A new abuse of drivers: paying to inflate tires

Despite the service obligations of the gas stations, their tax collection efforts have reached the inflation pumps. More and more stations are installing payment machines for tire inflation. A practice that has come to stay at the expense of our pockets.

One of the mantras that all drivers have in our heads is the need to check our tire pressure at least once a month. Something that is not always easy, since it requires going through a gas station, that the air pump works and that it is in good condition, check the air and return home. So unless we have an air compressor at home we are not talking about an easy process to execute.

As if that were not enough, more and more gas stations have joined an unfortunate trend such as changing the pressure gauges and air pumps of always for machines with which to measure the pressure of our tires … upon payment. A situation that is an abuse by these companies and that discourages users from driving with the correct pressure in their tires.

The machines of discord

These machines began to appear about five years ago and, since then, they have proliferated in all the service stations of the big oil companies. These machines offer air, water and, in some cases, air freshener, at the price of one euro for every five minutes of use. A fairly reduced time considering that between removing valves, placing the pressure gauge, fitting it, inflation and air verification, we can easily spend 10 minutes.

But the problem is even worse when we face the machine in person. And there are many users who comment that the inflation speed of these machines is slow. In general, in a conventional air pump, just press for a few seconds will add the little air that the wheel may lack, while inflating an empty wheel does not take more than 30 seconds. However, with these machines the waiting times for inflation are “accidentally” increased, when using pumps with a lower output capacity. Something that forces the user to have to spend more money in case they want to complete the tire inflation operation correctly.

As if that were not enough, the design of the machines is not the most comfortable as far as use is concerned. In general, traditional models use simple and reliable mechanical pumps, while these models use electronic systems whose reliability is questionable. Something that leads us to another problem that is frequent: maintenance.

Even more poor maintenance

We have all gone through the experience of having to visit several gas stations with a loose wheel until we have found one that had a proper inflation pump. The total lack of maintenance of these pumps, together with a considerable use of them, used to cause that the general condition of pumps and pressure gauges was poor. A problem that, knowing the gas stations, will surely be repeated with these teams.

However, here there is a more direct responsibility on the part of companies. If I have paid for the use of a service, as with these pumps, the company is obliged to provide it to me in the best conditions. Therefore, these machines should have the corresponding metrological control in accordance with the law, as well as have all the elements in perfect condition for use. Something that, from the experience we are seeing, we know that it will not happen, unless there are sanctions by the administrations. Administrations that, for now, are neither there nor expected.

The consequences

The consequences of this new abuse are obvious. If we already had a hard time looking at the pressure of our tires, now that we have to pay for the air it will surely cost us even more. In addition, we will find ourselves in situations in which, because we do not have a loose euro and because they do not want to charge us with a card, we have to leave a gas station without looking at the air.

All this in a country where a large part of drivers circulate with inadequate tire pressure. That is why it is surprising that, despite the fact that the DGT frequently insists that we have the tires well checked by chance, it does not facilitate this task with adequate legislation, which forces gas stations to offer this type of service for free and not to convert them into a new source of income.

Worst of all, current legislation allows gas stations to commit this type of abuse. Something to which they appeal, legality, when they are asked how unethical this measure is. That is why it is surprising that the administrations have not yet taken measures aimed at preventing the installation of these machines, even if it is in the name of road safety with which they fill their mouths so much.

The alternatives

At this point we only have three options. One of them is the obvious one: go through the hoop. Always carry a euro on hand and get used to the idea that they are going to charge us for something as simple as checking the air in our tires. The second option is to look for independent gas stations or those of large companies that have not yet implemented these payment machines and continue to offer air for free.

The third option is to add a portable compressor to our purchase of the best tires You can find here some purchase options ) for our car. These small compressors connect directly to the car’s cigarette lighter and allow the tires to be inflated anywhere, so that we are not going to depend on machines or have a gas station nearby. In addition, they are not much slower than the new machines that we have been talking about, with the advantage of being a used and controlled equipment by us. In terms of cost, there are quality air compressors from about 30 euros.


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