Knowing how to inflate and deflate tires is one of the most basic skills a driver can have. Simply put, driving with under- or overinflated tires can compromise the safety of the passengers. High tire pressure can also exacerbate damage and wear, which can only be fixed with more frequent tire changes. Fortunately, learning how to deflate a tire is pretty easy if you break the process up into actionable steps.
From buying the right tools for the job to determining how much air you need to release — you’ll find it all easy if you follow this guide. But before we get into the details, let’s set the stage by talking about why you might need to deflate your tires.
When Would You Need to Deflate Your Tires?
As I have mentioned, driving with over- or underinflated tires can have disastrous consequences. Tires that don’t have enough air in them can’t perform well on the road for obvious reasons. Dragging the excess rubber over the ground increases friction and overheating, and can even lead to blowouts. But if you’ve never even seen overinflated tires, you might wonder why you should worry about this at all.
Similarly to underinflated tires, overinflated ones may become thin and weak, which can cause them to blow up. That alone should be enough to convince you to check the tire pressure regularly.
Furthermore, since the rubber is taut, the middle of the tire would show signs of wear faster than the rest of the tread. Because that small surface is the only thing that would come into contact with the ground, your drive would be bumpier than ever. Trust me — you’d feel every pothole, curb, and crack on the road.
Generally, tires tend to release air over time, which is why most people spend more time worrying about getting more air into the tires, rather than releasing it. Still, some occasions call for a partial or complete deflation:
- If you were a bit overzealous while inflating your tires, you’d have to release some of that air
- If you want to change the tires, you should remove the wheels altogether before deflating and taking off the rubber
- Certain weather changes can cause the air inside the tires to expand
- Similarly, long drives or road trips can also overheat the tires, causing the air inside to expand.
As I have explained in the article I’ve linked to above, high temperatures can increase the tire pressure by 1 PSI per every additional 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Deflate a Tire
Having explained the reasoning behind this guide, we can now talk about how to deflate a tire. However, before I talk you through that, you’ll need to gather some tools.
1. Gather the Supplies
There are two basic steps to the process I’m about to explain. You’ll have to measure the air pressure in your tires and release the appropriate amount of air from the valve. To complete those two tasks, you’ll need two things: a tire pressure gauge and a screwdriver.
I’ve already reviewed the best tire pressure gauges on the market, so refer to that article if you want to see my recommendations. You’ll also find out what kinds of gauges exist and how to use them — which I’ll recap in a minute.
If you only want to let out a bit of air, you’ll also need a simple screwdriver. Alternately, you can use pretty much any relatively sharp and firm tool that won’t bend when you press it against the metal pin inside the tire valve.
If you have to let out a lot of air or deflate the tires completely, you’ll also need needle-nose pliers. They need to be thin enough to fit inside the valve since you’ll use them to remove the pin.
However, if you’re deflating the tires so that you can replace them, you’ll also have to lift your car. For that, you’ll need a car jack. There are plenty of different ones to choose from, so getting one that can take on your car shouldn’t be a problem. Additionally, you’ll need several jack stands to hold the vehicle up while you work.
2. Check the Tire Pressure
As I’ve already mentioned, I explained how to use a pressure gauge in a previous article. Still, here’s the gist of it:
- Find the valve stem — the 1–2-inch long tube should be between the spokes inside the wheel
- Remove the cap from the valve by rotating it, and put it away
- Attach the tire pressure gauge to the metal valve
- Read the results on the other end of the gauge
As you can see, measuring the air pressure inside your tires is pretty simple. You just have to make sure that your tires have completely cooled off before you measure the PSI.
At this point, you might be wondering — what’s the ideal tire pressure I should be aiming for? Sadly, I won’t be able to provide a satisfactory answer to that question. However, I do have a few tips before we move on to deflating the tires.
Now, the most important question you should ask when it comes to tires is whether they’re capable of supporting the weight of your car. If you look at the side of the tires, you’ll also see a number that represents the maximum PSI they can withstand.
But that’s not the number you should be aiming for. Instead, try to match the recommended tire pressure specified in your vehicle manual.
3. Let the Air Out
If all you need to do is let some air escape the tires, you’ll need your trusty screwdriver. As you already know, the valve looks like a round metal hole with a thin pin inside it. Basically, it looks like a female single-pin cable connector — except that the center pin is movable.
To release the air, you’ll just need to take your screwdriver, pliers, or some other hard tool and press the pin. That’s it! The excess air will start spilling out from the valve until you lift your tool.
You might want to check the tire pressure every few seconds to make sure you’re not letting out too much air. But really, even if you do that, you’ll be able to reinflate the tires fairly easily.
On the other hand, if you want to let out a lot of air all at once, you can. However, if you need to let out that much air, I’d recommend lifting the car first. Then, simply grab the metal pin with your needle-nose pliers and rotate it to the right, then extract it. Keep the pin somewhere safe until you’re ready to screw it back on.
Optional: Lift Your Vehicle
If you’re planning to completely deflate or even replace your tires, you’re going to have to lift your car and keep it there for the duration of the project. I explained exactly how you could do that in my article on jack stands.
To begin with, you’ll need to find a solid, flat surface to park your car on. Once you pick your spot, you should check whether your vehicle jack and jack stands are fully functional.
From there on, it’s fairly simple. You’ll want to insert the vehicle jack under the front side of the car, on the strongest part of the metal. Then, use the device to lift the car until you’re able to slide the jack stands under the vehicle. After you have them in position, you can slowly release the jack, setting the car on the stands.
At this point, you can take off the tires in the front and work on them, then reinstall the wheels. After that, you can do the same thing in the back. Alternately, you may want to completely lift the vehicle on both sides and work on all tires simultaneously.
If you’re putting in a new set of tires, just make sure to dispose of your old tires properly. Don’t just leave them lying around, and, more importantly, do not burn them. Instead, you can take them to a local tire shop or contact the manufacturer to ask about their usual disposal practices.
Final Thoughts on Deflating Tires
Whether you’re letting some air out or completely deflating your tires, I hope this guide has been informative. As we have established, checking your tire pressure is not only incredibly important but also laughably easy to do. In fact, it’s a skill all drivers should have — so there’s no excuse to be driving with overinflated tires!
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