How Does Cold Weather Impact Tire Pressure?
If you’ve lived in Northern Virginia for the past few winters, you know that Mother Nature doesn’t kid around in this area! While cold weather and snow most obviously affect visibility while driving (and scraping your windshield and rear window is the one thing you can’t skip), a change in outdoor temperature will affect your tire pressure, too. Cars sitting outside all night are more susceptible than those kept in a garage, but all cars are affected, even if they have brand new tires.
What is a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)?
Lower temperatures will lower the pressure in your tires, and if it’s a drastic drop in temperature, it may set off your Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The TPMS alerts you when one or more of your tires are under-inflated, which can render your car unsafe to drive.
In most vehicles, the TPMS symbol is a yellow symbol that lights up on the dashboard in the shape of a tire cross-section (a horseshoe shape) with an exclamation point. Newer model cars have a tire pressure monitor built in for each wheel that constantly measures the inflation of that tire.
If your TPMS light illuminates, you or your repair shop should check your tire pressure. Driving on under-inflated tires hurts your gas mileage, increases tire wear and could result in unsafe driving conditions like poor vehicle handling or a tire blow out. Appropriate inflation rates can vary from car to car, but your vehicle’s owner manual should indicate a recommended cold tire inflation Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) rate.
How to Ensure Your Car is Safe to Drive in Cold Weather Conditions
According to AAA, for every 10 degrees change in air temperature, a tire’s pressure will change by about 1-2 PSI. To prevent your TPMS light from coming on, check your tire pressure monthly and make sure all 4 tires are at the PSI indicated in your owner’s manual. If you aren’t sure where your owner’s manual is, sometimes the recommended PSI can be found on a sticker fixed on the door jamb of the driver’s side door, inside the glove compartment, inside the gas cover, or on the underside of the trunk cover.
One thing to keep in mind is that the PSI will be lower when your car has been parked for a few hours. The motion of your car when you drive it creates friction that heats up the tire slightly, which then increases the pressure inside the tire. The PSI numbers indicated in your owner’s manual are for tires that are cold, so make sure you’re checking your PSI in the morning or after your car has been parked for a minimum of 3 hours.
Take Your Car in For Inspection
Monitoring your tire air pressure will provide better handling, traction and durability. If you’d rather leave it to the pros, we will gladly help you make sure your tires have the correct PSI. It’s also important to get your annual car inspection which would reveal any underlying problems with tires that might be too worn out to properly retain enough pressure. If that is the case, we can also help you with new tires and tire installation.
Purchasing New Tires from Virginia Tire & Auto
If you purchase new tires from Virginia Tire and Auto, you’ll get these benefits:
- FREE shuttle services
- FREE lifetime tire rotations & FREE lifetime wheel balances
- A FREE alignment check
- Our 30-Day Ride Guarantee
- Loaner vehicles (FREE if services exceed $200)
Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated and Keep Your Car Safe
Never wonder if your car is going to get you home safely. If you have any questions about your tires, pop into one of our 14 Northern Virginia VA Tire locations or schedule an appointment now. It’s been getting colder in the last week, and the temperature is only going to continue to drop for the next few months as we officially move out of fall.