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How to pump a car tire

Pumping up a car tire does not require a lot of brainpower. It does however, require some physical exertion. You have to either work a foot pump, or the old style "bicycle pump" manually. Brown University states a common bicycle pump can be used to inflate a car tire (see Reference 1). Luckily, small electric pumps are available that do the grunt work for you. As with any automotive operation, think safety first to avoid injury.

Park the car with a flat tire on a hard, level surface. Set the transmission in "Park." Engage the parking brake fully.

Attach the nozzle of the pump to the valve stem nozzle of the tire. Some pumps have a flip lever, while others have a screw-on nozzle. For a flip lever, lift the lever up, so it points away from the nozzle. Push the nozzle opening onto the valve stem fully. Flip the lever down. For a screw-on, place the nozzle on the valve stem. Screw the nozzle onto the valve stem fully.

Move the pumping lever of the pump fully up and down. Foot pumps have a foot pedal you depress and release. The bicycle pump-style has a handle you work up and down. Keep working the pump until you think the tire is fully inflated. Remove the nozzle of the pump. Read the tag inside your car's door panel, to find out the correct tire pressure. Check the pressure with the tire gauge, by pressing the gauge onto the valve stem, and reading the pressure on the scale. If it's too low, replace the nozzle of the pump, and keep pumping until the correct pressure is reached.

Park the car with a flat tire on a hard, level surface. Set the transmission in "Park." Engage the parking brake fully. This step is the same whether you are using a manual or electric pump.

Remove the electric pump from its carrying case. Look at the switch, to make sure its in the "Off" position. Start the car engine. Plug in the pump's cord into the cigarette lighter socket of your car.

Attach the nozzle of the pump to the valve stem nozzle of the tire. Some pumps have a flip lever, while others have a screw-on nozzle. For a flip lever, lift the lever up, so it points away from the nozzle. Push the nozzle opening onto the valve stem fully. Flip the lever down. For a screw-on, place the nozzle on the valve stem. Screw the nozzle onto the valve stem fully. This step is the same as attaching a manual pump to your tire.

Start the pump by flipping the switch to the "On" position. Watch the tire and pump, since over-inflation is a possibility. Keep the car engine running, since electric pumps drain electricity, and the car alternator must keep charging the battery. Turn the pump off. Remove the pump. Read the tag inside your car's door panel, to find out the correct tire pressure. Check the tire pressure with the tire pressure gauge. If its too low, replace the pump and continue filling with air.

Remove the power cord from the cigarette lighter.

Tip

If using an electric pump, keep the car engine running at all times when the pump is on. These pumps drain electricity, and your battery will go dead if the alternator is not recharging it.

Warning

If you are not physically fit, do not attempt to manually pump up a tire. This process is a workout, requiring strenuous exercise. If you have a heart conditions or a bad back, injury to yourself could be a result.

Things You'll Need

  • Manual tire pump
  • Electric tire pump
  • Air pressure gauge
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About the Author

Tony Oldhand has been technical writing since 1995. He has worked in the skilled trades and diversified into Human Services in 1998, working with the developmentally disabled. He is also heavily involved in auto restoration and in the do-it-yourself sector of craftsman trades. Oldhand has an associate degree in electronics and has studied management at the State University of New York.