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How to Inflate Motorcycle Tires – 2 Best Ways to Do It

You may have never had to inflate your motorcycle tire before, but it is an important skill. Motorcycle tires are different than car tires so there are some differences in how you inflate them. If you are not sure what to do next time you need to inflate a tire, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about inflating motorcycle tires.

There are two main methods for inflating motorcycle tires. The first is via an electric compressor at home, and the second is with compressed air located near gas stations or hardware stores. The choice of method really depends on how much you want to spend and where you’re already going to be traveling.

How to Inflate Motorcycle Tires

Inflating your motorcycle tire is a simple process that does not require any mechanical skill or tools. It shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes for each tire and most of that time is spent waiting around while the air pump does its job.

With that out of the way, here are all the steps needed to inflate your motorcycle tires and get you back on the road.

Using A 12V Mini Air Compressor

A 12V mini compressor is a very popular choice and it’s definitely my favorite method of inflating motorcycle tires. It’s compact, reliable, portable, affordable, and it also comes with a built-in pressure gauge. Here’s how to inflate motorcycle tires using a 12V mini air compressor. 

Step-1: Check the temperature of the tires & determine the recommended PSI

Feel their temperature with your hand and make sure that the tires are cool to the touch before you can begin to fill them up. It’s not a must, but it is always recommended by tire manufacturers since the pressure of your motorcycle tires changes according to their temperature. 

You can find the recommended tire pressure (PSI) on the swingarm or in your motorcycle’s owner’s manual. If you can’t find the recommended PSI right now, inflate the tire to 22-32 PSI. Please note that the PSI rating on the sidewall of the tires is NOT the recommended pressure – it’s the maximum pressure that the tire can handle.

Step-2: Connect the 12V compressor to your battery

Your motorcycle’s battery is located under the seat. Just remove the seat and connect the positive (red) lead from the compressor to the battery positive and the negative lead (black) to the battery negative (ground). 

If there’s not a lot of space to connect both of the leads to the battery, you can connect the negative lead (black) to any bare metal surface of the motorcycle – footpegs, frame, engine block, etc. They all act as common ground. 

Step-3: Unscrew the dust cap

The second step is to unscrew the cap. You can do this by holding it with your index finger and the thumb, then turning it anticlockwise. Make sure to place it somewhere visible or into your pocket, as it’s very easy to lose.

Step-4: Attach the pump to the valve & turn on the compressor

After the cap is off, it’s time to attach the pump. Connect the nozzle of the compressor to the valve stem and turn on the compressor.

While the compressor is filling your tires with air, keep a close eye on the pressure gauge. Shut off the compressor once the pressure gauge reaches the recommended PSI. 

Step-6: Turn off & disconnect the compressor 

First, turn off the pump with the on/off button, then disconnect the compressor nozzle from the valve stem. Once you’ve done that, you can disconnect the compressor’s power leads. 

Step-7: Close the dust cap

Once you have achieved the recommended pressure levels, close the dust cap and you are ready to go.

Using A Gas Station Air Compressor 

The biggest advantage to the gas station air compressor is that it’s completely free and very quick. Because they’re so powerful, filling each tire will probably take you less than 10 seconds.

Step-1: Check the temperature of the tires & determine the recommended PSI

Make sure that the tires are cool (if possible) before you fill them up. It is always recommended by tire manufacturers since the pressure of your motorcycle tires changes according to their temperature. 

You can find the recommended tire pressure (PSI) on the swingarm or in your motorcycle’s owner’s manual. If you can’t find the recommended PSI right now, inflate the tire to 22-32 PSI. Please note that the PSI rating on the sidewall of the tires is NOT the recommended pressure – it’s the maximum pressure that the tire can handle.

Step-2: Unscrew the dust cap

Unscrew it by holding the cap with your index finger and the thumb, then turning it anticlockwise. Make sure to place the cap into your pocket, as it’s very easy to lose.

Step-3: Connect the compressor nozzle

Compressor nozzles differ on almost every gas station, but luckily they are made to be intuitive and easy to use. In most cases, you’ll have to place the nozzle onto the valve stem and then press/pull on a small lever to get it to slide into place and connect. 

Step-4: Fill the tire with air

Press and hold the trigger to start pumping the tire up with air. 

Keep a close eye on the air pressure gauge. Stop when the gauge reaches the recommended PSI for your motorcycle. 

Step-5: Disconnect the compressor nozzle

This step is the exact reverse of Step-2 above. Just press on the small lever and pull the compressor nozzle up from the valve stem.

Step-6: Close the dust cap

Take the dust cap out of your pocket and screw it back onto the valve stem. Once you’ve done that, your motorcycle is ready. 

How To Inflate A Bike Tire Without A Pump

But what if you need to inflate a bike tire and you don’t have a pump? If this ever happens to you, then the best (and pretty much only) way to inflate the bike tire without a pump is by using a CO2 cartridge. It’s definitely not ideal and you will likely spill a bunch of CO2 while trying to keep the cartridge connected to the valve, but it does work and will get your bike tire inflated. Here’s how you do it. 

Step-1: Unscrew the dust cap

Hold it with your index finger and the thumb, then twist it anticlockwise to unscrew. Remember to place it somewhere visible and flat in order to not lose it – your pocket should work fine.

Step-2: Screw the CO2 cartridge into the inflator

Most CO2 kits come in two parts – the CO2 cartridge and the inflator. The CO2 cartridge is threaded and needs to be screwed into the inflator in order to puncture the seal.

Once the cartridge is screwed all the way into the inflator, you can then control the flow of CO2 by unscrewing the cartridge slightly.

Step-3: Connect the inflator to the valve

Some CO2 kits come with an inflator that screws into the valve just like the dust cap, but most do not. If your CO2 kit does not have a screwable inflator, then you will have to press the inflator into the valve and keep holding it tightly in order to avoid spilling CO2.

Step-4: Inflate the bike tire with short bursts

Bike tires do not need a lot of CO2 to be fully inflated, thus you will have to inflate them using short bursts in order to avoid overpressurizing. 

Unscrew the cartridge slightly to fill the bike tire with air. Continue filling the bike tire with short bursts until the bike tire feels firm. Use a pressure gauge if possible.

Step-5: Close the dust cap

Once the bike tire is inflated, screw the dust cap back in and you’re ready to go.

How To Inflate Car Tires At Home 

Although they are different from motorcycle tires, car tires can just as easily be inflated at home using a portable 12V mini air compressor. 

Step-1: Check the temperature of the tires & determine the recommended PSI

Feel their temperature with your hand and make sure that the tires are cool to the touch before you can begin to fill them up. 

You can find the sticker with the recommended tire pressure (PSI) for your car on the inside of the gas door or inside the driver-side door.

If you can’t find the recommended PSI right now, inflate the tire to 30-35 PSI. Please note that the PSI rating on the sidewall of the tires is NOT the recommended pressure – it’s the maximum pressure that the tire can handle.

Step-2: Power the 12V compressor through the 12V socket or the battery

Most mini 12V air compressors are powered through the 12V accessory socket, but some of them are designed to be connected to the battery directly.

To connect the compressor to your car’s battery, first, open the hood and locate the battery. Now connect the positive lead (red) to the battery positive (+) and the negative lead (red) to the battery negative (-) or any bare metal part of the engine or the frame.

If your car does not have a battery under the hood, you’ll have to find the positive post, which should be located near the fuse box. It should be colored red, or have a big plus sign on it. Connect the positive lead (red) to the positive post. Next, connect the negative lead (black) to any bare metal part of the engine or the frame.

Step-3: Unscrew the dust cap

The second step is to unscrew the cap. You can do this by holding it with your index finger and the thumb, then turning it anticlockwise. Make sure to place it somewhere visible or into your pocket, as it’s very easy to lose.

Step-4: Attach the pump to the valve & turn on the compressor

After the cap is off, it’s time to attach the pump. Connect the nozzle of the compressor to the valve stem and turn on the compressor.

While the compressor is filling your tires with air, keep a close eye on the pressure gauge. Shut off the compressor once the pressure gauge reaches the recommended PSI. 

Step-6: Turn off & disconnect the compressor 

First, turn off the pump with the on/off button, then disconnect the compressor nozzle from the valve stem. Once you’ve done that, you can disconnect the compressor’s power leads or unplug it from the 12V socket. 

Step-7: Close the dust cap

Once you have achieved the recommended pressure levels, close the dust cap and your car is ready for the road.

Optimum Tire Pressures

Keeping your motorcycle tire pressure according to manufacturer specifications is very important. Incorrect tire pressure will negatively impact cornering, stopping distance, and stability. 

Motorcycle Tire Pressure Front And Rear

The optimum motorcycle tire pressure for the front and rear is different for every motorcycle model and is found on the motorcycle’s frame, swingarm, or the owner’s manual. However just to give you a number, 33 PSI front and 31 PSI rear while the tire is cold should be the optimum tire pressure for track sportbikes according to Dunlop.

With that said, motorcycle manufacturers weigh in a lot of factors before deciding on the optimum front and rear motorcycle tire pressure for every specific model, thus only the owner’s manual contains the optimum pressure. 

Motorcycle Tire Pressure For Hot Weather

As mentioned earlier, motorcycle tire pressures change according to outside temperature – that’s why motorcycle and tire manufacturers always recommend checking tire pressures when they are cold. But what about hot weather?

While the manufacturer-recommended tire pressure is still the most accurate, a lot of experienced riders use the 5-10% rule. 

With the 5-10% rule, you should first measure the tire pressure when cold, then warm the tires up and check their pressure again. If the tire pressure didn’t increase by 5% in PSI then you should let some air out. But if the tire pressure increased by 10% or more, then you should add air. 

Conclusion

Learning how to inflate motorcycle tires is very important. Luckily, it doesn’t take any mechanical knowledge and doesn’t take up much time at all.

There are two main methods of inflating motorcycle tires – using an air compressor at home, or taking your bike to the closest gas station and using its compressor. 

A portable mini 12V air compressor is the most popular choice among riders as it’s easy to use, reliable, and can be used anywhere. On the other hand, gas station compressors are quicker to use and completely free, but this method requires you to ride your motorcycle to the gas station. 

No matter which method you choose, the steps for inflating your motorcycle tires are very similar. Just unscrew the dust cap, connect the compressor to the valve and fill the tire until you reach the manufacturer-recommended PSI. 

Just don’t forget to regularly check your tire pressures when you’re back on the road. 

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