How to air down tires

By: Discount Tire

tires aired down on rocky terrain

Off-roading brings out the adventurer in all of us. Whether it’s over rough terrain in a Jeep Gladiator or modifying a setup for soft-roading, there are many things to consider to get the full 4x4 experience.

We’ve covered off-roading before, from some of the best vehicles for it to the different tire types needed. But one thing we haven’t covered yet is how to air down tires for optimal off-roading traction and comfort. It’s an essential for any enthusiast and we’ve got all the details right here.

What does it mean to air tires down?

Say you drive the baddest off-roader equipped with some huge all-terrain or mud-terrain tires.

Wouldn’t you want to increase your rig’s traction and ride comfort over rough terrain?

Obviously, you want the best experience when you hit the trail. That’s where many off-roading enthusiasts turn to airing down their tires.

Airing down your off-roader’s tires simply means deflating them across varying levels of air pressure/PSI. By reducing the air pressure in your tires, it increases the surface grip on any rocky trail.

In fact, many all-terrain and mud-terrain tires are designed to be aired down. (It’s worth noting that aired down tires should only be driven on at slow speeds off-road and for short periods of time.)

If you’re new to the game, you’ll find that airing down your tires might come with a bit of trial and error.

Generally speaking, there’s no magic formula when it comes to the right air pressure. While it does depend on your tires, vehicle, trail/terrain, (and how often you go off-roading) most enthusiasts and experts are eventually able to determine the perfect amount after many test runs.

Online forums specific to your vehicle will likely have good documentation specific to your vehicle and the tires you have on it.

Safety Considerations

One of the biggest issues with underinflating your tires is that if the pressure is too low, the inside of the tires can overheat—risking tire failure at one of the least ideal moments possible. Aired down off road tires are also unsafe to drive on paved roads, so if you choose to air down you must be prepared to air them back to normal as soon as you’re back on pavement.

If your tires aren’t properly inflated when switching to regular roads, they’ll wear down substantially faster and do serious damage to your vehicle’s fuel economy. Many serious off-roaders have air pumps or canisters of CO2 for this reason.

(Check out our guide to tire inflation for more detailed info.)

Most off-road forums specify that it’s mostly safe to reduce your air pressure by 25% of your recommended PSI for comfort and traction moderate trails. For aggressive rocky terrain, dropping down between 30-35% would allow you to grip onto heavy rocks with ease.

As previously stated, it depends on many subjective factors and conditions. Extra research will provide valuable guidance if you’re just starting out.

How to air your tires down

There are a variety of techniques when it comes to airing down your tires. You can use just about anything, from a rock to an adjustable tire deflator.

While using a pebble or even your fingernail might be tempting, you could damage the tire stem or get the object stuck in the valve.

(Using random objects has the potential for injury or leaving you stranded, so this is not advised.)

But there are accessories and specific tools to get deflating your tires right.

A power tank is a common, jack-of-all-trades accessory for any off-road enthusiast. These provide fast and reliable air and can support even the largest of tires. Check out our ebay site for some of our popular ones.

Automatic tire deflators do most of the work for you, so all you have to do is manually set them to a specific air pressure and twist them onto each valve stem. There are many automatic deflators available that come with a pressure gauge as well, so you can track just how much air you’re letting out.

Talk about tire-ing

As always, practice makes perfect. Altering your tire pressure can seem intimidating and even feel wrong at first, but with trial and error you’ll be able to figure out the perfect off-roading PSI for your setup in no time.

If you’ve got questions, we’ve definitely got answers. Stop by any of our Discount Tire locations (especially if you’re just coming back from the trail) and speak to one of our experts today!