A flat tire is the only thing worse than a tire with a leak. When you are in an area where you don’t have access to a compressor, you can use the bicycle pump to inflate a car tire.
Here we look at when to use a bicycle pump, what valve to use and how to use it safely to inflate a car tire with a bike pump.
Can a Bike Pump Inflate a Car Tire?
Technically yes. But is not recommended unless you are on a backroad, miles away from a gas station.
In such a situation, a bike pump will get the tire aired up, and you can get somewhere you can recheck the psi and better inflate the tire.
Using a bicycle pump is exhausting and takes some time, usually upwards of 20 minutes. But it is better than riding on a flat tire and ruining your rim or being stranded and having to call for help.
If you take trips to remote areas or love the backroads, you should carry and high-quality bicycle pump, tire gauge, and a Schrader valve for this type of emergency. You can purchase the pump, a gauge, and the valve at a bike shop, big box store, or online.
A gas station pump or a compressor is the best method to fill a car tire, but beggars can’t be choosy in an emergency!
A better understanding of tire pressure
When the pump is attached to your valve stem, it is airtight.
So, the air goes into the tire via the valve but cannot come back out; ensuring the valve is on correctly and tight enough to keep the air from leaking out as you pump is essential.
The longer you pump the air in, the bigger your tire will inflate. Yes, you can overinflate the tire.
Overinflating a tire is worse than having it underinflated and can be dangerous.
Know your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure
You can find the manufacturer’s tire pressure recommendations in the owner’s manual, on the driver-side door sticker that offers the information, and on the side of the tire itself.
Always check the pressure before inflating the tire to know the exact amount of air the tire will need. This will prevent over and underinflating the tire.
If the air pump or compressor doesn’t have the built-in gauge, you must manually stop and check the tire pressure to prevent overinflation.
Reasons You May Need to Use the Bike Pump
After fixing a flat tire
This is usually the number one reason most people use the bike pump to inflate a car tire. You probably don’t have a compressor handy if you’re on the road and need to air up the tire.
The bicycle pump will let you fill the tire and get somewhere with a better pump to recheck the pressure and finish filling the tire if needed.
Most people don’t take an air compressor with them when they travel.
Air compressors are big and bulky. They are not designed to carry in a vehicle unless you own a tow truck.
They make small portable air compressors that plug into a lighter you can use in an emergency. You can purchase them online and in the auto section of any store.
If you buy one, ensure you know how to use it before leaving the house, and put the directions in the glovebox if you need to use it.
Better safe than sorry!
Emergency use only
Since this is not the best or safest way to inflate a car tire, it’s best used as an emergency method.
It lets you fill the tire to get somewhere to pump the tire properly in a pinch!
Fooling around with some buddies
Most dares and double-dog dares are done while hanging out with your buddies.
Seeing if you can inflate the truck tire with the bike pump is the kind of challenge many of us would do!
Slow leak vs fast leak
If your tire has a fast leak, the bike pump isn’t going to work. It takes so long to inflate the tire with the bike pump that the air will leak out before you can inflate it.
The bike pump will be the perfect solution to inflate the tire if you have a slow leak or have fixed a flat and need to fill the tire with air.
Just be sure to jack up the side of the car the deflated tire is on to alleviate the pressure on the tire as you use the pump. The car’s weight will make you work twice as hard to inflate the tire.
A bit about bike pump valves
There are two bike pump valves: Schrader and Presta valves.
The Presta valve will not work because the tip of the valve is a threaded metal cylinder.
The Schrader valve (referred to as an American valve) stem is similar to a car valve as it has a little pin in its center and a cap on the threaded end.
The Schrader is the valve you need to inflate the car tire.
How to Inflate a Car Tire With a Schrader Pump?
- Schrader valve bike pump
- Tire pressure gauge
- Wheel chocks
- Car Jack
If you are on a deserted road, pull over somewhere safe before inflating the tire. Check the driver’s side door for the pressure recommended by the car manufacturer.
Find a flat surface to use the pump and jack.
Place a jack under the side of the car with the deflated tire. Be sure to place the jack where the manufacturer recommends as the safest spot.
Place a wheel chock behind the tire on the opposite side to keep the vehicle from moving.
Once the jack is safely placed, raise the jack, so the wheel is a few inches off the ground. This will make it easier to inflate the tire.
The valve stem can be found on the tire’s sidewall. Once located, remove the valve stem cap and place it in your pocket to prevent it from getting lost.
If you are inflating the tire in a non-emergency situation, you will get the most accurate tire pressure reading if the tires are cool.
Using the tire gauge, check the pressure in the deflated tire.
If the valve stem is dirty or grimy, clean it off before using the pressure gauge. Then check the tire’s pressure. The tire gauge should pop on the tire stem easily so you can read the pressure.
With the bike lever in the up position, place the pump on the tire’s valve stem and push the lever down. This locks the pump on the valve stem, leaving both hands to pump the handle on the bike pump.
It is not unusual to hear a bit of air escape the tire as you place the pump on the valve stem.
With both hands on the bike pump handle and your feet holding the pump, bring the handle up and down rapidly to inflate the car tire.
Check the air pressure at 10-minute intervals to avoid overinflating the tire.
Once you have reached the desired tire pressure, remove the bike pump from the valve stem.
Tighten the valve cap firmly by twisting it in place. Lower the car to the ground and remove the jack. Place the car jack and the wheel chocks in the trunk. You should be good to go!