Tire Pressure for Tires in Winter?

January 14, 2022

A man refills his tires air pressure in the snow

Tire Pressure in Cold Weather

Have you ever walked out of your home during winter to notice your tires have gotten a little low? It can get frustrating, the morning after morning, to find you have low tire pressure, but it’s just what happens during winter. As the temperatures drop, so does the inflation of your tires. Every 10-degree drop in temperature equates to about one to two pounds of pressure loss in your tires. Some tires are more sensitive to the cold than others, so those are what you should pay the most attention to. It’s important to check the pressure in your tires at all times of the year, but during winter, it becomes more critical.

How Do You Check Tire Pressure in Winter?

If you’ve never checked the pressure of your tires in winter, you’re in luck. It’s not hard at all. Perhaps the only difference between checking your tires’ pressure during winter and checking it during summer is you’ll be wearing gloves and a winter hat. Other than that, the process is the same all year round:

  1. Allow your tires to cool down. You should always check tire pressure after they’ve been sitting for several hours and aren’t hot from the friction of driving. The heat of a tire can cause the PSI to be off. Even if it’s just a few pounds off, it’s going to cause an issue.
  2. Check your vehicle’s manual. Most manufacturer manuals will have a recommendation for pressure. If you can’t find it in that place, check the side of the tire itself or call Paddock Imports for more support.
  3. Use a gauge to check the pressure. These are inexpensive gadgets you can purchase at most automotive stores or gas stations, but if you don’t have one, you can always have a mechanic check the pressure for you.
  4. Inflate the tire as needed. Whatever the recommended PSI in your owner’s manual, inflate the tire to that recommendation.
  5. Feel free to stop by Paddock Imports to have your tire pressure checked for free by a professional. You can also call us if you have any questions about tire pressure during seasonal weather situations, like our frigid winters or hot summers.

What If You Have Winter Tires?

There are certain features specific to winter tires, and that’s what makes them appropriate for the weather. With more aggressive designs in the tread, softer compounds, and deeper molds, these tires can handle winter weather better than other types of tires.

While this is what you want in a winter tire, so you can have the most traction in the ice and snow, there could be reduced responsiveness when checking the pressure. Some manufacturers might recommend 3-5 PSI higher to inflate winter tires, but you should check with the owner’s manual or a qualified automotive professional before you do so. It may also be effective to add that 3-5 PSI if your tires are warm when you check the pressure.

What Are Some Negative Effects of Low Tire Pressure in Winter?

Having tires low on pressure could be more dangerous than you might think. Some financial setbacks might occur, and you could experience damage to your car if you don’t keep the tires inflated as they should be during winter. Some adverse effects of low winter tire pressure are:

  • Increased stopping time – When tires are underinflated, they don’t stop as easily as those inflated correctly. The lag in the tire creates a lag on the road’s surface. If the roads are wet, snowy, or icy, stopping time will increase further because you’ll skid and slip on the damp pavement. This could lead to increased accidents when you can’t stop at a stop sign, a stoplight, or when a car pulls out in front of you.
  • Decreased Lifespan – Your tires aren’t going to last as long if they are not inflated correctly. With the exposure to salt and other deicers on the road, the rubber tires will become more brittle, faster if they do not have equal pressure all the way around. You would then end up spending more money to purchase new tires halfway through the season.
  • Decreased Gas Mileage – For every PSI drop, your gas mileage could decrease by 0.2%. Over an extended period,

How Do You Know If Your Tires are Low?

You won’t always notice your tires are low just by looking at them. While this is an obvious indication, sometimes the PSI drop is so slight, that you wouldn’t be able to visualize the drop. Instead, you’ll have to pay attention to the way the car drives and other issues that could indicate low tire pressure in winter:

  • It feels as though the tires are spongy or sinking into the road. When PSI decreases, your tires begin to become flat. As that happens, they become softer and almost squish into the road, such as a sponge can squish in your hand. You’ll start to feel it as you drive.
  • If you have a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) it alerts you by illuminating a warning light on the dashboard when it senses a low-pressure tire (the icon being an underinflated tire with an exclamation point inside it.) Modern tires have a sensor inside, which alerts the TPMS when the remaining pressure is at 25% or less.
  • Bumps and ridges feel extra uncomfortable. When you hit a bump, a ridge, a chunk of ice, or a small pile of snow, your car is going to bump, but there’s less of a cushion when the tires are starting to go flat. You might feel more of a jolt when you hit even a small chunk of ice in the road if your pressure is low.
  • The alignment feels off. If you’re driving down the road, and it feels as though the car is pulling to one side, it may not be the alignment after all. It could just be that the pressure is low, which is causing the sense of a misaligned car.
  • You hear a “whomp-whomp” noise. If you’ve ever had a flat tire, you may already know what that “whomp-whomp” noise sounds like. If the tires are low, it may not be as noticeable, but even its subtlety could be enough to indicate you should inflate the tire a bit.
  • It takes a longer distance to stop. As was mentioned before, one of the dangers of a low tire is increased stopping time. Perhaps you haven’t noticed any other signs, but you have noticed the car takes a few extra seconds to stop. Don’t risk it, especially in winter with slick roads. Head straight to your mechanic to have it checked out.

Getting the Help You Need for Winter Driving

At Paddock Imports, we go above and beyond what you would expect from an auto mechanic. We place value in our customers and their vehicles, and we will do everything we can to ensure your car is always functional. When you notice your tires are low this winter, don’t hesitate to give us a call to learn what you can do. Whether you need to increase the PSI by 3-5 or are due for a change of winter tires, we can help. Contact us today at 303-825-5700 or visit us in Denver, CO, and let’s get your car in better shape for winter.

Image Source: n_defender / Shutterstock

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