is there someone I can pay to put air in my own tires for me?
December 7, 2021 4:38 PM   Subscribe

I hate putting air in the tires of my car. I am not good at it, I frequently have trouble managing to get the air in all the tires before the air machine comes off, I am always out of quarters, the ground is cold and uncomfortable, and I can never find an air machine when I need one. Is there someone or somewhere I can pay to adjust the air in my tires so I never have to actually fix it myself except in direst extremity?

I keep finding myself putting it off and putting it off and putting it off, and it occurs to me to ask if there is a way to make the damn task not entirely my own problem.
posted by sciatrix to Travel & Transportation (46 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Where did you buy your tires?

Here on the West Coast, we have Les Schwab. If you bought your tires from them, they will always do this for you. But, wherever you live. Who sold you your tires? Go there. Or find another tire seller, and say, "can you fill my tires? I would be a good customer..."
posted by Windopaene at 4:41 PM on December 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

Where do you live?

I have a used tire place down the street that puts air in your tires in two minutes for like $5. I bought new tires at Costco recently and they’ll also do it for me now. Ring up your local Jiffy Lube and see if they’ll do it.
posted by greta simone at 4:42 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Places I can think of off the top of my head that will do this in the course of other things:

Oil change place
Full-service car wash (some, anyway)
Discount Tire

There may be a full-service gas station somewhere in your area (I kind of assumed there were some in Los Angeles for my own interest, and Yelp turned up more than I expected, and they are all as you would expect in rich old people neighborhoods) and they do charge a little more for the gas but they will also check (and top) your wiper fluid and maybe inspect other compartments of liquids under there.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:47 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I feel the same way you do. Where I live, we have Discount Tires, and I just go there and ask. I did buy my tires there, but they never ask me about that or charge me. They just take care of it.
posted by FencingGal at 4:49 PM on December 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

You shouldn't need to put air in your tires very often. The only time I've had to put air in mine it's because a tire had a slow leak. So yes, go to one of those tire places and ask them why you keep having to put air in your tires. They'll probably try to sell you 4 expensive new tires.

Do you have a light that keeps coming on telling you to put air in your tires? I had a car like that a while back, something was wrong with the sensor. Also your tire pressure may change if it's hot or cold, but that shouldn't make the light come on.
posted by mareli at 4:49 PM on December 7, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Buy one of these:

All you need to do is set the pressure and it'll handle the rest. Plugs in to your cigarette lighter, or to a wall!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:50 PM on December 7, 2021 [17 favorites]

Yeah, I bought something similar. I just fill 'em up every month or two from the driveway. No more quarters.
posted by credulous at 4:52 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have the same issue you do, and I've literally let more air out of the tires than I have put in. I'm utterly incompetent at doing it. At this point I have to go to the car dealership for my model of car, which will do it for free. I'm not sure on the oil change place I go to--I've gotten them to check tires while doing other things, but I'm not sure if mine would ONLY do air in the tires, especially if they are busy that day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:00 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

YES, get an air compressor. It's so easy! A million times better than using air at the filling station.
posted by BrashTech at 5:00 PM on December 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

Nthing the quasi-solution of getting a cheap 12V compressor that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter. That way you can fill up your tires (or bike tires, or inflatable watercraft) on your schedule, in the comfort of your own driveway/wherever. If you have sensory or mobility issues that make filling up your own tires difficult then I recognize that this might not be a good solution.
posted by blerghamot at 5:00 PM on December 7, 2021

I have a portable air compressor like a couple others have mentioned (mostly 'cause I like being self-reliant and not making extra trips for things if I can avoid it), but yeah, most good tire shops don't mind handling a quick fill for free or a reasonable cost, even if you didn't buy tires from them. I've had a tire shop specifically warn me away from gas-station air compressors as the pressure gauge is often inaccurate on them and is almost always hard to read anyway, and they were happy to fill my tires for free when I needed it.
posted by Aleyn at 5:05 PM on December 7, 2021

I will join the chorus of people recommending a device. I just bought this device to do this; it takes the same battery as Ryobi tools from Home Depot. Other tool brands make the same thing.
posted by acidic at 5:06 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you have a local Costco, not only will they likely air up your tires for you, at some (like mine) there is a self-serve free station where you can set the machine to the pressure you require and it will fill the tire to that and then stop. Takes away the paying part and the guesswork, but doesn’t take away every bit (you still have to screw and unscrew caps).

Also seconding getting a little compressor to keep in your car for emergencies.
posted by Night_owl at 5:14 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I definitely agree about Costco etc. handling this for you. At Costco I don't even think they require that you bought the tires there, just membership.

As backup, if you don't want the air compressor for whatever reason, your "direst extremity" plan could just be a regular bike pump. The upright ones are easier to use for this purpose than the little hand kind. I wouldn't plan to fill entire tires with it, but just topping off slightly squishy ones goes quickly enough.
posted by teremala at 5:14 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have them do it at Costco, near my house.
posted by answergrape at 5:17 PM on December 7, 2021

I am in New Mexico, and Firestone does it free, no questions asked. I don't think it matters whether you got the tires from them.
posted by NotLost at 5:47 PM on December 7, 2021

I just came in to say that I also hated having to keep up with quarters, so I learned which gas stations on my commute had air pumps with credit card readers. Much simpler. And I definitely avoid the free air pumps (e.g. at QuikTrip) since they are always super busy or broken.

Personally, stopping at a business to have them do it for me, even for free, is just too much time investment. Ditto for the time it takes to set up the little portable compressor, although I suppose that's more pleasant time (in your own driveway or wherever).
posted by intermod at 5:56 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Piggybacking on acidic's comment, if you happen to already own any modern rechargable battery-powered tools, it's likely their product line includes a "cordless inflator" tool that accepts the same batteries. It's also likely that you can buy a "tool only" version that doesn't include another battery and charger.

For instance: Makita, Dewalt, Milwaukee.

Pros: the cordlessness is pretty great, especially if you use it for anything else (bike tires, for instance); if you're already invested in a particular brand's cordless tool/recharger/battery system, you probably already have a few batteries around and charged; generally more robust than the kind that live in your car.

Cons: compared to a 12v "lives in your car" inflator (that plugs into the accessory socket/cigarette lighter), they're expensive, even when piggybacking on batteries you already own; it wouldn't be a great idea to keep a rechargable battery-powered inflator stashed in the car until you need it (you're asking for a dead battery, and you probably need that battery in the house for your jigsaw or whatever anyway).
posted by pullayup at 6:04 PM on December 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

If you have to do it more than once a month, you have a leak in your tire and you need to get it inspected.

You can DIY this by using a personal inflator. You can buy one nowadays that plus into 12V DC port and the other end screws onto the valve stem.

But as many others aid, almost any tire place will do it for you free, but feel free to tip the folks. They will often use this to pitch you on other services you may need.
posted by kschang at 6:05 PM on December 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

Well, you can do this yourself pretty easily with some caveats. First, pick up your own tire pressure gauge thingy from the automotive section of your favorite general store (the built-in ones on the gas station pumps do suck pretty bad). Second, uncover the spare in the trunk, then take off all of the little protective cover things and determine which of your tires actually needs the air and about how much each needs. You should know that from either your manual, or it's usually on a little plate along the edge of the driver's side door frame. Third, pull up to the air thingy and drag out the hose, then put something heavy on it to keep it from trying to yank back in to the kiosk. Or you can just pull it the hard way a bit further than seems needed and step on it to hold it there and give you a good bit of easy to use business-end. Fourth, put air into tires that need it, test with your own pressure gauge, it's ok to be a bit over, forget about it for now. N-th, go around and use the little nub on your pressure tester to let out any bit of extra air. Finally put the little protective cover things back on and cover up that spare.

One warning, check different gas stations' pump/connections. Some of them suck really bad and are hard to use. Other stations have better fiddly bits on the end that work much much better. (the station across the street sucks, the one down the road is good).

But yeah, tire places and many other garage like places will do it for a pittance if not free. My tire place will even rotate my tires for free.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:07 PM on December 7, 2021

Definitely get your own air compressor. Also all the Wawa gas stations near me have free air pumps with digital displays, very user-friendly.
posted by gnutron at 6:23 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I ask them to check/fill if needed when I get oil changes! But in a pinch, I've also stopped at a full serve gas station (when I needed gas anyhow), and asked them if they would mind checking the air in my tires for me. Even though this is not their job every time I have asked the person has always said yes, and been very kind, and I've always given them a nice cash tip for their kindness in going above and beyond to help me with this odious task.
posted by DTMFA at 6:49 PM on December 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Discount Tire/America's Tire (same company, different regional names) is your savior. They will check your air as often as you want on goodwill as they figure if they are nice enough, you'll buy your next set of tires or a tire road hazard warranty from them.

Costco will do it too, but the wait times can be very long depending on where you live and they will prioritize Costco members if they get busy.
posted by jamaro at 7:01 PM on December 7, 2021

I have a little air compressor but find it difficult to use in my wheelchair. I usually ask a roommate, my brother-in-law, or a neighbor to help me. In a dire circumstance, I shamelessly flounder around until a passerby stops and helps. I live on a busy street and someone always helps. I've also seen elderly/diabled people on NextDoor ask for help filling their tires.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:14 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh man I feel you, I could have written this question myself. I had a tire that had a slow leak and I did get the valve stem replaced and it fixed the issue in expensively. But! I wound up getting it again and I was only driving on these tires a short while before I was getting my winter tires put on so in the meantime I figured out where my local free air place was (you might have some luck with this website) and only went there.

Obviously this does not address miserable weather or still just feeling terrible about the whole process (I even have my own compressor but am bad at that too!) but on the off chance it helps I wanted to let you know about it. I also have told "well meaning" men who like to look at my tires and tut tut about how one of them is low (they can tell somehow! I can not tell! I find their advice unhelpful!) that if they want to put air in them they are welcome to comment, otherwise they are not. You might find a pal who can help that way, I swear I had one pal who figured this was the cost of giving me advice and was happy to do it, insert eyeroll emoji here.
posted by jessamyn at 7:21 PM on December 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

If your tyres need topping up often enough that it's an actual problem, you have a leak. While tyres do naturally lose a minuscule amount of air over time (because they are not completely airtight and air escapes through the rubber), it should not be so much that you need to adjust them between services. Whoever services your car should check them, but ask next time just in case.

Also, tyre pressures will vary depending on temperature and tyres get warm when you're driving so, if you check them after driving for a while, they will be at a slight (but measurable) higher pressure. If you're seeing both high and low pressures when you check them, this may be the cause, although it's unlikely unless you're driving at high speed.

If you can't find a suitable place that will do this for you, buy a small compressor as others have mentioned. The one that credulous linked to that automatic cut-off at a set pressure would be great. If you're a person that has cordless power tools, you can almost certainly buy one that takes the same batteries and that removes the slight inconvenience of having to plug in, drag the cord around, re-route it through the doors because the cord is too short etc.

I guess it's a US thing that you have to pay for air like this. Every petrol station here has a free machine, almost always with automatic cut-off when they reach the right pressure.
posted by dg at 7:25 PM on December 7, 2021

Oh, also, for a very technical, expensive but allegedly effective solution - get your tyres filled with Nitrogen - it doesn't leak through the tyres. In the right crowd (albeit a crowd I doubt you want to be part of), it will give you additional street-cred.
posted by dg at 7:31 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have a compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter... erm, power socket, the first time I used it it blew the fuse.

I picked up a nail in a tire on a road trip. There was a Les Schwab half a mile away. They repaired the tire in 10 minutes, and didn't charge me. They didn't ask if I had bought my tires from Les Schwab, they didn't even say "consider us next time you need tires!", they just cheerfully repaired my tire for free.

All this to say, plus one for Les Schwab, but also any major tire place is likely to consider the good will they get from stuff like filling your tires for free to be cheap, effective marketing. Just stop in and ask.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:42 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ask around, post on a local list, there's usually a station with a useful compressor, not just the usual pathetic ones. The place I got my tires would do it, but they're busy, and I don't want to wait.
posted by theora55 at 9:05 PM on December 7, 2021

My local gas station has an "Xact Air" machine that automates the process. It's got a built-in pressure gauge and a computer. It runs the fill-measure loop automatically until your tire reaches your target pressure. All you have to do is hold the nozzle against your tire's valve. It takes credit cards, costs $2 where I am, and its timer is long enough to do all four of my tires.

As a fan of control theory, I absolutely love this machine. I don't know how hard they are to find in other parts of the country, but worth trying.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:12 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you're seeking a spot of core exercise, a bike pump will do for topping off. (Not for refilling from zero, unless you're hardcore or lack options.)
posted by away for regrooving at 10:33 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don’t want to do it, so don’t buy anything. Nthing Discount Tires, where polite and friendly people inflated my dad’s tires over many years without charge or fuss.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:53 AM on December 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

What if you bought your own tire inflater? Then you could do your own tire care from the comfort of your parking spot.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 2:39 AM on December 8, 2021

Also your tire pressure may change if it's hot or cold, but that shouldn't make the light come on.

This will vary from car to car. I've had cars (in Minnesota) where the tire pressure light was a seasonal ritual twice a year, when we change from cold to warm or vice versa, regardless of the condition of the tires themselves.
posted by gimonca at 5:15 AM on December 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh my god I love all of you. You can BUY YOUR OWN AIR COMPRESSOR OMG OMG YES I WILL DO THIS THING YOU HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE. I did not know this was a thing and I'm gonna go tell all my friends about it.

ALSO: Discount Tire will do this thing for you, and this can even make an appointment for it under their TPMS service. I'm currently living through my first Minnesota winter after fifteen years in the South, so it occurred to me after I made this post that I need to go get snow tires put on my car anyway, and for this specific time I'm going to go do that with them while I also get my tires changed.

(In this specific circumstance, the tire pressure light has come on because of temperature shifts. I'm used to dealing with that as summer comes on, not winter, but for contextual reasons it was fairly obvious. I just really, really, really hate dealing with gas station tire pressure machines and will put it off for way too long.)

So there are now TWO SOLUTIONS for this horrible problem that has plagued me for years I can now deal with. I WIN EVERYTHING, THIS SITE IS AMAZING.
posted by sciatrix at 6:42 AM on December 8, 2021 [18 favorites]

Is an air compressor any easier to use? I feel like the air fillers at gas stations just don't seal in the air at all, hence why I can only deflate.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:44 AM on December 8, 2021

Also related to the air compressor you can buy, there are jump-start batteries that you can buy in case your battery dies. Especially in cold weather, batteries can drain on you, so a useful tool to have in your trunk.

And to jenfullmoon, yes, the battery pack or plug in air compressors are super easy to use. I prefer those that screw on rather than the push-on types.
posted by rich at 7:01 AM on December 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Something to know about small air compressors: the smaller they are, the more frequently you need to refill them and when they refill, you need to wait around for them to compress enough air. And by “frequently,” I mean it can happen mid-service if you’re topping up your own tires, depending on how much air they need.

They are also loud, if that is a concern.
posted by corey flood at 7:01 AM on December 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

You don't have to pay if you fill-up with gas at the same time. They will bypass the pay part. Also, be aware that the recommended tire pressure is for COLD tires. Warm tires (for me) are 3psi higher than cold.
posted by Ferrari328 at 7:01 AM on December 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I use the little garages that are independent from large companies. I also give them a few bucks for their time. I've had one place refuse that.
posted by kathrynm at 8:21 AM on December 8, 2021

Another option: If you bought your car from a dealership, you can go to the service department and ask for them to do it. My mom always does this.
posted by that girl at 11:11 AM on December 8, 2021

Is an air compressor any easier to use?

Yes!! Most of them actually have a latch that you close on the air stem. The gas station ones don't generally do that because it's probably 7 minutes from installation to someone driving off with it still clamped on.

I have a pretty basic one from Target that I bought because I got out of my car in the parking lot to find my tire was half-flat. It's not the fastest thing on the planet, but the pressure dial on it is easy to read from a standing position so I clamp it on and then stand up and watch the dial until it's about done. It also has a pretty bright flashlight on it, for emergencies.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:31 AM on December 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, once more thing. A lot of gas stations that asks you to put quarters to feed air? If you fill up there, you can ask the attendant for tokens to put in those machines, making the fill-up free. The dollar signs are there to discourage freeloaders and non-shoppers.
posted by kschang at 11:47 AM on December 8, 2021


The portable 12v ones are good for traveling and the car, but if you're a homeowner and have vague aspirations of being handy then you might find a house/garage style one more useful.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:25 PM on December 8, 2021

Nthing that if you have to put air in your tires very often on a car built this century, there’s probably a problem with your tires.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:33 PM on December 9, 2021

Am I the only person who uses a bicycle pump when their tires need air? I know there are handy-dandy compressors out there, but I've been pumping up my car tires with a bike pump for years. I leave the dashboard digital readout set to show me the tire pressure at all times, so I'm never down by more than a few pounds. It takes maybe 15-20 strokes with the bike pump to get a tire back to where it should be. I swap summer and winter tires every spring and fall, and find that the shop NEVER pumps up all the tires to the right level, so usually that's the only time I have to do all four tires. It's a decent little workout.
posted by beagle at 5:58 PM on March 30

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