I will never forget the time I needed air for my tires on the morning of Christmas Eve.
It was 2012 and I was visiting my now wife and meeting her family for the first time in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cold, windy, and with ice on the ground I wanted to make sure I had enough air in my tires to make the 6-hour drive home (with a goal of five hours) for my family’s Christmas Eve celebration.
So before hopping on the interstate, I stopped at one gas station and quickly found myself in a predicament. To use the air compressor was $1.25 and I had no spare change.
While $1.25 wasn't going to break my budget, I was in a hurry, I noticed a Sheetz further down the street and quickly drove there where I was able to find free air for my car tires!
And while this might not seem like the best story ever, chances are you have been in a pinch asking yourself, “Where can I find free air for tires?”
Today, I will share with you five places/ways to get free air for your tires!
5 Places to Get Free Air for Tires
Tip number one when it comes to finding free air for your tires RIGHT NOW is to follow this simple two-step set of directions:
- Read the five headings below and see which best helps you right now
- Using your maps app on your phone, type in free air for tires or use the website link below under #1.
This should do the trick and populate a list of a few places with free air! Also, be sure to use some of the tips below that way in the future you're not caught off guard again!
1. Find Free Air for Tires at Gas Stations
Free air used to be a feature at gas stations across the country.
Today, though, that has largely changed, with many gas stations now charging for what was once ‘free air’.
If the thought of paying $1 to $2 to inflate your tires and having to rush while the gas station timer counts down bothers you, then you’re in luck. That’s because there are still gas stations out there that offer free air for tires — you’ve just got to find them.
Fortunately, there’s a free-to-use, crowdsourced service to help you find gas stations that offer free air for tires in your local area.
Simply head over to freeairpump.com and click on the map to find your nearest gas stations offering free air.
Just be warned that this is a free service and relies on the ongoing input of members of the local community, so may not always be up to date.
Gas stations known to offer free air for tires:
- Bj's Clubhouse (Gas station)
2. Buy a Portable Air Compressor to Use as a Tire Inflator
Portable air compressors that run off your car battery can be a lifesaver if you find yourself needing air for your tires. They plug straight into your car’s cigarette lighter or auxiliary outlet and produce air instantly.
The best thing about portable air compressors is that they are always with you in your car and they can often be stored away in your trunk with your spare wheel. This means they don’t take up precious trunk space. They are also pretty affordable, too, with a capable compressor costing around just $50. You’d only need to use it around 25 times to get your money back (based on gas station air often costing $2 nowadays).
An added bonus with portable air compressors is that they usually have their own built-in pressure gauges. This allows you to inflate your tires and not risk overfilling them — something that can happen if you use the free air for tires found at gas stations.
3. Use a Bike Pump
While it might sound like a tiring task, using a bicycle pump to inflate a car tire isn’t actually that bad, especially if there’s only one that’s running low on air.
Like a portable air compressor, a bicycle pump can be neatly stored in your trunk, taking up little room and will always be ready to get you out of trouble should you need it.
The beauty of modern bicycle pumps is that most have Schrader valves (the same as your car), meaning you can use them for both bikes and cars. Just be sure that your bike pump does indeed fit your car tires, otherwise you could have a nasty surprise when you come to rely on it in an emergency.
Now we’re not going to pretend that using a bicycle pump to inflate a car tire is a walk in the park. You need to be reasonably fit as it’s going to take you a considerable number of pumps to get the tire to a level where you can safely use it.
Nevertheless, it’s one of the most rewarding methods of inflating a car tire from an environmental (it uses no electricity) and physical exercise point of view (think of all those burnt calories).
>> See also, 17 Ways to Cut Back & Save
4. Call Your Insurance Company for Roadside Assistance
Did you know that depending on your policy, you can often get roadside assistance as part of your car insurance?
It’s usually an add-on that you have to pay a premium to have, but the extra cost can be worth it for the peace of mind it provides.
Check your car insurance policy to see whether it has roadside assistance included. If it does, there will be a dedicated number for you to call whenever you need some roadside help. Be sure to save this number in your cellphone and have your car insurance policy details to hand when you call.
So, if you find yourself in need of some air for your tire(s) and you have roadside assistance as part of your insurance, don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. After all, it’s a benefit you are paying for as part of your monthly premiums. A professional will come out and provide assistance in a timely fashion, whether that’s swapping your flat tire for your spare, or inflating the problematic tire for you on the side of the road.
5. Get an AAA Membership
The final way to get free air for tires is to take out an AAA membership. Okay, so while it’s not technically free because you have to pay for the membership, you will afford a number of benefits as a result, and can call on the service whenever you need it.
Like the roadside assistance that’s available as part of your car insurance, AAA membership provides you with peace of mind whenever you are using your car. No matter how far you are traveling or where you are going, you can rest assured that the AAA is there if you need them.
In fact, because the AAA is a federation of regional clubs located across North America, you can get roadside assistance even if you’re not in your home state.
To find your local AAA club, head over to https://www.aaa.com/ and enter your ZIP/postal code. In addition to roadside assistance, AAA members also benefit from access to travel information, including maps, travel guides, hotel recommendations, member discounts, and more.
Bonus: Visit a Tire Shop
The reason visiting a tire shop isn't listed as a free method for finding air for tires is simply because there is no guarantee of free air for tires!
That being said, there is a high likelihood that if you do stop in and ask for a quick refill, they will most likely help you out for free! If in the event this occurs, it might be nice to tip the tire expert who helps you!
Most tire shops don't advertise free air or outright offer free air, but they are typically very generous and helpful! They can also assess your tire if you think there is a possible leak! You can also check out places like Referral Wallet for tips as well!
If you can't find free air, sometimes you might have to pay for it. To help, there are places to find quarters that will help you pay for your air!
Just be sure that you always hustle because time is limited to 120 seconds in most cases! Before hand be sure to:
- Unscrew all the valve stem caps
- Start on the side furthest from the air compressor
- Act like you're on a NASCAR pit crew team!
All kidding aside, be sure to always keep your tires at the recommended air pressure amounts for safe driving and fuel efficiency. If you happen to see the pressure warning light, don't put it off, get some air in your car's tires ASAP!
Properly inflated tires will keep you and others on the road safe, improve the life of your tires, improve your fuel economy and get you from A to B quicker!
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