Winter Tire Pressure Tips

A stock photo of tires on a snowy road.

Should I Lower My Tire Pressure For Winter?

Automotive technology has advanced so quickly that a few pervasive myths continue to stick around. During the winter one of the questions routinely asked around the S&B Keswick Service Department is, ‘Should I lower my tire pressure for winter?’ Going back more than 40 years, this might have been good advice. Tire technology was still primitive by today’s standards and winter tires weren’t specialized in any meaningful way. In the 21st century, the rule for tire pressure in winter is to maintain what is stated in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Modern tires are designed to be as effective as possible at a precise pressure level. Let’s take a closer look at some things you might need to know.

READ MORE: Where Can I Buy Winter Tires?

How Does Cold Weather Affect Tire Pressure?

If we remember our primary school science lessons, heat causes matter to expand and cold causes matter to contract. Air in a tire behaves the same way when it gets cold. During the winter it can be relatively warm during the day and suddenly get very cold at night. This can cause the air pressure in a tire to drop quickly. It is entirely possible for a tire to lose 4 PSI over the course of a few days if the conditions are right.

A lot of newer vehicles come with tire pressure monitoring systems and it is important for people to pay attention to low-pressure warnings. If your vehicle doesn’t have tire pressure monitoring, drivers should regularly use a manual tire gauge to keep an eye on things.

What Happens When Tire Pressure Gets Low?

There isn’t a lot of good that can come from driving around on underinflated tires. Some of the issues that having underinflated tires cause will include: 

  • Increased Stopping Time: Not only will it take longer for a vehicle to come to a stop, but the risk of hydroplaning increases with underinflated tires.
  • Lowered Fuel Economy: When a tire is underinflated, more of the tread is touching the ground causing the engine to have to work harder. This, in turn, will reduce the vehicle’s fuel economy.
  • Decreased Tire Lifespace: Another function of underinflated tires is increased wear on the treads. It won’t take long before the tread pattern wears down and the tires will need to be replaced.

Are Overinflated Tires Better Than Underinflated?

Overinflated tires also present a unique set of problems. Like underinflated tires, those that are inflated with too much air will have handling and problems with stopping because there isn’t enough tread contacting the ground. Additionally, overinflated tires will cause tires to wear down faster than normal. A tire that is filled with too much air is also at a greater risk of a blowout. 

For the most part, overinflated tires will be caused by someone putting too much air in them. However, in extremely hot environments, the same phenomenon that causes air pressure to be lost in the cold will cause the pressure to increase. Regardless of the temperature outside, you should always maintain the manufacturer-recommended tire pressure as found in your owner’s manual.

If you have any questions about taking the best possible care of your vehicle, make an appointment with the S&B Keswick Service Department today.