We’ve all been there. It’s a cold winter morning, you’re running late for work, you finally get to your cold car that’s been idle all night, you sit down, turn it on and see your tire pressure light. You have not even had a sip of coffee, and now you must decide if you drive to the nearest gas station to fill up your tires or risk the drive to work not knowing if it’s safe.
We have all heard of the effect of temperature on tire pressure, but what do you do when it happens to you?
Does tire pressure change with colder temperatures?
Yes, it does. Colder weather can cause the PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) of your tires to drop. We could get into the science of this, but here’s an easier way to think of it. Picture yourself and how you react when you step outside in the cold. Your body has a natural reaction, such as when you cross your arms for warmth. If you are standing near someone, you may get closer to them to stay warm. If you do, you feel yourself take up less space. When it is hot, the layers come off, your arms are out, and there is no need to hunker down and keep in your body temperature. The same thing happens with your tires. In the winter, the molecules in the air move slower and together aiding in the pressure reducing. And in the heat, molecules move faster and spread apart. Although the tire pressure may come back once the temperature warms back up, low tire pressure should not be ignored as it creates unsafe driving conditions.
What is the impact of low tire pressure?
Low tire pressure can impact your driving in a few ways. In addition to being unsafe, it will impact your wallet as well. If left untreated, low tire pressure will result in poor fuel economy and can decrease the lifespan of your tires. Nobody wants extra trips to the gas station or being stuck with a bill for four new tires, so it is good to address this as soon as possible. Keep yourself and your wallet safe by being proactive.
So how do I know what my tire pressure should be?
All tires are different, but the recommended pressure for most usually falls between 30-35 PSI. You can find the appropriate pressure for your car by looking in the owner’s manual, your fuel hatch, or a sticker on your door’s inner edge. If your winter tire air pressure falls below the recommended PSI, it’s time to fill them up.
It’s a good rule of thumb to check your tires monthly in the winter when you’re winterizing your car, whether the light goes on or not. Most gas stations have paid air, and some may offer it for free. Many of them these days will have the tire pressure gauge hooked up in case you do not have your own. However, we recommend everyone has their own gauge just in case. After re-filling your air, you may have a car that requires the tire pressure light to be reset. Look to your owner’s manual for instructions.
Winter tire pressure can be quite frustrating to deal with and check, but it is important. We want to keep ourselves safe on the road. This is a quick and easy fix that can prevent major complications in the future.