A Guide to Tire Pressure: How to Check Your PSI and Inflate Your Tires at the Gas Station

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Photo by Leo Cardelli

Maintaining Your Tire’s Air Pressure: Not Hard at All

Aloha Maui, if you’re here you’re interested in learning about how to check tire pressure, and you’re in the right place. To a beginner, tire inflation can have the tendency of sounding more challenging than it is. Don’t worry, it’s actually very easy! All you need to succeed is a little information. The hardest part is finding a gas station with free air, and the easiest part is just a few simple steps involving looking up the information that tells you what your tire’s ideal PSI is, and checking your tire’s air pressure and filling it. Every step you need to help you put air in your tires is in this in-depth guide.


Photo by Derwin Edwards

What is PSI and How to Find Your Car’s Ideal Pressure

Let’s start at the beginning. PSI stands for Pounds per Square Inch, and it’s the unit of measurement that reflects the air pressure inside your tire.     You want to keep the pressure inside your tires just right; over-inflating your tires can cause poor handling and a bumpy ride, and under-inflating can have negative effects on gas mileage and even damage your vehicle. To find the correct PSI for your tires, you can either look inside your car door or open your car’s manual and look it up; you can usually find it under “tire maintenance”. Most cars and trucks will fall between 27 and 35 PSI, unless you’re using a commercial vehicle, because the PSI for those tires varies widely. One thing to remember is DO NOT use the PSI listed on the tire itself! That number is the maximum PSI the tire can handle, and inflating to that level can damage your tires and cause a very bumpy ride.


Photo by Aphiwat Chuangchoem

The Biggest Challenge: Finding a Free Air Station

Once you’ve found the number for your tire’s ideal PSI, it’s time to find a gas station with a free air compressor near you. Hopefully there’s no line for the air pump; if there is, now’s a good time to double-check your recommended PSI. After you’ve pulled up to the air station, engage your emergency brake and turn off the vehicle. Go to the tire and remove the valve cap from the valve stem, keep it in a safe place that it won’t roll away. The valve cap doesn’t actually prevent air from escaping the tire, but it does protect the valve itself from getting debris in it which can cause issues. It’s best to be fastidious and hang onto your valve caps! 


Photo by Julie B

Using a Manual PSI Gauge to Check Your Tires

Now it’s finally time to turn to the air pump. Most gas stations have a manual air pump installed, which means you need to check and monitor the PSI of your tire while also filling the air. Many air stations also have a water pump, you can ignore this unless your car is overheating, which is a how-to guide for another day. Take the air gun and bring it over to your tire. It should have a PSI gauge attached to it, if not, you can buy one for a few dollars at your nearest auto parts store (gas stations and big box stores tend to carry them as well). The way a gauge functions is simple: After you’ve attached the hose to the tire’s valve stem, the gauge will pop out to show you the tire’s current PSI (unless the tire is flat), and it will disengage when you pull the lever and are actively filling the tire with air. You’ll be able to hear the air passing through the hose and filling the tire. Release the lever to view the PSI on the gauge again, and continue until you reach the recommended PSI. Once you’ve reached the ideal PSI, release the lever and remove the air hose. Be careful not to overfill! A little bit of air will escape at this point, but don’t worry about that, it’s only a small amount. Return the air hose to its spot on the station and replace the valve cap. Follow the same steps for the rest of your tires, and you’re done!


Automated air pumps are a convenient solution to refilling your car's tires.
Photo by Julie B

What to do if the Station has an Automated Air Pump

If you’ve lucked out and the gas station has an automated air tower, here’s what to do. First enter your desired PSI on the tower’s digital display using the plus or minus buttons to increase or decrease the number. Depending on the design, the air should start flowing automatically without you having to engage a lever. Now take the hose and attach it to your tire’s valve stem just as you would with a manual pump, but this time there will be no gauge that pops out, this is because the machine is automatically tracking your tire’s PSI with its built-in computer. The air tower’s screen will re-adjust to display your tire’s current PSI, and will change as it fills. Once the station starts beeping, the tire is done filling and you can remove the hose and replace the valve cap. Repeat as necessary for the rest of your tires. At this point it’s considered polite to return the hose to its holster on the air tower. That’s it, you’ve successfully filled your tires!


Maui Oil Company fuel station located in Kahului.
Photo by Julie B

Try the Free Air Pressure Pump at Maui Oil Company

If you’re on Maui and looking for an air station, stop by Maui Oil Company in Kahului and use our automated air tower, which is free for all to use. If you need to fill up on fuel, sign up for our free membership, or use a cash card, ideal for visitors to our island! Mahalo nui loa for reading, and aloha, a hui hou!


About the Author:

Julie is Maui Oil Company's Social Media and SEO Specialist.
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