Do I Need to Check My Tire Pressure More in Colder Weather?
Having the right set of tires on your vehicle can help make the difference between a smooth and safe ride and an uncomfortable (and possibly dangerous) one. Even a set of winter tires can help give even the best winter vehicles even more control when driving on snow or other winter conditions. However, while having a set of winter tires can be helpful during the winter months, these benefits won’t be able to help you if you have low tire pressure.
By learning what can happen to your tires’ air pressure when the temperature drops, you can help keep yourself and your passengers safe while on the road this or any winter.
What is Tire Pressure?
Put simply, the tire pressure of a vehicle refers to the pounds per square inch (PSI) of air in the tires when measured with a pressure gauge. Underinflated tires are below the recommended tire pressure, while overinflated tires are above the maximum amount allowed.
Failing to keep your tires at the recommended PSI can lead to several potential issues, including leaving you at risk for a potential blowout. To learn more about the recommended PSI for your specific vehicle’s make/model, you can refer to your owner’s manual. Many tires will also list their recommended PSI levels directly on the tires themselves, so be sure to keep an eye out for these numbers the next time you check your car’s tires.
When your tires are overinflated, it’s typically because the air temperature is too warm, which causes the air molecules to expand inside your tire. You may also experience overinflation because you may have put a little too much air in when re-inflating your tires. When you do happen to overinflate your tires, the center of the tread will wear out first, causing your ride to be uncomfortable. Uneven wear on your tires will result in expedited wear-and-tear and a trip to your local mechanic for a replacement.
Like overinflated tires, underinflated tires can also occur due to the air temperature. However, this will typically only occur when temperatures drop close to or below freezing. Underinflated tires can also occur when there is not enough air in the tire due to damages, punctures or leaks. When a tire is underinflated, drivers can end up paying more in gas due to decreased gas mileage and uncomfortable driving experience. Continuing to drive with low pressure leaves drivers more vulnerable to tire blowouts that’ll need replacing to get back on the road.
How Cold Weather Affects Tire Pressure
Tire pressure fluctuates during cold weather due to the air molecules moving closer together, which in turn causes the tire pressure to drop. In fact, the air temperature can impact your car’s tires significantly, as you can either lose one to two PSI of pressure with a 10-degree drop in temperature, such as what happens regularly during the wintertime. The opposite can also happen during hot conditions, as your tires can gain one to two PSI for every 10-degree rise in temperature.
Consequences of Driving with Low Tire Pressure
Driving with low tire pressure can make for an uncomfortable ride for you and your passengers, but it can also be dangerous and expensive. There are many things that can happen, aside from wear and tear.
- Takes longer to brake—Continuing to drive with decreased tire pressure can impact your car’s ability to brake effectively. Difficulty in braking can be dangerous and result in skids or sliding on wet or icy pavement. If you’re unable to stop in time, you could damage tires from the skid.
- Inefficient fuel use—Underinflated tires interact with the road more, resulting in more gas being used to keep your car moving. In fact, you’ll lose about 0.1 to 0.2% of gas mileage for every one PSI that is missing from your tires which can add up over time.
- Excess wear and tear—Drivers who continue to drive with tires above or below the recommended tire pressure experience expedited wear and tear, especially if they haven’t gotten a tire rotation recently. Uneven wear impacts your ability to keep your set of tires intact and may mean some need to be replaced sooner than others.
How to Check Tire Pressure
Checking your tire pressure might seem daunting to keep up with, given how rapidly the weather changes, but doing regular maintenance can help you avoid future breakdowns. It’s a relatively simple procedure you can do with an inexpensive tire pressure gauge.
The best time to check is before you start driving. Please note that the maximum tire pressure is not the
To check your tire pressure:
- Find the recommended tire pressure—The recommended tire pressure is typically found in the owner’s manual or the Endurance Protect app. Some cars may also have it listed on a sticker on your glove box, door, or fuel cover, while some tires will also list their recommended PSI directly on them. If you’re unable to locate it, check online with a reputable auto shop or automotive website for tips. Please note that the maximum tire pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure. Being slightly below but within the acceptable range is fine.
- Have a tire pressure gauge—Most auto shops or department stores like Target or Walmart sell affordable tire pressure gauges to have on hand. The pencil style has a little arm that pops out, or you can get a more expensive digital version. Choose the device that makes you feel most comfortable since you may need to do this task multiple times.
- Remove your tire’s valve cap—Once you have confirmed your car’s recommended tire pressure and you have a pressure gauge, it’s time to check the pressure. First, find and remove the valve cap of your tires. This is a small, black, or silver cover on your tire rim. Some vehicles will have a green valve cap signaling the tire has been filled with nitrogen instead of oxygen. If your tire has been filled with nitrogen, using a local tire pressure machine can potentially result in your tire experiencing more issues in the long run.
- Attach the gauge to the valve stem—Next, take your tire pressure gauge and connect or insert it into the valve stem. Your specific gauge should also have instructions, so be sure to follow them to get the most accurate reading. Check online for videos or instructions for your make and model and tire brand if you’re unsure. This process won’t damage the tire, so don’t worry if you fumble.
- Adjust the angle to get a reading—You may hear a hissing sound when inserting the tire pressure gauge, which is the ai escaping from the tire via the valve stem. If the gauge is inserted properly, this should not happen, so adjust the angle until the hissing stops.
- Check the reading—Note the reading once you properly insert the gauge. Check if it’s higher or lower than the manufacturer’s recommendation. Replace the valve stem’s cap when you’re done!
- Fill or deflate tires as needed—After reading the tire pressure, make any necessary adjustments. If your tire pressure is too low, go to the nearest air pump and refill until they’re at the recommended level. This does not mean you need to fill them to the maximum level, but they should be above the lower end of the range for the best result. If you find that you have overinflated tires, simply release some of the air until you reach your recommended PSI.
Replacing vs. Repairing Your Tires During the Colder Months
When purchasing any Endurance auto protection plan, you will automatically receive access to a year’s worth of Elite Benefits. These benefits, including several extra perks and savings, will also include coverage for up to two tire repairs or replacements.
This benefit is a repair first, meaning the repair facility you visit will use the Tire Industry Association (TIA) to determine whether your tire needs to be repaired or replaced.
- Tire Repair—If your technician or repair facility can safely repair the covered tire according to TIA repair standards, this would be covered up to $50 per occurrence. The customer is responsible for the remaining balance (if applicable).
- Tire Replacement—If the covered tire is not repairable per TIA standards, the tire replacement cost will be covered up to $125 per occurrence. When the tire is not repairable, the new tire will match the same specifications as the original.
Keep Your Vehicle Protected with Endurance
No matter if you’re getting ready for a winter getaway or a summer road trip, protect your car and your wallet from the cost of unexpected repairs and breakdowns with an Endurance auto protection plan. You can also save up to $3,500 when it comes to maintaining your tires and other vital components of your vehicle with EnduranceAdvantage™, including alignment checks, PSI checks and tire rotations, among others. Each EnduranceAdvantage package also comes with several special, one-time services such as a battery replacement, a brake pad/shoe replacement and more. Not only that, but new and existing Endurance customers can also quickly and easily find a certified repair facility or ASE Certified mechanic through RepairPal to help check your tires and determine if you may need a repair or replacement.
You can also automatically be eligible for a full year of Endurance Elite Benefits by purchasing any Endurance plan. Simply find the plan that fits your needs and budget, pay a small activation fee, and enjoy perks such as collision discounts, key fob replacements, and tire repairs or replacements for even more coverage and savings.
To get started learning more about how Endurance can help protect you and your vehicle by requesting a free quote or giving us a call directly at 800-253-8203. You can also find even more helpful and informative articles on topics such as expert auto tips, vehicle buying guides, answers to FAQs and more by visiting our Learning Center.