If you’re reading this, you’ve probably found yourself in a bit of a situation and need to replace the air valve stems on your tires.
Or you’re just one of those people that love to read articles about very specific car parts, and we love you.
If you’re the first person, we won’t waste your time because we know you’re probably staring at your phone next to your car with a flat trying to figure out what to do next. Don’t worry; we’re here to help.
There are three basic valve stem types. The good news is that the first is very common and probably what you need. The second is a little less common but easy to identify.
The third is for heavy-duty trucks and racecars, which… Maybe you’re driving a race car? But then you’d probably have a pit team to take care of this for you. We’ll go over the third type anyway, even though you probably aren’t driving a race car. But you might have a huge truck!
So, without further ado, let's talk about valve stems!
Just to cover the basics and make sure we’re all thinking of the same thing, let’s talk about what a valve stem is.
The valve stem is the little tube system that sticks out of your tire. You might recognize it if you fill your tires with air yourself. It’s a small, self-contained doorway that lets air into your tires but doesn’t let it out.
As we’ll see, they usually maintain air pressure by using a small spring or the pressure within the tire itself.
You can find valve stems on just about any tire, from bicycles to cars to anything else you can imagine with inflatable tires.
The first valve type on our list is probably what you’re looking for when you’re in a pickle. Tubeless Rubber Snap-In Valves are the most common valves on commercial and passenger vehicles.
The pressure rating for these valves is generally within the limits of what you want for commercial vehicles, which is about 65 PSI of pressure.
PSI stands for pounds per square inch, and it refers to how much air pressure your tires can hold. Your tire won't need that much air pressure, but you want your valve stem to have a maximum that’s more than what you need.
Tubeless Rubber Snap-In Valves come in a range of sizes to fit most tire options, ranging from diameters of .453” to .625” and lengths from .88” to 2.5”.
This type of valve stem covers most small to medium trucks and SUVs, by the way. This range ensures these valve stem options can fit a majority of tires on the market.
Even if you’re driving something bigger than a sedan, check your tire pressure requirements and see if these will work for you. We’ll go over how to check that maximum pressure requirement on your tires at the bottom of this article.
When putting a cap on tubeless rubber snap-in valves, keep in mind that you can get plastic or metal tops. This is mostly aesthetic and depends on your personal preferences. Some people just love that heavy-duty metal look, so we thought we would mention it.
These valve stems are for bigger trucks with heavy-duty tires that have PSI maximum ratings above 65 PSI.
High-Pressure Tubeless Snap-Ins can offer up to 80 PSI maximum, which is pretty much the top of the range.
The diameter range for these is the same as standard pressure snap-in valves, .453” to .625”; however, the length options are slightly different.
With High-Pressure Tubeless Snap-In Valves, you’ll find length options that range from 1.27” to 2”.
You might notice these aren’t as long as standard valve stems. That’s because heavy-duty vehicles typically don’t want valve stems sticking out more than necessary. The longer the stem, the more pressure is put on the actual valve.
When increasing the pressure, it helps to have a shorter valve stem that puts less pressure on the narrow tube.
These two valve stem options cover most drivers. Between the standard Tubeless Rubber Snap-In Valves and the High-Pressure Tubeless Snap-In Valves, a wide majority of commercially available passenger vehicles and small to large truck tires will use one of these options.
But what if you need more? That’s where our third valve stem comes in handy.
High-Pressure Metal Clamp-In Valves are for drivers who regularly exceed 130 miles per hour and need extreme tires to keep up with them. These valve stems have a maximum PSI limit of 200, which is significantly higher than the other two.
The stems themselves fit similarly sized holes but have lengths as small as basically nothing to two inches. There’s also the option to stick straight out or lay against the wheel for max performance.
We know you aren’t hitting race car speeds on commercial roads, but you would need extremely high-end, performance tires if you were. Those tires need the best of the best when it comes to valve stems.
When you look at your tire, there’s a lot of information stamped on it: how fast it can go, how much weight it can hold, how wide it is, how tall it is, what it likes for breakfast.
(Alright, it doesn’t say what it likes for breakfast, but we imagine most tires like to start the day with a healthy bowl of Special K Protein.)
It does tell you what your tire’s max PSI is, and it’s pretty straightforward. Look around your tire, and you should find something that says:
Max Press. 35 PSI.
Pretty simple, right? 30 to 50 PSI is fairly common for most passenger vehicle tires, so it’s easy to see how a valve stem with a max PSI rating of 65 would easily cover a majority of tires.
Take the Nexen 5000 Plus tires, for example, which have several different size options with max PSI levels that range from 44 max PSI to 51 max PSI.
However, if you have tires that you depend on when towing huge loads or conquering mountains, you may have a higher pressure maximum and need the high-pressure valve.
The Toyo Open Country A/T III tires are majorly hardcore. They can handle up to 80 PSI at their biggest size, meaning you might need to get yourself some metal clamp-in valves.
Something to keep an eye out for is having your tires at the incorrect air pressure level. Maybe you (or someone else) accidentally overinflated them, and now they’re puffed out. You also might have a leak, and you’ve got a few underinflated tires on your hands.
Each has its own set of problems.
Overinflated tires are dangerous for a few reasons.
When they are overinflated, the sidewalls tend to be much more rigid. That means when you’re taking tight turns, you lose a lot of their traction. This can lead to spin-outs.
You also are in danger of high-speed blow-outs. When the tire is inflated beyond its recommended PSI level, the tire itself bulges. This puts uneven pressure on the rubber as you’re driving, which can lead to rapid and uneven wear on the treads. That’s a sure-fire way to blow a tire.
Underinflated tires are less immediately dangerous, but they’re still pretty bad and should be avoided as much as possible.
If the tire is underinflated, the center of the rubber ends up lower than the shoulders, which leads to uneven wear on your treads.
Not only that, but because the shoulders are taking more pressure on the road, you end up with more traction than you want. That’s good for braking but terrible for your gas mileage.
Some off-roaders drive with underinflated tires on aggressive trails for this reason. Always remember to re-inflate before you get on the highway or any paved roads.
Tire valves are pretty simple once you get down to it, but dealing with tire pressure and ensuring that you’re taking proper care of your tires is very important.
Don’t forget that they’re pretty much the only thing between you, your car, and the pavement.
If you’re interested in exploring tire options, we have a ton of great brands with wide ranges in pressure limits at Rent A Wheel. We have tires fit for everything from casual cruising to brutal off-roading. With our flexible payment plan options, it’s never been more affordable to get set up with the perfect pair of tires.