How Cold Weather Affects Tire Pressure

September 23, 2021 3:10 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

With fall officially here, the weather is going to start getting progressively chillier over the coming weeks. As this happens, you’ll need to pay attention to your tire pressure. Lower temperatures tend to mean lower tire pressure, which in turn could make for dangerous driving conditions or result in worn-out tire treads.

Here’s what you need to know about the cold weather and various aspects of seasonal tire maintenance.

The science with cold air and tire pressure

When air temperature drops, its molecules get closer together and move slower. When temperature increases, the opposite is true—the molecules spread farther apart and move faster.

When this happens to the air inside tires, the results are predictable. As those molecules shrink up and move slower, the tires also lose their air pressure. When the molecules spread out and move faster, the tires expand.

You can typically expect tires to lose or gain 1 to 2 pounds per square inch of pressure for every 10-degree Fahrenheit change in temperature. If the temperature drops by 20 degrees over the course of a couple days, that means you could lose up to 4 PSI in that span!

Tire pressure will typically increase once it warms up again after a cold spell, assuming you have no air leaks anywhere in the tire. However, with it being fall, the weather’s only going to get colder, so it’s important to monitor your tire pressure, keep up with your seasonal tire maintenance and add air as needed to prevent some potential pressure-related issues such as the following:

  • Decreased fuel efficiency: Underinflated tires have a negative effect on your gas mileage. For every 1 PSI drop in average pressure, you can expect a 0.2 percent lower gas mileage expectancy. This is because underinflated tires lie flatter on the road while driving, which increases the amount of friction and drag your vehicle deals with while in motion and causes the engine to work a bit harder as a result.
  • Decreased lifespan of the tires: Because there’s more friction being put on the tires, you can expect tire wear and tear to occur faster, which will lead to you having to purchase replacement tires sooner than you otherwise would. You can save a significant amount of money by simply filling up your tires with air as needed to prevent this faster degradation.
  • Longer stopping time: Underinflated tires can increase the amount of time it takes to bring your vehicle to a stop while braking, and also cause the vehicle to skid more easily when you’re driving on slippery surfaces. This means a failure to monitor and increase your tire pressure when the weather gets cold could become a safety hazard for you and anyone sharing the road with you.

It’s highly recommended you keep a pressure gauge in your vehicle at all times so you can regularly check your tire’s pressure levels. In addition, many modern vehicles have TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) lights that will pop up if your pressure dips below a certain level.

At Dana’s Tire Center, we’re here to help you perform your seasonal tire maintenance to keep your tires in great shape all fall and winter long. Contact us for more information.

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