Car tyres: checking pressure and other maintenance tips

Checking the pressure of your car tyres regularly and maintaining them will ensure good handling, steering and safety, as well as comfort, long tyre life and optimum fuel economy. 

Check your car’s tyre pressures when you refuel

Checking your tyre pressures every week or two is a good interval but, if you don’t drive a lot, you might need to check your tyres more often than at every fuel stop. It’s handy to keep a tyre pressure gauge in your car, because the readings on service-station air pumps aren’t always accurate. Tyre pressure gauges are inexpensive and available from motor accessory stores such as Repco, where NRMA Members are able to access discounts. The least expensive pen-shaped pneumatic/mechanical gauges are ideal because they don’t have a battery than can go flat, so you can always rely on the reading. It is best to check your tyres when they're cold – that is, when you have not driven the car – and but this isn’t always practical.

A good rule for tyres you have been driving on is to add 2psi to the manufacturer’s specified tyre pressure, to account for the increase in temperature and pressure. The correct pressures for your car – often different for the front and rear tyres – are usually found on a label inside one of the front door openings. You can also find them in the owner’s manual.


How do I check my tyre pressure?

Air hoses with tyre pressure gauges are available for use at most service stations; however, the NRMA recommends you buy a simple pen-shaped pneumatic/mechanical gauge to ensure accurate readings.

1. Check the tyre placard – usually inside one of the front door openings – or the owner's manual for the correct tyre pressures for your car. The pressure often differs for the front and the rear tyres.

2. Unscrew the cap on the air valve of your tyre.

3. Push your tyre pressure gauge firmly onto the tyre valve.

4. Look at the pressure reading on the gauge.

5. If the reading is low, attach the air hose to the tyre valve and increase the pressure to the correct level, rechecking with your own gauge if necessary.

6. Screw the cap back onto the tyre air valve.

Rotate your car tyres regularly

Routinely moving your car’s wheels and tyres around the car – such as from the front to the back – helps even out the wear across all four of them, lengthening the life of the set. Different cars wear the front and back tyres at different rates, or can have different tyre sizes front and back, so there is a correct way to rotate tyres for each model. This is usually described in the owner’s manual. If you’re unsure, check with your nearest NRMA car servicing, where you can also have the job done. It is much easier to rotate tyres with the car up on a hoist than with a jack in your driveway, so it makes sense to do a routine tyre rotation when you get your car serviced.

How can I tell if my car tyres are worn out?

Small bars of rubber running across the grooves in between the tread at several places around the tyre – called tread-wear indicators – are designed to tell you when the tyre is worn out.

If the tread is worn down to these bars on any part of the tyre –indicating the legal minimum of 1.5mm of tread depth has been reached – the tyre is worn out and unroadworthy, and you should replace it as soon as you can. Damage to the tyre’s sidewall or tread, such as cuts or bulges, could also make your tyres unroadworthy. If your tyres show any of these signs, have them checked out by your mechanic or a tyre specialist.

It is dangerous and illegal and to drive on worn-out or damaged tyres.


8 steps to changing a flat tyre

Warning: Always follow the owner’s manual instructions and make sure the jack is on firm ground before jacking up your car. Never get under a jacked-up car. If you are uncomfortable changing a tyre, ask the NRMA for assistance.

1. Apply the handbrake and place a brick or similar behind the wheel on the opposite side of the car.

2. Loosen the nuts of the wheel to be removed using the wheel brace tool, which is usually stored in the boot near the spare.

3. Place the jack in the correct place, according to the instructions in the owner’s manual. The jacking points are also usually marked with small notches or grooves on the underside of your car. Jack the car up until the tyre is off the ground.

4. Undo the wheel nuts fully.

5. Remove the wheel and replace it with the spare wheel and tyre.

6. Screw the wheel nuts back on firmly.

7. Lower the jack to bring the wheel back onto the ground, then tighten the wheel nuts.

8. Put the flat or damaged wheel/tyre in the spare-wheel well and plan to have it repaired.


How to understand the numbers and letters on a car tyre

There are markings on the side of your car’s tyres that tell you the tyre’s type, size, and load and speed ratings.

Let’s say the sidewall of your tyres reads P 195/60R15 94H:

reading tyre sidewall markings

Have a question or need help? Contact the NRMA motoring advice team on 13 11 22, Monday-Friday 8.30am – 5pm.

NRMA Members save 15% on tyres  

With Australia's most trusted tyre provider, Beaurepaires