What happens if you’re stranded away from any assistance and in dire need of a good pump, but all you have in the trunk of your car is a bike pump? Can you pump a car tire with a bicycle pump?
After doing the research, we’ve found that the answer is yes, but it is all dependent on the type of bike pump that you have available and the severity of your flat tire. If you want to learn more about this, we have prepared a comprehensive guide to answer all your questions.
Can a bike pump inflate a car tire?
Most bike pumps have the capability of inflating a car tire, but some are more suitable for this task than others. Before we can show you how to pump a tire using a bike pump, it is important to take a moment to talk about the three main types of bike pumps available on the market: the portable, full-sized manual, and the electric variants.
One of the most popular types of bike pump is the portable one, and this is the model that most cyclists will be familiar with. As the name suggests, this one is very small, and it can be fitted to the bike’s frame or stored in a small bag. Its small size is very convenient when used on a bike, but can you fill a car tire with a bike pump of this size?
You can do it, but just because it is theoretically possible, it doesn’t mean that you should try. For starters, because it is so small, you will have to pump hundreds if not thousands of times until you can inflate your car’s tire. Secondly, these pumps are not very accurate.
The lack of accuracy is fine if you’re using the product on a small bike, but it can turn into a serious problem when inflating a large car tire.
You can theoretically pump your car tire using a portable bike pump, but we can’t in good faith recommend doing it since you will have to waste a lot of time and energy doing it without the guarantee that you will even be able to do it.
Full-sized manual pumps bridge the gap between what’s suitable for bike tires and what can also help you inflate a car tire with a bike pump. These pumps are tall but thin, you can find them at every bike store, and they are designed to be kept in the garage.
It is much easier to inflate your car’s tires using a full-sized bike pump than a portable one, but it will still take you at least 100 pumps to put enough pressure into the tires.
Lastly, electric pumps are perfect for pumping a car tire since most electric bike pumps are versatile enough to handle more difficult jobs. They’re also great for the person using them since electric pumps can fill the tire fast without you wasting time or breaking a sweat.
To conclude, can you pump up a car tire with a bike pump? The answer is yes, but you should use either a full-sized manual bike pump or an electrical one since these are the ones that are best suited to the task.
Find out the PSI rating and the tire pressure
Now that you’ve selected the right pump for the job, the second step is to find out what the PSI rating of your tires is. It is essential to know the right PSI rating so that you can pump just enough air into the tire and avoid filling it with insufficient or excessive air.
Finding the PSI rating of your car’s tire is very easy since all you need to do is check the body of the tire, the car’s door, or the owner’s manual for the correct value. In the rare event that you can’t find the information in either of these three places, you can also look for it online.
You need to keep in mind that for some cars, the recommended tire pressure for front and back tires will be different. After you’ve found the PSI rating, the next step is to check what the current air pressure inside the tire is.
You’ll need to use a pressure gauge for this step, and if you don’t already own one in your garage, you can purchase one for cheap. For the most accurate readings, you should wait at least three hours after driving and then measure the air pressure.
Dirt or grit inside or near the tire valve and tire pressure gauge can give you inaccurate readings, so take the time to inspect them and make sure they are clean. Using the pressure gauge is simple. You need to place it on the top of the stem of the tire valve and press it firmly until you can no longer hear the sound of escaping air.
When the sound of escaping air has ceased, this is the cue that you can stop pressing on the valve. Take a look at the gauge to see the reading. Most models will have a slide reader.
You can then compare the reading to the recommended PSI of your vehicle to determine if the tire needs to be pumped or not. This step will need to be repeated for all four tires on your vehicle.
Prepare the vehicle and the pump
Before you start pumping, you should first park the car on a clear and flat surface that allows you to move around it freely. Choosing a flat surface will also make it easier for you to balance and operate the pump, especially if you’re using a manual one.
If you lack a suitable surface at home, you can park the car in the street or talk with the neighbors and see if you can use their driveway. However, this is only possible if your tires are not flat. Driving with flat tires can damage the rims, so you should try to drive as little as you can if the tires are completely flat.
Next, you should start to remove the valve caps for each tire. They’re located on the sidewall of the tire, close to the metal of the rim. On most cars, these are screw-on. Keep in mind that these valves are very small, and this makes them very easy to lose. To prevent misplacing the valves, you should use a sealable or lidded container to store them while you pump the tires.
Bike pumps come with both a Presta and a Schrader valve. You’ll want to use the Schrader valve since this is the only one that can pump air into the car’s tire. You can identify it by its tiny metal pin and the screw-on cap threading, or you can look for images of it online.
Inflate the car tire with the bike pump
Now that we’ve got all the technicalities out of the way, we can get to the final step and the reason you came here: inflating the car tire. To start, you should begin by taking the bike pump and positioning its valve end over the valve of the tire you plan to pump.
When performing this step, you might start to hear some air escaping until you seal it. This is entirely normal. To lock the pump onto the tire valve, you will need to press the pump valve firmly and then raise the lever.
With the valve locked in place, you can begin the manual process of engaging the pump bar. You will need to raise and lower the bar of the pump at regular intervals while checking the tire pressure.
You should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations if you want to get the best results. However, in general, you will be fine as long as you don’t fill the tires with five PSI less or more than what the rating recommends.
If you’re using a manual pump, the air will move at a relatively slow rate compared to an electric variant, and this means that it can take a while to get the tire filled. If you’re using an electric pump, you can sit back and wait until the device does its job.
If you overfill the tire with air, you will need to use the pressure gauge or other tools to press the pin in the center of the tire valve to release some air and decrease pressure. Make sure to check the tire pressure regularly when you are adjusting so that you don’t decrease it too much. Otherwise, you’ll have to start pumping again.
Once you are done inflating all the remaining tires, you can take the valve caps from the container you’ve stored them in and reattach them.
How long does it take to inflate a car tire with a manual pump?
There’s no exact answer to this question since it depends on the pump that you’re using, how well you’re pumping, and how flat the tire on your car is. However, we can look at past examples to help you get an idea of what you can expect.
Provided you’re using a standard bike pump for the car tire and that you intend to get a tire from flat to drivable, you should expect to pump anywhere between 150 to 300 pumps at a relatively intense rate to get a single car tire pumped.
The larger the car tire is, the more pumps you will need to do. If you need to fill up more than one tire, then you should expect to get a serious workout out of it since even 100 pumps can get you sweating, let alone 300.
To pump more than one tire, you will need to exercise a bit of patience. Unless you know you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t try to pump all the tires one after the other. Give yourself some short breaks since pumping a tire using a manual pump is all about consistency and not speed.
Things to be careful about
When pumping a tire, no matter what pump you’re using, you should always inspect the tire and pump valve to make sure that they are locked correctly and that there’s no gap where air can escape. If the seal is improper, the amount of air you will get into the tire with each pump will decrease, requiring you to use considerably more energy to fill the tire with air.
In extreme cases, a poor seal can be so bad that it will cause the tire to deflate faster than you are pumping. To correct a poor seal, you need to remove the pump valve and reattach it.
Most bike pumps on the market are rated to handle years of intense usage, but this doesn’t mean that they are unbreakable. The hose is the element that can break down first with time, and you should inspect it before you start pumping.
A cracked or corroded hose can be identified either by touch or sight. If you feel or see cracks, holes, or cuts, then it may be possible that the hose may leak. In extreme cases, you may even be able to feel the air escaping from the hose when pumping.
Sometimes a flat fire may be caused by a puncture from screws, sharp rocks, construction debris, or other obstacles on the road. In this case, you’ll only waste your time trying to fill the tire with air. In such a situation, you will need to replace the damaged tire with a spare.
If you don’t have a spare, then you will need to call for a tire service to have it replaced or repaired. Some punctures can be repaired, but it all depends on the severity of the damage.
There are a few signs that can help you tell if you’re dealing with a punctured tire. If the car swerves to the right or left suddenly, this may be a sign that the tire is severely damaged or punctured. A punctured tire can also cause the wheel to shudder and the car to wobble. A slow puncture can also make it more difficult to steer the car.
To conclude, while bike pumps can indeed fill your car’s tire, they are not ideal for this task, and they should only be used as a last resort. You should only use them when you can’t reach a gas station to pump the deflated tire properly.