How to Use an Air Compressor at a Gas Station?

Use Air Compressor at Gas Station

Enjoying a quick refill of free air for your tire can’t be bad. A lot of gas stations by highways have air compressors, from which you can pump your tire to full for absolutely no charge at all.

Some gas stations offer this voluntarily, while others are obligated to do so by the state authority. Whichever it is, this is a wonderful treat for people on long rides. The problem is that most of these air compressors are self-service machines.

So, it’s important to know how to use an air compressor at a gas station. Who knows when you might need to use it? If you’re looking for a straightforward guide to learn to use a gas station air compressor, I’m here to help you with that.

In this article, you’ll learn how to properly use an air compressor at a gas station with some short and simple steps. And then I’ll discuss some serious safety concerns and pro-tips. Let’s dive in.


How to Use an Air Compressor at a Gas Station – Step by Step

Serially following the simple steps provided in this section will help you smoothly work your way to a gas station air compressor.

1. Locate a Gas Station with an Air Compressor

Not every gas station has an air compressor, but there are enough available. So, locating a station with a compressor shouldn’t be tough.

You can use your phone’s GPS or car’s navigation system to locate a nearby gas station. The air pump area should be noticeable from the outside as in most cases, they’re placed near the entrance.

Unfortunately, in some of them, you’ll need to pay to get the service and the cost isn’t that friendly.

2. Park the Vehicle

Once you’ve located an air compressor, pull up next to it and park the car parallelly. Make sure your tires are within the reach of the nozzle spout. Park the car placing the compressor as centrally as possible.

Some gas stations charge per minute you spend occupying the pump. So, it’s a good practice to be deft with your movement around it. It’ll be also a great help to the people in line behind you.

3. Inspect the Current Tire Pressure (Psi)

Knowing how to check your car’s tire pressure is necessary as it lets you assess which tires you need to inflate.

Measuring the tire pressure of a car resting in the garage for a while won’t give you the correct psi value. It’s better to drive the car around a bit and warm the tires up, before measuring the psi.

For the inspection, you can use a tire gauge which has a pretty simple working mechanism. It’s better if you keep a personal gauge in your collection. If you don’t have one, you’ll always find one at the air pump booth.

I’ll go into detail about how to use a tire gauge in one of the following sections.

4. Learn the Suitable Pressure (Psi) for Your Tire

Once you’ve figured out which tires you need to inflate, you’ll need to check the recommended tire pressure value of your vehicle. Good for you if you know it already.

But for those who don’t know the recommended tire pressure of their car, it can be checked from the user manual. You can also find it on the model tag on the inside door frame and the glove compartment.

Some vehicles might have it on the fuel lid too. The manufacturer tag on the door frame is pretty much universal, but the other spots can vary from trim to trim.

If you can’t seem to find it because the door tag was destroyed somehow, search on the internet about where else can you find the suitable tire pressure value printed on your vehicle. Don’t forget to mention your trim.

Knowing the recommended PSI is absolutely essential for the safety of your vehicle. Over-inflating your car tires can be very hampering and should always be avoided.

You can also compare the rated value with your current pressure value to assess which tires need to be pumped. I’ll mention why you shouldn’t over-inflate your car tires in one of the following sections.

5. Understand the Compressor

It’s time to get familiar with the compressor. There might be multiple spouts at the booth, but don’t feel compelled to use more than one at a time.

You’ll need to connect the spout with your tire’s nozzle perfectly for leakage-free pumping.

6. Set the Accurate Pumping Pressure

Before connecting the spout, you’ll need to set the pumping psi value on the compressor machine. The set value should be the same as the recommended psi value for your tires. Don’t try to put increased value to get some extra air. It’s not a good idea at all.

7. Locate the Air-Valve Cap

To connect the spout to your tire’s nozzle or air valve, you’ll need to open the air valve cap first. Locating it can be a little hassle if the tire is very dirty. The cap should be very small with a black/green coloring.

When you open the cap, make sure you don’t lose it. Keep it in your hand or somewhere safer like your pocket.

8. Connect the Spout

Next, connect the spout to the nozzle/air valve properly. If the holes don’t align, air will leak. For some compressor machines, the air will automatically start pumping once you’ve connected the spout.

For others, there should be a red or green colored button around the source of the spout. Press the button to start pumping.

9. Finish the Process

Once your tire reaches the set psi value, the compressor will stop pumping automatically. There you go, you’ve learned how to use air pump at gas station. Now fill up the rest of the tires and get back on the road.

Problems of Over-Inflated Tires

Over-inflated tires are more dangerous than you think they are. Many of us know that tire pressure has a direct relation to mileage and fuel consumption.

One of the biggest disadvantages of under-inflated tires is that reduced tire pressure causes more fuel consumption for less road covered. That’s why a lot of people tend to put extra air in their tires to save fuel costs.

This is actually a not good idea because over-inflated tires can cause several issues like:

  • Over-inflated tires are more vulnerable to damage. Everything we use wears out after their lifespan and tires aren’t any different.
    But an over-inflated tire is more prone to wear and tear from curb or pothole damage. This damage reduces a tier’s lifespan significantly.
    Sometimes damage from rough roads can even deform the tire’s shape, which makes your vehicle harder to control in critical moments.
  • Although blowing up a tire simply by pumping air into it is very hard to achieve, over-inflated tires are more likely to blow up on the road. This can cause serious accidents. Also, sitting immobile in the middle of nowhere with a blown-up tire doesn’t sound like fun at all.
  • Over-inflated tires have less contact surface area with the road, which reduces traction significantly. Reduced traction causes reduced control in a driver’s hand in a critical situation. Over-inflated tires also cause damage to various other parts of your vehicle.

When Should I Pump My Car’s Tires?

Knowing when to pump is just as important as knowing how to use air pump at gas station. Every time you visit a gas station, it’s a good practice to check up on the battery, oil, and tire pressure level.

As I stated earlier, every gas station with an air compressor booth will have a tire gauge. So, with a habit of a regular checkup, you won’t need to buy a tire gauge for yourself.

Keeping the tire pressure in check isn’t just about your safety. An optimum tire pressure allows you to be frugal with fuel consumption and helps you leave less carbon footprint.

Tires lose one to two psi every month automatically. So, even if everything seems okay, you should fill the tires once a month at least. Be more cautious during the Winter days, as the pressure fluctuates a lot more due to the dropped temperature.


1. How do you check tire pressure at a gas station?

A gas station air compressor might have an integrated system with the booth to measure your tire pressure. If not, there should be an external tire gauge at the booth.

To measure the tire pressure, open your tire’s air valve cap and enter the head of the gauge inside the valve properly. There shouldn’t be any hissing noise once you’ve inserted it fully.

For an integrated system, the pressure should be visible on the screen somewhere in the booth.

2. How much does it cost to inflate tires at a gas station?

A lot of them are totally free. Some gas stations will charge you for every minute you’ve occupied the compressor, which is usually a bad deal. Try to stay away from those. Normally, gas stations charge around $1.50 to $2 to use the pump once.


Maintaining proper tire pressure is healthy for your vehicle and cost-effective too. Also, long rides with under-inflated tires are scary. I hope this article helped you with how to use air compressor at gas station.

When lots of gas stations are offering this service for free, why wait? Go get your tires filled by yourself and ride like a champ.

Leave a Reply