Tire Pressure and Cold Weather

As temperatures start to cool down, you may notice your TPMS light illuminating, meaning your tire pressure has lowered. This light doesn’t necessarily mean you have a leak, it’s actually very common to see changing tire pressure with weather changes, but why? Is low pressure a big deal? Let’s find out:

Temperatures and Tire Pressure

For every 10 degrees that the temperature lowers, your tires will lose about 1-2lbs of pressure. This happens because colder temperatures cause molecules in the air to move slower and cluster together. On the other hand, when temperatures rise by 10 degrees, your tires will gain about 1-2lbs of pressure. So during times of changing weather patterns, your tire pressure may even out. However, it’s still very important to keep an eye on changing tire pressure as low pressure could cause dangerous driving conditions.

Effects of Low Tire Pressure

  • Stopping time. When tires become underinflated, it can take longer to break and you can skid easier if the road is wet as grip is decreased.
  • Low gas mileage. Low tires can lower your fuel efficiency by about 0.2% every 1 PSI below recommended levels!
  • Overheating. Underinflation causes too much of your tire’s surface to touch the road, increasing friction, which can cause the tire to overheat, add wear or tread separation. All of this can lead to a blowout!

How to check your tire pressure

The best time to check your tire pressure is in the morning or at a time when your tires haven’t been driven on for a few hours. Due to inactivity, your tires will have had time to cool down so you’ll get a more accurate pressure measurement. Don’t rely on your eyes, always use a pressure gauge to determine the pressure levels. Your vehicle’s owners manual or the sticker attached to your driver’s side door, glove box or fuel hatch will tell you the recommended PSI for your car’s tires.

To check pressure:

  1. Unscrew the valve stem cap (the little black or silver screw-on cap on the rim) on your tire.
  2. Place the tire pressure gauge onto the valve stem. This should show you what your PSI level is at.
  3. If the PSI is lower than the recommended level, inflate your tire slowly, adding a little air at a time. Continuously check pressure levels until the PSI is at the level listed in your owner’s manual.
  4. Replace the valve stem cap and screw on completely.
  5. Repeat this process for each tire, including your spare tire just in case you should need it.

Even if your TPMS light has not come on, as temperatures drop, it’s recommended to check tire pressure frequently to avoid any costly problems that could stem from underinflation. If you find yourself needing to inflate tires often, this could be a sign of a leak. If you have any questions or concerns about your tires, come into Performance Auto for a tire inspection!

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