General Information 

Tire information placards and vehicle certification labels contain information on tires and load limits. These labels indicate the vehicle manufacturer's information including:
  • Recommended tire size
  • Recommended tire inflation pressure (usually given in PSI cold)
  • Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR):
    • the maximum occupant and cargo weight a vehicle is designed to carry
  • Gross axle weight ratings (GAWR) for front and rear axles:
    • the maximum weight the axle systems are designed to carry
Both placards and certification labels are permanently attached to the vehicle door edge, door post, glove-box door, or inside of the trunk lid. You can also find the recommended tire pressure and load limit for your vehicle in the vehicle owner's manual.

photo - tire pressure label
 Understanding Tire Pressure and Load Limits

Tire inflation pressure is the level of air in the tire that provides it with load-carrying capacity and affects the overall performance of the vehicle. The tire inflation pressure is a number that indicates the amount of air pressure– measured in pounds per square inch (psi)–a tire requires to be properly inflated. (You will also find this number on the vehicle information placard expressed in kilopascals (kPa), which is the metric measure used internationally.)

Manufacturers of passenger vehicles and light trucks determine this number based on he vehicle's design load limit, that is, the greatest amount of weight a vehicle can safely carry and the vehicle's tire size.The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is referred to as the "recommended cold inflation pressure."

 Checking Tire Pressure

It is important to check your vehicle's tire pressure at least once a month for the following reasons:
  • Most tires may naturally lose air over time.
  • Tires can lose air suddenly if you drive over a pothole or other object or if you strike the curb when parking.
  • With radial tires, it is usually not possible to determine under inflation by visual inspection.
Flash video of various tire pressure levels

Purchase a tire pressure gauge to keep in your vehicle. Gauges can be purchased at tire dealerships, auto supply stores, and other retail outlets.

The vehicle manufacturer's recommended tire inflation pressure is the proper psi when a tire is cold. The term cold does not relate to the outside temperature. Rather, a cold tire is one that has not been driven on for at least three hours. When you drive, your tires get warmer, causing the air pressure within them to increase. Your tires can get warm after just 1 mile of driving.

Therefore, to get an accurate tire pressure reading, you must measure tire pressure when the tires are cold or compensate for the extra pressure in warm tires.

Steps for Maintaining Proper Tire Pressure

tire pressure gauges

  • Step 1: Locate the recommended tire pressure on the vehicle's tire information placard, certification label, or in the owner's manual.
    Step 1
  • Step 2: Check the tire pressure of all tires.
    Step 2
  • Step 3: If the tire pressure is too high in any of the tires, slowly release air by gently pressing on the tire valve stem with the edge of your tire gauge until you get to the correct pressure.
    Step 3
  • Step 4: If the tire pressure is too low, note the difference between the measured tire pressure and the correct tire pressure. These "missing" pounds of pressure are what you will need to add. At a service station, add the missing pounds of air pressure to each tire that is under inflated.
    Step 4
  • Step 5: Check all the tires to make sure they have the same air pressure (except in cases in which the front and rear tires are supposed to have different amounts of pressure).
    Step 5

If you have been driving your vehicle and think that a tire is under inflated, fill it to the recommended cold inflation pressure indicated on your vehicle's tire information placard or certification label. While your tire may still be slightly under inflated due to the extra pressure of a warm tire, it is safer to drive with air pressure that is slightly lower than the vehicle manufacturer's recommended cold inflation pressure than to drive with a significantly under inflated tire. Since this is a temporary fix, don't forget to recheck and adjust the tire's pressure when you can obtain a cold reading.