Driving with underinflated tires is not only extremely unsafe but also costly in the long run. Obviously, I’m talking about gas mileage, because properly inflated tires can save you money on gas. One of the quickest ways to inflate your tires is to use a gas station air pump.
But if you’ve never inflated your tires before, let alone with a gas station air pump, you might be intimidated. No worries. That’s why I’ve created this quick guide — to help you learn how to use the air pump at a gas station.
Filling Your Tires with an Air Pump at a Gas Station
1. Find the Air Compressor
When you pull into a gas station, the first thing you need to do is find the air compressor. In most cases, it won’t be in the same place as the gas pumps. Try looking to the right or the left of the lot to find it. There will probably be some sign that simply reads “Air” or “Free air.”
2. Park Your Car Close to the Pump
Once you’ve found the air pump, park your car close to it. Make sure you don’t park too far away because you might have trouble reaching the tires if the hose is short. You don’t have to turn the car’s engine off.
3. Pick up the Spout
Sometimes, you’ll see more than one spout on an air pump. In general, you should use only one to maintain consistency. Then, check to see if it’s working properly. If not, try the other one instead. Since the air pumps are constantly exposed to the elements and used often, they can break, especially due to wear and tear.
4. Insert Your Quarters
Some gas stations charge for using their air pumps. If the pump has a coin slot, insert your quarters. Otherwise, you might have to ask the cashier to turn the pump on for you manually. In other cases, you can start using the pump right away.
5. Set the PSI Rating
If the pump has buttons for setting the PSI rating, use them to set the pressure that’s appropriate for your car’s tires. In some cases, the PSI settings will be automatic. That usually means the pump has sensors that will alert you if you are overinflating the tire.
6. Remove the Air Valve Cap
With the air hose in hand, crouch down by the tire and remove the air valve cap. Make sure you don’t lose it. The cap is important because it prevents the air from leaking while driving. Also, if the cap is dirty or damaged, consider replacing it with a new one. You might even be able to buy new caps at the gas station.
7. Place the Air Spout on the Valve
You might have to use a bit of pressure to get the spout to fit tightly around the air valve. However, be sure not to use too much force. Once you’ve done that, the air from the pump will automatically start to flow to the tire.
8. Remove the Spout from the Air Valve
Once you’ve filled the tire with air, remove the spout from the air valve. Then, check to see if the tire is overinflated. In some cases, the pump will have a sensor that will start beeping if you’ve put too much air into the tire. If that happens, use a metal needle or something similar to bleed some air out.
Lastly, don’t forget to place the air valve cap back on.
9. Check the Other Tires
Even if you had a problem with only one tire, you should fill the others as well. It’s important that all your tires have the same amount of air to maintain stability and balance. To do so, repeat steps 6 through 8.
10. Return the Spout
Once you’ve finished pumping your tires, return the spout to the air pump. Then, get back in your car and check the dashboard to see if the tire pressure indicator has turned off. If not, you’ll maybe have to repeat the process.
Why Use a Gas Station Air Pump?
Sure, you can always take your car to a shop and have a mechanic pump your tires to the right pressure. But that will cost you time and money. If you’re like me, you’re always in a rush, and you just don’t have the time. Plus, most shops will charge you extra for that service.
So, the only logical option is to pump the tires to the right pressure for safe driving and better gas mileage yourself. If you own an air compressor, good for you. But most people don’t, so they’ll have to find the nearest gas station that has one.
Using gas station air pumps has many advantages. First, you can find a gas station on practically every corner. Also, most of them will have an air pump. Second, some gas stations will let you use the pump for free or a small fee — about $2.
In other words, gas station air pumps are convenient. Plus, you can fill up your tank and pump the tires in one stop. So, whenever you notice that your tires are underinflated while you’re filling up your tank, you can fix that problem on the spot and not worry about it later.
On top of that, some states, like Connecticut and California, have laws that require gas stations to offer air pumps for free. But in some situations, you might have to buy gas or something else to be able to use the compressor for free.
A Thing or Two About Air Pressure
If you are a busy person, you probably tend to overlook the fact that your tires need proper maintenance. Precisely, maintaining the right air pressure in your tires is important in so many ways. These are some reasons why:
- Overall safety on the road and in bad weather conditions
- Better tire performance
- Improving fuel efficiency
- More stability and steering precision
Overinflated or Underinflated
Proper tire pressure will extend the life cycle of your tires. If they are underinflated or overinflated, you’ll probably have to replace them more often.
When pumping your car tires yourself, it’s easy to make a mistake. To avoid problems with air pressure, here are a couple of tips to help you get the right amount of air in your tires:
- Buy an air pressure gauge because pressure meters on gas station air pumps are often inaccurate.
- Fill the tires with air slowly and remove the spout occasionally to check for overinflation.
- If you overfill your tires, use a small metal needle to bleed the excess air out.
- Make sure the valve stem caps are in good condition to prevent air leakage.
- Check the air pressure after sharp temperature shifts.
In most cases, you should check the car’s manual to see what the appropriate PSI (pounds per square inch) range is for your tires. In general, most standard car tires will need about 35 PSI of air pressure to run smoothly.
To wrap up, using a gas station air pump to fill your tires with air isn’t a difficult task. But you will have to know what you are doing if you decide to pump the tires yourself.
The most common problem you can run into is overinflating your tires. So, take extra care because both overinflation and underinflation can damage the tire. If you put too much air, simply use a metal needle to let some of it out. It’s that simple.
In some cases, the gas station air pump will have sensors that will alert you if you are overinflating the tire.
All in all, gas station air pumps are convenient and easy to use. In some states, it’s free to use them, and in others, you might have to spend about $2. But that’s a small price to pay compared to how much money you’ll save on gas because your tires are inflated to the right pressure.