A few winters ago, my younger sister came to visit me and my family on Christmas Eve. We needed to drive back to my parents’ house a couple of hours away later that evening, so I volunteered to drive her car while my husband took our SUV with all of the kids inside. (I know my sister doesn’t love driving in the big city.)
Once I began driving her car, I immediately noticed that her tires were low on air. It was her first car and she had no idea how to check her tire pressure. So, I swung by the nearest gas station, purchased a cheap tire pressure gauge, and filled up her tires. We were on our merry way in no time, and she learned how to fill up her tires.
I don’t fault her for not knowing how to inflate her tires – it’s something I didn’t know about when I was first driving, either. Truth be told, the first time the tire pressure indicator went off in my new vehicle I nearly had a heart attack because I had no idea what was going on!
Thankfully, it’s a simple fix, and it can be a FREE fix, too. Now that indicator doesn’t even phase me – I just check and adjust my tire pressure as soon as possible.
Free Air for Your Tires
Using a public air compressor to air up your tires can cost anywhere from $1.50 to $2 each time. Yikes! But there’s good news – you don’t have to keep those quarters in your car just in case. Instead, use one of these ways to get free air for your tires to get you back on the road at no cost to you.
1. Air Up at a Gas Station or Grocery Store
The easiest and quickest way to get free air for your tires is to find a gas station or grocery store near you that offers free air. Yes, some stores now charge for air (which seems silly to me), but chances are you can still find a location near you that offers free air.
FreeAirPump.com is a website that maps out where you can find free air near you. Keep in mind that it’s a user-generated map, so it may not be 100% accurate, but it’s a good starting point.
Otherwise, you can ask your neighbors or in your local Facebook or Nextdoor group for recommendations. As for me, I typically fill my tires at Holiday Stationstores or Kwik Trip. Even my local grocery store, Hy-Vee, offers free air at their gas stations.
Here are some other gas station chains that offer free air for your tires:
If you’re nervous about filling up your tires yourself, don’t be. It’s easy to do. Cars.com has a quick video of how you can check the pressure and inflate your tires yourself.
You may need to purchase a tire pressure gauge to be sure you’re inflating your tires to the right PSI, or the air pump may have a digital display to show when your tires have reached the correct air pressure. Check the inside of your driver’s side door or your owner’s manual for the recommended PSI.
2. Check Your Vehicle’s Trunk
I must drive ancient vehicles, because I had no idea that many new vehicles don’t come with a spare tire anymore. Instead, they may come with a tire repair kit that lets you patch a leak yourself to buy you some time before you get to the tire repair shop.
These tire repair kits come with a bottle of tire sealant for emergency repair and a portable tire inflator to get you back up and running. But hey, you can use the tire inflator for more than just repairs! Take it out any time you need to inflate your vehicle’s tires back up to the recommended PSI.
3. Use a Bike Pump
Ready to get sweaty? Or skip your workout for the day? If you have a bike pump in your garage and you only need to add a few pounds of air, this is a valid – and most likely free – option. (I say “most likely free” because you really should only resort to this if you absolutely need to. PLEASE do not go out and buy a bike pump just to inflate your car’s tires.)
Most bike pumps have a two-hole nozzle that allows you to inflate both Schrader and Presta valves. Bike tire tubes can have one or the other, but all car tires in the United States use Schrader valves. Therefore, you can use your bike pump on a car tire if you absolutely must.
4. Get a Portable Air Compressor
This option isn’t free, but once you make the initial investment, you’re set. Purchase a portable air compressor and keep it in your vehicle or your garage so you don’t have to sit in line at the gas station or grocery store pump. These aren’t very expensive and don’t take up too much space, either.
Typically, you just need to plug your portable air compressor into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter and set the target PSI, and the compressor will stop when it’s done. Easy-peasy. And you can use it for more than just vehicle tires – think sports balls, floaties, bike tires, etc.
If you truly want to make your purchase free, do some simple tasks to earn free gift cards to spend online at Amazon and other retailers.
PS – Still don’t want to buy your own air compressor? Ask a neighbor or a buddy as they may already have one. After all, you’d let someone borrow yours if you had one, right?
5. Visit an Oil Change Location
Another reason I never buy air is that I get my oil changed at Valvoline and they inflate my tires properly as part of their 18-Point Maintenance Check that’s included with all oil changes. Now, I wouldn’t get an oil change at Valvoline just for the free air, but since I’m there, anyway, it’s a nice perk.
Here are some other oil change companies that offer free air for your tires:
- Grease Monkey
- Jiffy Lube
- Pep Boys (they also do free tire pressure checks without having to purchase an oil change)
- Take 5
Of course, your local oil change shop may offer free air with an oil change, as well. Just ask!
6. Go to a Tire Shop
Remember the tire shop that installed your tires? You can most likely head back there for a free air check. The benefit of stopping by your local tire shop is that they can usually do a quick inspection and recommend a repair or quick fix, if necessary.
Here are some tire shops that offer free tire pressure checks:
No need to set an appointment for airchecks, just drive up to the designated area and ask! They offer free air checks for anyone, regardless of where you originally purchased your tires.
They offer a free tire pressure check, including inspection for signs of pressure-related damage. They’ll not only check your tires, but they’ll also inflate or deflate your tires as necessary.
Get a free air pressure check at all their stores – just stop in!
Their team will perform a free tire check to assess correct tire pressure, tire tread depth, and tread wear and balance of your tires. They’ll also look for any tire punctures that may cause a flat.
Most – if not all – Goodyear locations will check and fill tire pressure with any service.
Big O Tires
They’ll check your tire pressure for free and adjust as necessary, no appointment necessary.
7. Visit or Live in a Particular State
California has had a law on the books since 2000 that every gas or service station in the state must provide free air to all customers who have purchased gas at that station. They’re also required to provide a tire pressure gauge.
Connecticut has a similar state law, but their stations are required to provide free air “to any individual requesting to use it to inflate tires.”
You may need to go into the gas station to ask the cashier to turn on the air compressor, but all you need to do is ask as they are required by law to do so.
And if you’re visiting Florida, most if not all of their rest areas offer free air for your tires.
I wouldn’t recommend a move to any of these states just for the free air, but these are good points to keep in mind on your next road trip.
8. Stop by Your Car Dealership
I haven’t bought a car from a dealership in nine years, but I do remember being offered certain perks for buying my car at a dealership. Sometimes dealerships will offer free oil changes, free car washes, discounts on service, etc. when you purchase your car at a dealership.
There’s a chance your dealership will inflate your tires for free. After all, they want loyal, happy customers, and doling out freebies is a great way to give customers the warm fuzzies. Since many dealerships have a service bay, it’s easy for them to provide the service to customers who drive up. (You may want to call ahead and ask, though.)
9. Check Your Wholesale Club Benefits
Wholesale clubs are great places to purchase your tires and/or get them serviced. With your membership, you’ll typically get some great benefits, including free tire pressure checks and inflation.
Costco offers free nitrogen tire inflation and new rubber tire stems for tires purchased and installed at Costco. You may also be able to just drive up and inflate your tires at one of their free tire inflation stations located near the Tire Center (you will need to insert your membership card).
Sam’s Club offers free air pressure and tread depth checks to all members, regardless of whether you purchased your tires at Sam’s Club. They will also inflate or deflate your tires as necessary.
Other freebies Sam’s Club offers include free wiper blade installation (of wiper blades purchased at Sam’s Club), free tire balance and rotation, free battery installation (of batteries purchased at Sam’s Club), and free battery checks.
Not a Sam’s Club member? Join for $45 and get $45 off your first transaction! Offer ends September 30, 2020.
BJ’s offers free inflation checks for tires purchased at BJ’s. You’ll also get free tire rotation, wheel rebalancing, and flat repairs for the life of the tire.
Why Is Proper Tire Pressure Important?
There are several reasons why it’s important to inflate your tires to the proper tire pressure:
Overinflation: You might think that adding more air than recommended is good, because it may keep you from having to inflate your tires as often. But don’t do this! Overinflation causes the middle of your tires to wear prematurely.
Underinflation: Underinflation also causes your tires to wear unevenly – in this case, the edges wear out faster.
Both overinflation and underinflation can lead to unsafe driving conditions and poor vehicle handling.
Also, the United States Department of Transportation states that you can save as much as 11¢ per gallon on fuel when you properly inflate your tires. I don’t know about you, but that sure adds up for me!
Tips for checking your tire pressure:
- Check your tires while they’re still cold to get the most accurate reading. The best time to check is in your driveway or garage before you leave home, or after your car sits for at least three hours.
- There are several different places where you can find the recommended PSI. The easiest option is the information sticker inside the driver’s door, but you should also be able to find it in your owner’s manual or even online. Front and rear tires may have different recommended PSIs (this is not common).
- Don’t wait for the tire pressure monitoring system indicator to come on. It’s recommended to check the air in your tires at least every oil change, but even more often (like every month) is better. It doesn’t take long.
Now that you know how important it is to keep your tires properly inflated, you can use one or more of these ways to get free air for your tires. Schedule a monthly check on your calendar, or just use your regular oil change as a reminder to get it taken care of.
I am lucky enough to have several gas stations near me that offer free air, but even if I didn’t, I would just purchase a low-cost portable air compressor to keep in my trunk or garage. It’s worth it to save money and stay safe!
Have you used any of these ways to get free air for your tires? Please comment below to share your experience!