Are overinflated tires bad for winter? While your tires may need to be reinflated more frequently due to colder temperatures, that doesn’t mean they should be overinflated. Here’s what you need to know about overinflated tires and why keeping tabs on tire inflation is especially important during the winter months.
Your tire pressure was likely fine all summer long and even into the fall, but now that winter is here that pesky tire pressure light might be blinking to life. What’s going on to cause this? Because molecules become excited in the heat and slow down as the temperature drops, most things expand when they’re hot and contract when they’re cold. This includes the air in your tires. When it gets cold enough, that air contracting lowers the pressure in your tires, leaving you with an underfilled tire that you may not notice.
Having low tire pressure means you need to add air to your tires to avoid handling issues, premature wear, poor gas mileage and more. It doesn’t mean you should add air beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations, however.
Overinflated Tires Can Lead to Tire Damage
Overinflated tires have their own set of problems. Overinflating your tires can cause a bulge in the center of the tread that leads to premature and uneven wear. It can also make them more susceptible to damage from potholes or curbs. If your tires are overinflated, you’ll likely end up needing to replace them more often, and new tires aren’t cheap.
What About Traction?
While tires can be quite large, only a small portion of each tire is touching the road at any given moment. This point is called the contact patch, and it’s what gives your tires traction so it can go where you want it to go when you turn the wheel. The tread surface of an overinflated tire bows out creating a smaller contact patch, which reduces traction. A tire pressure gauge is good to have on hand so you can check your tire pressure if you’re in doubt.
Overinflated Tires in Winter
While overinflating a tire is never good, it’s especially dangerous during the winter months. The snow, ice, salt and sand that gather on the normally clear roads during the winter can reduce grip, which means you’ll need to do whatever you can to get every bit of traction. Because an overinflated tire already has reduced traction due to its smaller contact patch, the likelihood of uneven or excessive tread wear increases significantly in the winter.
You may need to put more air in your tires when temperatures drop, but don’t get carried away. Inflate your tires to the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure good wear, proper traction and optimal tire safety.
Check out all the tire care products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about how to properly care for your tires, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy Flickr.
Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.