In winter, your tires’ inflation levels tend to change more rapidly and more dramatically, which can have a significant impact on your ability to control your vehicle on slick roads.
Understanding the effect of the temperatures on your tires, the dangers of under inflated tires, and how to ensure your stay properly inflated will help you ensure you can drive safe all winter.
The Effect of Winter on Tire Pressure
Air expands when heated and contracts when cooled – as ambient temperatures get colder, your tires’ inflation pressure is going down. The early winter months are the most critical in which to check your pressure.
Generally, for every 5-degree C drop in temperatures, your tire air pressure decreases 1 pound per square inch. While checking your tire pressure is recommended once every month, during winter, drivers should be extra diligent – a tire can be up to 30% underinflated before it appears visibly in need of air.
The only way you’ll know is to check the pressure with a tire gauge. The recommended inflation pressure for your tires can be found on your vehicle placard. Check your owner’s manual for the exact location.
The Dangers of Underinflated Tires
Underinflated tires can greatly increase braking distances and negatively affect steering and handling – two important parts of winter driving safety. Additionally, underinflation can cause irregular wear, resulting in tires wearing out much quicker and costing you more money in the end.
Keeping up proper air pressure extends the life of your tires and improves your safety and that of your passengers. It also reduces fuel consumption. One of the simplest ways to save gas is to check tire pressure. Under-inflated tires can reduce mileage by as much as four percent.
How to Check your Tire Pressure
Start by making sure your tires are cold. Cold tires are the only way to guarantee an accurate reading. Tires are cold if they have been stationary for at least 3 hours.
Remove the cap from the valve stem on one tire and press your tire gauge onto the valve. The gauge will pop out and show a measured number. When you hear a hissing sound, that’s air escaping the tire. The escaping air shouldn’t cause too much of an effect on tire pressure, unless you hold down the air pressure gauge for too long.
Take a pressure reading by comparing the measured psi to the psi found on your vehicle’s placard sticker.
If your psi is above the number, let air out until it matches the proper number. If it’s below, add air to achieve recommended air pressure. If you overfill the tire, release air by pushing on the metal stem in the centre of the valve, then re-check the pressure.
If you have to drive to get air, record your tire pressure first, drive to the station and then take a second reading of the tires pressure. Then, you can add the amount of air that was missing from the first reading. Avoid driving on seriously under-inflated tires to prevent damaging the tire.
Replace the valve cap and repeat with each tire, including the spare in your trunk.
Proper tire pressure alone won’t ensure your ability to drive safe in winter. Winter tires are designed to prevent snow build-up an maintain traction on icy roads, making them the best weapon against winter driving hazards. Desjardins also rewards those drivers with 5% savings on their auto insurance premium. Find out more about the benefits of winter ties now.