Can a Bike Pump Inflate a Car Tire?

by Mario Claramo

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself in a bind with a flat tire on your care and no way to pump it up. Well, I’m here to share my experience of pumping up a car tire with my bike pump.

A car tire can be inflated using a bicycle pump. However, the weight and pressure of the vehicle can cause excess stress on the bicycle pump. To avoid excess pressure, position a car jack under the car, raise the tire off the ground, taking the weight off of the tire before using the bicycle pump to fill it with air.

Those are the basics of inflating your car tire with a bicycle pump. There are a few more things to keep in mind as you go through this process.

Know the Desired Tire Pressure

Before you hook your pump up to the car, there are a few things you will want to know.

The first thing you should know is the target pressure. Every car should have the proper tire pressure stated in at least two places. The first place you can check is on the wall of the tire. Often times you will find the tire pressure stamped onto the tire.

If you don’t see it, there is a possibility that it has worn off over time, or the specific brand of tires doesn’t provide that information on the tire wall.

The second place that you should be guaranteed to find it is inside the driver’s door. If you open the driver’s side door and look down on the frame of the car. Not quite inside, not quite outside, you will see a sticker outlining some important information in the form of a table/chart.

The chart should specify the proper tire pressure for the front and rear tires. (Be sure to read carefully to know which is which)

Also, note the units by which air pressure is measured. Depending on your geographic location you might use Bar, PSI or KPA. Each are units used to measure air pressure and it is important to know which unit you are using in order to inflate the tire to the correct pressure.

Bike Pump

Type of Bicycle Pump

There are different types of bicycle pumps, and some may be compatible with your car tire and some will not.

The two most common types of bike pumps are those with a Presta valve and those with a Schrader valve. The Presta valves are used to inflate things needing a very high pressure, like the tire for a road bike that will be inflated to 110 psi.

To pump up a car tire, you will need a Schrader receiver on the pump.

On a bike pump, you will be able to tell if it is a Schrader by looking inside the receiving end of the pump. If you look in the opening you will see a little pin in the middle of the opening. That pin presses the pin on your car tire to release the pressure

If there is no pin in the center of the opening, more than likely you have a pump designed for a Presta valve, which will not work for inflating a car tire.

Check Current Tire Pressure

Now that you know the target air pressure, check the current air pressure in your tire in order to know how much air you will have to add to your tire.

The easiest and cheapest way to do this is by using a pressure gauge. All vehicles should have a pressure gauge in case of a time like this.

Simply insert the tire valve into the pressure gauge, apply pressure and you will see the reading on the gauge increase.

For those of you who don’t have a pressure gauge, the other option is to see if your bike pump has a pressure gauge attached. If it does, you can take the bicycle pump and insert the valve into the receiving end of the hose.

By doing this, it should give you a general reading of the pressure in your tire. Just be aware that the pressure gauges on bike pumps often wear out due to excessive use and they are not usually very accurate anyway.

If you don’t have a pressure gauge or a pump with a pressure gauge then your best bet will be to continue on and after your tire has enough air, take it into a repair shop where they will determine the correct amount of air to put in the tire.

Prep Your Car/Position Jack

There is a reason that this is the most important step in this whole process. The reason is, I attempted to inflate my car with a bicycle pump. During that attempt, I did NOT use a jack to raise the tire off of the ground.

What happened because of that is the hose on my bike pump could not withstand the pressure (and the heat caused by the pressure) and the hose got a hole in it.

The reason that happened is that the pump was not only working against the current pressure inside the tire, it was also working against the pressure coming from the weight of the vehicle. (it was a 9 passenger vehicle)

If I had used a jack to lift the tire, I believe I would not have had any problem

So, The best thing you can do now is to make sure your car is on a fairly flat surface. This step is very important since you will be using a jack to raise the tire up for the inflation process.

The worst thing that could happen is to have the car fall off the jack while you are trying to air up the tire.

When you have the car on a flat surface, take the car jack (the jack can usually be found with the spare tire or in the trunk of the car) and position it fairly close to the tire you will inflate.

Before you raise the car with the jack, make sure the jack is positioned to push up in the frame of the car You do not want the jack to push up on a plastic or weak spot. Doing so could cause damage to the vehicle

Inflate your Tire

Slow Leak

Now is the moment of truth. Depending on the hole in your tire, you may have a fast leak or a slow leak. If your leak is slow, you will have pretty good luck. If your tire is leaking pretty fast, then the bike pump method may not work at all.

Pumping up a car tire with a bicycle pump can take time. It will probably take 10-15 minutes to get the pressure where you need it.

Once it is inflated, if it isn’t leaking too fast, check the pressure again using the methods discussed above and then check the pressure of the other tires on your car to make sure the other tires are inflated correctly.

Remember!! Often times the front and rear tires will be inflated to different pressures so double check on the chart inside the driver’s door.

Fast Leak

If your tire is leaking pretty fast, the best option is probably to pump like crazy (if the tire is still holding air) and as soon as there is enough air to be able to drive the vehicle, take it to a tire shop, or if the tire shop is far, stop by an air filling station to replenish the air in the tire.

Things to Remember

This method of inflation is not generally a great way to fix the problem of a low tire. Using a bike pump is really a good option in an emergency situation where all other options are limited.

It is important to note, over inflation and under-inflation can cause damage to the tire and rim, so try to fill the tire as accurately as possible.

Rather than filling the tire and driving it as is, it is best to use the bicycle pump and then take the car to a tire shop where they can check for further issues and determine if the correct amount of air is in the tire.

Hopefully these ideas have been helpful! Good luck!

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