Tire Pressure: What You Need to Know About the Cold

tire in snowIn the winter, when temperatures start dipping, it is not uncommon to see your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light come on more frequently than it normally does. The reason for this lies in the way a TPMS works. 

Tire pressure monitoring systems use sensor technology to detect when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. If the tire pressure in one or more of your tires drops, the light comes on. Since the environmental air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, the air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. This is why you will often see the TPMS light more frequently.

Does this mean you can ignore the TPMS light in the winter? While there may be a weather related explanation for the light, it is still important to check your tire pressure, and to check the pressure when the tires are cold. The reason being that once you hit the road, friction will cause the tires to heat up, increasing the pressure within the tire. Checking the tire pressure after you have been driving awhile may give an inaccurate pressure reading.

Proper tire inflation is always important, but it is particularly important in the cold winter months when weather conditions make driving more hazardous. This is because:

  • Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
  • Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not properly inflated
  • Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
  • Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money

It is a good idea to check your tire pressure once a month. To obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait about 30 minutes after parking or check the pressure in the morning.