What is proper inflation for car tires -- with & without snow chains/cables

I have often wondered what is the proper inflation for car tires – my owners manual says to inflate to 30 or 32 psi. I have a Honda Civic. However, the tires I have on the car allow for inflation as high as 44psi (I am pretty sure).

I often read that underinflated tires will give one poorer gas mileage. Does that mean I should inflate more than the 30-32psi recommended by the owners manual.

Now I am planning to go to the snow and have to put snow cables on possibly. One person at the Honda parts place, said I shoud inflate the tires close to the maximum to get more coverage on the road.

But is inflating tires closer to the maximum “unsafe” for a car my size. Or will it just give me a rougher ride? And will the cable-type chains be harder to put on, on a tire that is inflated “more” versus “less”.

And for regular driving – will I get better mileage if I inflate my tires more than 30-32psi?

does anybody really know the answer? thanks

Inflate them to what’s in the owner’s manual or on the placard that should be in one of the doorjams. You can inflate them a little bit more than that to slightly improve gas mileage, but your ride quality might suffer.

I’m not sure what the Honda guy’s talking about-- overinflating the tires reduces the contact patch so that would be the opposite of what he says. Letting most of the air out of a tire is an old off-roading trick that can help get a truck out of deep mud or snow by increasing the amount of contact area-- not something you should attempt with your Honda! There’s no pressure adjustment necessary for mounting chains.

Follow the recommended ranges by your manual. Required pressures vary depending on the size(weight) of the vehicle not the tire. Underinflated tires will give poorer gas mileage/uneven tire wear. Overinflated tires may give slightly better mileage but tires will wear unevenly/faster, give a rougher ride, and may accentuate any alignment problem(s) which may make the car unstable. Cable chains installation will not change with inflation, but you don’t need to adjust the pressure for the winter either. 30-32psi cold if that’s what it says, stick with it, it will give you the best balance of wear, traction, and control for your car.

My suggestion is to go by the tires that are installed on the car, a inflated pressure will give you a stiffer ride but may increase your fuel milage. Lowering the pressure will give you a softer ride but less steering response and lower fuel mileage. Keep it within the recommended pressure on the side of the tire and watch the tread ware. I keep mine about 1-2 LBS below what the max pressure listed on the tire side, for fuel milage. Can’t help you with the chains, sorry

You only inflate to maximum when you have a pickup filled to maximum. Maybe not even then. Then there are overloaded ones that need the pressure. Use the sticker on your door or door frame as a guide. Then you have to use your judgement. You want to use the higher NORMAL pressure with chains but it is by no means a requirement.

The number(s) in the owner’s manual is correct for your car assuming you have the same size tyre.

Snow, chains or cables do not make a difference. In the old days (pre-radial) you might have lowered the pressure for snow. Don’t do it today.

The number on the side of the tyres is the MAXimum the tyres can safely hold. If your manual calls for more it means those tyres are not safe for your car.

No number is exact. No gauge is 100% accurate. If in doubt add a couple of extra PSI. Going a little over is far less danger than going a few under.

The pressure that’s seen on the sidewall of a tire is the MAX pressure that the tire manufacturer recommends for that tire. That’s because that tire can be used on many different kinds of vehicles. So while one vehicle may have a tire pressure recommendation from the vehicle manufacturer, when applied to another vehicle, the tire pressure recommendation from that manufacturer might be different. So the tire manufacturer designs that tire to be applied to many different kinds of vehicles.

Vehicle manufacturers run extensive tests to determine what tire pressures should be used to provide the best ride, handling, safety, and tire life when those tires are used on that vehicle. And this is why you always follow the recommended tire pressures that the vehicle manufacturer recommends.


Interesting all your comments, but I have a Caravan 2002 that seems to be always low of pressure from the front tyres. And the edges are worn out…I am rasing 3 or 4 PSI more since I noticed it… I am not sure if I am doing the right thing. Ahy comment about??

Sure. You can adjust the tire pressures up 2-3 PSI from the recommended pressures to see if it helps with tire wear. But don’t rule out that the tires are leaking air or that the front end is out of alignment causing the tire wear. Also, the Chrysler mini-vans are little front heavy along with a high center of gravity. This can cause tire scrubbing while cornering causing the outside tread of the tires to wear faster.


…Seems tire pressure is always low in front, leads me to suggest the alloy wheels need refurbishing/bead cleaning or replacing if the bead continues to leak.

Inflate your tires to the 30-32psi recommended by the owner’s manual. Anyone who tells you anything that contradicts your owner’s manual is misinformed.

This makes sense. My min-van is a Chrysler… Thanks for the tip.

Agree; the “maximum” figure on the tire is the carrying capacity of that tire, wherever it is used. That might be on a truck, trailer or some other piece of equipment. It has nothing to do with the pressure for your car, which is normally on the doorpost or glove compartment lid.

What if they are after market tires with a diff speed rate? Do you go by the tire side wall or the manufactures (original) installed tires door jam sticker?

“What if they are after market tires with a diff speed rate? Do you go by the tire side wall or the manufactures (original) installed tires door jam sticker?”

You use the car manufacturer’s recommendations. As stated many times already, the pressure listed on the tire is the maximum safe inflation.

If the aftermarket tire is the same size, then use the same inflation pressure.

But if the aftermarket tire is a different size, then the pressure has to be recalculated. If you don’t know how to do that - or don’t have the tables needed to do the calculation, try asking one of the tire experts at www.allexperts.com

Inflate your tires to the 30-32psi recommended by the owner’s manual. If there were different pressures for different speed rates, it would say so in your owner’s manual.