine, this is the moment. Some air compressors will let you set up the pressure level you want; others will require you to control it.
  5. The air compressor will have a long tube. You’ll need to place the nozzle at the end of the tube against your valve stem to fill the tire.
  6. Push the nozzle against the valve stem until you hear the tire inflating.
  7. If the machine is automatic, it will make a beep or simply stop inflating when it reaches the correct air level. With a non-automatic machine that has a built-in gauge, you’ll have to follow the air pressure on the gauge. On the rare occasion that the machine doesn’t have a gauge, inflate the tire for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, check what it looks like or push on the tire with your hand or foot.
  8. If you’ve over-inflated your tire, let out a bit of air by pushing on the valve stem and check the pressure again.
  9.  Remember to put the valve caps back on before you finish.

How Do I Know If I Put Enough Air in My Tires?

Before inflating your tires, it’s key to know the right amount of air for your car. There are two numbers you should know about your tires.

  • Maximum pressure is the maximum air pressure your tire can have to perform. You’ll find this number on the tires, and it’s expressed in pounds per square inch, or PSI. You should not inflate the tire until this point.
  • Operating pressure is the number established by your car manufacturer that’s the ideal pressure for an optimal driving experience. You’ll find this number on the tire sticker on your car door, and it’s also in your car’s owner’s manual.

Maximum pressure is much higher than operating pressure, usually, a number that’s over 40 in passenger vehicles. Operating pressure, on the other hand, tends to be between 30 and 35. If you fill the tire over that point, you’ll be driving around on overinflated tires.

Important: If you’re carrying cargo or more people than usual, add a couple more PSIs of pressure to your tires. Especially when transporting a heavy load for longer distances, you’ll need a bit of extra to offset the weight.

Here are a couple of techniques to tell if you’ve got the right amount of pressure in your tires.

By Feel

You can test air pressure by pushing hard at the tire and seeing how it feels against your hand. If it doesn’t have any give but instead feels hard as a rock, you should have enough air. If the tire sinks a bit when you push the tire, your tire is low on pressure.

The problem with this technique is that you won’t know if your tire is overinflated.

By Eye

It’s relatively easy to spot a tire with very low pressure: it will look flat against the ground. However, if you’re just a bit lower on air, the difference won’t be as clear, and it will require a trained eye to spot any problems.

Distance helps, so to get a better view of your tires, back up about 20 to 30 feet from your car. Watch the low part of the sidewall of the tire, comparing it to other tires. If there’s any bulge on the sidewall, it could mean the tire’s low on air, and the pressure is not holding it up anymore.

As with the touch technique, this one won’t tell you if your tire is overinflated, and works best on low air pressure.

At the Gas Station

You’ll be able to check if your tire has enough air at pretty much all gas stations. Depending on where you live, it may even be free by law to inflate your tires.

Even if the gas station charges you, it generally won’t cost you to check the pressure. Inflating might cost you a dollar or two per tire, and often in coins. The perk is that when you go to the gas station, you’ll have a tire gauge to check your air pressure to get it right.

Tire Pressure App

Today, on top of the old-fashioned resources, you can also download a tire pressure app on your phone. This is a bit like judging it by sight, though, as most will require you to upload pictures to check whether your pressure is low or not.

You’ll also need to find your car on the app’s database for the measurement to be accurate, and they don’t always include all manufacturers.

Tire pressure apps are fast and functional, though, so it might not be a bad idea to download one on your phone. Some of them will even calculate how much fuel you’re wasting when driving on underinflated tires,

Service Stations and Tire Dealerships

Your service station or tire dealership may be willing to check your tire pressure, especially if you’ve bought the tires from them. This is not necessarily the case, so prepare to pay a small amount for this service and for inflating your tires.

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Is It Normal for Tires to Lose Pressure?

Any tire loses a bit of pressure in normal conditions, so having low pressure when you’ve been driving for a while doesn’t mean you have a puncture. The common amount of tire pressure to lose is about 1 to 3 PSI in a month just thanks to it permeating the structure of the rubber.

When temperatures drop, tire press ure can momentarily drop, as well. It’s not because the air gets out of the tire, but because the existing air shrinks in the cold. The pressure tire will return to normal when it gets warmer, so you shouldn’t reinflate your tires.

If the tire pressures drop too fast after you’ve filled up your tires, it may be because you have some damage on the heel, the rim or the valve. In that case, make sure you get your tire checked up.

The Takeaway

If your car tires are underinflated, you’ll waste gas and produce more wear on your vehicle, as well as your tires. Knowing your tires pressure will give you more mileage and save you some money.

Learning how to put air in tires without gauge perfectly takes a bit of practice, especially if you do it by sight or feel. Today, you can also use different apps that evaluate the air pressure on your tires through photos.

Still, there’s no way to be absolutely certain of how much pressure your tires have unless you measure it. Heading to the nearest gas station, you’ll likely be able to find an inflator with an easy-to-use built-in tire gauge.


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