How Do You Use a Gas Station Air Pump to Inflate Your Tires?

Over time some air can escape from our tires even if there are no punctures or any damage. As a result the pressure in our tires decreases which is not an ideal situation. This is not a very difficult issue to deal with in fact with about a dollar in quarters you can pull into a gas station and use their air pump.

In this article we are going to explain the importance of good tire pressure and how to use a gas station air pump. This may seem daunting but actually it is usually a very easy process that just needs a little concentration but not much else in terms of skill.

Why Do You Need Proper Tire Pressure?

We often take for granted that if our tires are inflated and have plenty of tread there isn’t much we need to worry about. This is not always the case as the tire pressure warning light will happily indicate to you. Tire pressure is important for a number of reasons.

Increases Fuel Efficiency

The car manufacturers and the people who make the tires have performed extensive testing to determine the optimum tire pressures. When the tires vary too far from the optimum it can create issues. If your pressure becomes too low in fact it can actually decrease your fuel economy.

When tire pressure is low the tires are flatter causing more friction with the road surface. This will make your vehicle work harder to cover the surface, expending more fuel in the process. It may not be a hugely noticeable amount but If you factor potentially hundreds or thousands of miles driven it does start to add up.

It Is Safer

As mentioned extensive testing is done which also includes determining the best pressure to prevent structural failure. If for example you drive on tires that are over inflated then the extra pressure inside puts a lot of strain on the structure of the tire.

This strain increases as you drive down the road especially at speed and this strain can cause the tire to blow out. Essentially the pressure becomes so intense it finds a structural weakness and then blows a hole in the tire. Sudden blow-outs at speed can be deadly, causing severe accidents.

Optimum handling and Grip

The air pressure for your tires has been determined so that at a specific level the tires will be working at their very best. Under inflation can cause problems especially in wet conditions causing hydroplaning.

When your tires are correctly inflated you will have the best traction they can offer. This will allow you to brake with more confidence, accelerate more smoothly and handle varied terrains.

It's Better for the Tires

Again we come back to the extensive testing which factors into the ideal pressure to help preserve your tire's life. If they are underinflated, an increase in friction with the road will make them wear out more quickly. As mentioned when over inflated you run the risk of blowing out the tires.

Essentially then by maintaining tire pressure that is as close to the correct pressure as possible your tires will last longer. So watch out for that tire pressure warning because the sensors in the wheels are monitoring the situation and they know what the pressure should be.

How Do You Use a Gas Station Air Pump?

Not all gas stations have air pumps but it is not hard to do an internet search and find the closest to you. You will usually have to pay a small fee to use them but sometimes the air pump is free to use. This may seem like a daunting task but believe us you can do this and we are about to walk you through how.

Locate the Air Pump

Gas stations will usually not hide the fact that they have air so there will be signage. These pumps are not usually at the gas pumps as this would be a potential problem at peak gas sales time as it does take a few minutes to check pressure and adjust correctly for four tires.

Look around the perimeter of the gas station as the pump will usually be off to the side and often may be near other things like the carwash and vacuum if the gas station has these. As mentioned though the machine will be clearly labeled.

Park as Close as Possible

This is an important step as you have four tires you will be checking and the air hose will only extend so far. Park as close as you can to the air compressor this not only ensures the hose will reach all four tires but also gives you space to work around the vehicle.

Make Sure the Machine is Working

Do a quick inspection of the machine to make sure it is working if there’s an out of order sign at a different station. If you see signs of damage and do not feel confident that it is working right also consider a different location.

Remove Tire Valve Caps

Each tire will have a plastic screw on cap located on the valve. A top tip is to remove these caps and put them somewhere safe before you pay for the machine use. Once you pay you will only have so long to use the machine so taking off the caps may slow you down and you just don’t need that pressure.

Check What Your Tires PSI Should Be

Again a time saving step should be to educate yourself on what pressure you should be seeing in your tires. This is measured in PSI and you will find this information in your vehicle's owner manual or printed inside the driver's side door well.

If you know to what PSI your tires should be inflated then you can quickly check the pressure and then adjust as needed. Stopping to check what pressure they need to be at while the air is flowing will only slow you down.

Set the PSI Level

Depending on the age of the air machine you may or may not have this option but use it if it is there. Some machines will allow you to set your PSI so when you hook up the hose it will both test the pressure and then adjust to that pressure.

In older machines you may see a pop up pressure gauge which can be trickier to read but it will tell you the pressure. You will then fill or release air as needed and retest. This can be a little trial and error to get to roughly the right pressure but it isn’t that hard to do.

Pay if Needed

You will likely see instructions for the use of the machine somewhere and if you have to pay for this air you should be ready. Usually this will be in quarters but sometimes they may accept credit cards. Some places offer free air however so if you find one of these then great.

It is always a good idea to have a small supply of quarters somewhere about your person or in the car in case you need them for parking or an emergency trip to reinflate your tires.

Attach the Nozzle to the Tire Valve

If you know that one tire is definitely low in pressure the next step is to attach the air nozzle to the tire valve and inflate the tire as needed. Again machines may vary so pay close attention to any instructions that are posted.

Do not rush yourself in this process you may have a little trial and error and you may have to press the nozzle hard against the valve to get it to work correctly. Once you feel like you have inflated or deflated the tires as needed make one last check on the PSI. If all shows well you can replace the hose in the machine

Don’t Forget to Replace the Caps

This is very important and as mentioned early you should have placed the tire valve caps somewhere safe. You will now screw these caps back in place firmly. If you do not recap the valves you run the risk of the valves becoming damaged and starting to leak air.

Can You Do This at Home?

You can of course if you have an air pump at home with the ability to test the pressure, do this process in the comfort of your own garage or driveway. In fact it is not a bad idea to have such equipment at home just in case you develop low tire pressure.

We can't always control when we detect low tire pressure however so just in case you need to deal with the issue before you get home it is a great idea to know how to use a gas station air pump. You can also have a manually operated air pump in the trunk if you so wish but this can take up space.


Gas stations can be more than just gasoline, some offer other automotive services as well such as an air pump. Tires need to be correctly inflated and sometimes you can find yourself in need of a little top up of air in the tires.

Link To or Reference This Page

We spend a lot of time collecting, cleaning, merging, and formatting the data that is shown on the site to be as useful to you as possible.

If you found the data or information on this page useful in your research, please use the tool below to properly cite or reference Tow Ratings as the source. We appreciate your support!

  • "How Do You Use a Gas Station Air Pump to Inflate Your Tires?". Tow Ratings. Accessed on April 13, 2024.

  • "How Do You Use a Gas Station Air Pump to Inflate Your Tires?". Tow Ratings, Accessed 13 April, 2024

  • How Do You Use a Gas Station Air Pump to Inflate Your Tires?. Tow Ratings. Retrieved from