How to Inflate Car Tires at Home

With the advent of better quality cars and quick service oil and lube stores, most people have gotten out of the habit of ANY car maintenance or monitoring at home.

If there is one car-related habit you should develop, it’s learning how to inflate car tires at home.

Properly inflated tires mean better gas mileage and improved safety.  Plus, it usually takes, at most, 5 minutes of your time.

Benefits of Properly Inflated Tires

The benefits of properly inflated tires are clear:

  • Better gas mileage
  • Less tire wear
  • Better traction and handling.

In terms of gas mileage, drivers can save 0.6% to 3% with properly inflated tires according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission.  That’s 7 to 9 cents per gallon on the high end.

Properly inflated tires maintain the shape that manufacturers intend.  As a result, tires don’t wear down as fast or in a “patchy” manner.  For example, overinflated tires will wear more on the middle and less on the sides.

Finally, and most importantly, properly inflated tires provide better traction and handling, and are unquestionably safer.

Risks of Underinflated or Overinflated Tires

Two quick things to remember: underinflation is more common than overinflation, and underinflation is the most common cause of tire failure.

Risks of underinflation include:

  • Sluggish handling
  • Longer stopping distances
  • Increase stress on tires
  • Heat buildup that can lead to catastrophic failure, such as blowouts.

Risks of overinflation include:

  • More damage from road debris and potholes
  • Reduced traction
  • Vehicle instability.

How to Put Air In Car Tires at Home

The easiest way to maintain the correct tire pressure at home is to use a portable air compressor pump.  These useful devices are actually three tools in one – a compressor pump, a tire pressure gauge and a utility LED light.

Here are the steps to follow with an integrated portable compressor:

  1. Know the recommended tire pressure for YOUR specific tires. This can be found on the side of each tire, and the most common metric is PSI (pounds per square inch).  For example, my car has a recommended PSI of 36.  Many newer cars have Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) that show the recommended tire pressure on the control panel.
  2. Remove all valve stem caps from each tire. Put them where you can easily find them.
  3. Start the car and plug the power cord into the 12 V power receptacle or “cigarette lighter.”
  4. The power cord is usually at least 9 feet or 3 meters long, allowing you to reach all four tires.
  5. Press the inflation nozzle down on to the valve stem and pull the lever down to lock position.
  6. Turn the compressor on, letting it inflate the tire until the recommended pressure is achieved. Note:  the compressor has an LED readout showing tire pressure.
  7. When the desired pressure is reached turn off the compressor and remove the inflation nozzle.

That’s it.  Some portable compressors allow  you to program in the recommended pressure where the device shuts off once it is reached.

Choosing a Good Portable Air Compressor

Portable air compressors are something every driver should carry in their car.  Not only are they important for routine maintenance at home, but they are also invaluable if you need to inflate your tires while commuting or traveling.

The most important product attributes are:

  • Manageable size (the one I use is 4″ x 8″ x 9″ and is very lightweight)
  • Full featured (includes an LED utility light and tire pressure gauge)
  • Affordable (very well reviewed products are available for $20-$35)
  • Multiple pressure metrics (pressure gauge measures PSI, BAR, KPA, KG/CM)
  • Accessories (should come with a soft carrying case).

The Heltko Portable is a best seller with hundreds of satisfied customers.

H Helteko Air Compressor Tire Inflator DC 12V, Portable Car Tire Pump w/Emergency LED Light, Long Power Cord, Auto Shut Off, Carrying Case, Electric Air Pump for Car Tire Bicycle and Other Inflatables
  • High-Quality Materials - We used durable ABS plastic and stainless steel to make our portable air compressor pump. Their high-grade and resistant structure can withstand unforeseen damage, so you can use our digital tire inflator with confidence for a long time.
  • Powerful & Multi-Purpose - Our auto air compressor has enough power to inflate a standard middle car tire in 3-5 min. Tire pump also comes with a 11.5 ft (3.5M) long cable cord, so you can inflate the tires of your car, bike, vehicles, bicycles, motorcycle or SUV.
  • Digital Display - Our electric tire pump has a large, high-precision and bright display that is essential not only during a day, but also at night. You can also choose a desired unit of measurement for pressure: PSI, BAR, KPA or KG/CM².
  • Auto Shut Off - The car air pump has a simple and useful thermal protection feature. It means that when our auto tire inflator reaches the desired pressure, the car air compressor turns off automatically, so you don’t need to wait to press the Off button.
  • LED-Lighting and Compact Design - The tire inflator pump comes with the LED lights and accurate pressure gauge to use it in emergency situations. Our electric tire pump is also compact and lightweight. Get 100% satisfaction and 2 years extended warranty!

The EP Auto 12V Portable Air Compressor Pump is another excellent offer in this segment.

EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator
  • Convenience: Plug directly into Cigarette Lighter Socket of your Vehicle. 12VDC, 10 to 15 amps, 120 to 180W. Equipped with 12V-DC Cigarette Lighter Socket Plug, NOT 110V AC plug.
  • Multiple Uses: Inflate tires on cars, bikes, sedan and midsize SUV. (Engine size under 3.5 liter) Universal valve connector for schrader valve is ready to use. Additional adapters include needles value (for basketball, balls), short cone/long cone adapters (for inflatable kayak, swimming pool accessories, etc)
  • Capacity: Does NOT Support truck tires, for instance: light truck tires (LT), heavy duty truck tires or any truck tires.
  • Easy to Read: 4 Display Units: PSI, KPA, BAR, KG/CM; LED FLASHLIGHT: Bright Torch
  • Prevent Over Inflation: Auto shut off when reaching the desired tire pressure. Overheat protection shuts off automatically when overloading. USPTO Patent NO:D875,788

It includes all of the important attributes listed earlier.  The light is very bright and this pump has some nice added features like an auto shut off to prevent overinflation and a cool, rugged look.  It works well on cars and SUVs but is not recommended for tires on heavy duty trucks.  As an added bonus, it includes an adapter to air up balls and other inflatables.

Here is the Quick Start Guide that illustrates how to use the pump.


Learning how to inflate car tires at home at home is something every driver should know how to do.

It’s easy, it improves your personal safety (and your family’s), and savings on fuel and reduced tire wear and tear more than offset the price of purchasing a portable air compressor.

Definitely don’t leave home without one.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 Q&A Vector photo

What happens if I have access to a traditional auto compressor?

By all means use it and save some money.  You will need a tire pressure gauge, but those are both affordable and easy to find.

How long are the cords?

The power cord is 9 feet and the inflation hoses are usually around 2.5 feet,

How long does it take to inflate a tire?

Assuming you have a functioning tire and just need to add a few PSI (e.g., going from 30 to 36 PSI), it should take a minute or so.

Can this be used as a blower to dry off wet surfaces?

No, it is not built for that.  If you plan on drying your car or blowing debris out of the engine bay, you will need a traditional air compressor or leaf blower.

Can these pumps be used inside a house?

No, most portable ones are powered by cigarette lighters and must be used in close proximity to your car.

Do you carry your portable pump with you at all times in your car?

Yes!  The things I carry in my car at all times are a flashlight, utility knife, first aid kit and a portable air pump.

Will it fit under my seat?

Unlikely.  I have a Jeep SUV, and as small as the pump is, it doesn’t really fit under the seat (it probably would if I forced it).  I just leave it on the floorboard of the backseat.  If you have a car, simply leave it in the trunk.

Can it be used on things besides car tires?

Absolutely.  The models suggested above work on ATVs, bicycles, footballs, volleyballs, air mattresses, etc.  As these are portable pumps, they are not that large.  The only real limitation is usage on larger, heavy duty, high pressure tires, such as on RVs or trucks.

Will it run down my battery?

No. Your car has to be running which recharges your battery.  Besides most of these pumps are 120W and 10 amps, meaning they are very efficient.




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