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How Does Winter Weather Impact Tire Pressure?

BY: Larry Witherspoon Jr.
A portable air pump inflating a car's tire outside in the snow.

With the winter months in full effect, drivers nationwide face snow, sleet, ice, rain, and (of course) cold weather, all of which combined can make driving very hazardous, especially if your vehicle is not ready for this type of weather. Luckily, whether it’s a new car or a reliable old used car, keeping up with your routine maintenance schedule can help keep your vehicle running great all year long, especially in the winter. In fact, there are special precautions you need to take in the winter, like ensuring your vehicle’s fluids are in check, your engine is in working order and so on. But car owners often forget one essential winter maintenance task: checking the tire pressure. 

Today, we’ll look at how tire pressure is affected by colder weather and how you can maintain your tires to keep you safe through the winter months.

How Does Cold Weather Affect Tire Pressure?

Have you ever gone out to your vehicle in the winter and noticed your tire looked low? Maybe you’ve even seen your low tire pressure light, aka the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) light, illuminating on your dashboard. If this seems to happen every winter, you’re not alone. The outdoor air temperature directly reflects your vehicle’s tire pressure, but what causes this? 

When the temperature drops, the air molecules in your car’s tires begin to contract, causing a temporary pressure change. More specifically, for every 10 degrees the temperature drops, your tire pressure will decrease by about 1-2 PSI (pounds per square inch). The same goes for higher temperatures in the summer. When the temperature rises, the air molecules expand. In fact, for every 10 degrees warmer, you can see a 1-2 PSI increase in tire pressure. 

During the winter, while you may notice your TPMS light on when you get into your car, after some driving, you may notice that it goes away as your car’s tires and the air inside warm up due to the friction with the road and level back out. If you live in an area with harsher winters, tire pressure does not level after driving, and the TPMS light stays on, you will need to add air to get back to your recommended tire pressure. Checking your tire’s air pressure weekly can help prevent underinflated tires no matter what season you are in.

What Does Low Tire Pressure Do?

Every vehicle manufacturer outlines the recommended pressure in the owner’s manual to correlate with the factory wheels and tires. If you have aftermarket tires, you can find the recommended pressure on the sidewall of the tires. Regardless of who made your tires, maintaining that recommended PSI is vital to keeping your vehicle running at its best and preventing other issues that low tire pressure can cause. 

Remember, when the temperature changes, your tire pressure can dip lower than the recommended level, leaving you more prone to the following issues:

Tips For Maintaining Your Tires In Winter

When it comes to the winter months, there are a few preventative maintenance tips you can do to ensure your tires are ready for the colder weather

Let’s take a look at some of the top winter maintenance tips for tires:

Routinely Check Tire Pressure

A close up of a person checking their car's tire pressure.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to maintain your tires throughout the winter is to check your tire’s PSI regularly. Checking your tire air pressure will help you keep your tires at the recommended air pressure levels. Keeping a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle will allow you to check your tire pressure and get an accurate reading at any time in case your tire looks a little low while you are out and about. Most gas stations have air pressure machines that make it easy to top off your tires.

Inspect Your Tire Tread

The tread on your tires can tell you a lot about your vehicle’s performance, and knowing what to look for can put you ahead of larger repairs your car may need. If the tread on your tires is abnormally worn, you will need to have your car inspected by a professional to determine what the issue is.

You can use the following guide as a reference to narrow down your issue:

  • Tread Worn On Both Sides (But Not In Middle): Your tires are underinflated and wearing more on the inner and outer sides rather than evenly across the tread.
  • Tread Worn In Middle Only: Your tires are overinflated to the point where your inner and outer sides are not making proper contact with the road. 
  • Tread Worn On One Side: Your suspension needs to be examined as your alignment is off.
  • Tread Wearing Faster Than Normal: If your tires are wearing evenly but faster than usual, you may need to rotate your tires and check to ensure your tires are facing the right direction if you have directional tires.

Look Into Purchasing Winter Tires

Not all tires are created equally; some are engineered for specific driving conditions. Since the colder months bring a slew of dangerous weather conditions, many tire manufacturers offer winter tires (aka snow tires) for better safety and performance in snow, ice, and rain compared to performance or all-season tires. 

Winter tires offer different rubber compounds, tread patterns, and biting edges to give you a better grip in these road conditions. This will mainly be useful for those who experience frequent snow throughout the winter. Those who live in warmer climates, such as the southern states, may opt for tire chains instead of changing tires. If you switch to winter tires when the lower temperatures come, you could help increase the lifespan of both sets of tires as you will put less wear on them when they are not in use. 

Have Your Tires Rotated On Time

Another important maintenance task you must perform routinely is rotating your tires. A tire rotation means you swap tires to move them to different corners of your car to ensure they wear evenly. This usually involves moving the wheel and tire assemblies from the front to the rear in a cross pattern. This helps the front tires, which wear quicker due to turning, to be moved to the rear so that your rear tires can wear down to the same level. Ensuring your tires are wearing at the correct levels will keep your car safer and give you better performance throughout the winter.

Have Your Suspension Inspected

Having your suspension inspected before the winter months helps ensure any worn components are repaired ahead of time to minimize any safety hazards and unnecessary tire wear. Worn-out suspension components such as tie rod ends, bushings, shocks and struts can cause your tires to wear unevenly and underperform, especially in poor weather conditions. A suspension inspection can help you make the necessary repairs before the weather starts to turn.

Keep Your Car Maintained All Year with Endurance

With the colder temperatures creeping in, it is more important than ever to ensure that your tire pressure is correct and your entire vehicle is up to date with routine maintenance. Keeping up with your car’s maintenance can help reduce the chances of unexpected breakdowns, but there are still certain circumstances where you might need a repair. Like an award-winning Endurance protection plan, the right vehicle protection plan can help keep you covered.

With an Endurance auto protection plan, you will have peace of mind with a comprehensive vehicle protection plan that fits your budget. Endurance also offers coverage for vehicles excluded from most factory or extended car warranty coverages, such as high-mileage vehicles, high-end luxury vehicles, and more. Each plan comes with complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, rental car reimbursement and trip interruption coverage, plus a full year of Endurance Elite Benefits, including collision discounts, tire repairs or replacements, and more.

Get your vehicle protected today by calling the award-winning customer service team at (800) 253-8203 for a FREE quote, or shop online today. Our award-winning customer service team is also happy to answer any questions you have and provide you with a customized quote when you call (800) 253-8203. Don’t forget to stop by the Endurance blog, where you can find other extended warranty comparisons, articles on topics like DIY car maintenance tips, vehicle buying guides, answers to your biggest extended warranty FAQs and more. 

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