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Tire Pressure and Cold Weather: How to Avoid Getting a Winter Flat

A tire pressure gauge.

Autumn weather means it’s time to check that your tires are properly inflated. If you think back to your high school science classes, you may remember that most objects expand when heated and contract when cooled. That’s exactly what happens with your tires and the air inside them, so even tires that were perfectly inflated in August might be underinflated by the end of September. Here’s how to make sure your tire pressure and cold weather don’t add up to a flat tire.

What Happens When Tire Pressure Is Low?Tires and Leaves

If your tire pressure is low, then your tires likely aren’t providing good traction, which is their primary job. This can result in poor handling and longer stopping distances when you hit the brakes. It can also be dangerous if tire pressure gets too low, as it can cause damage to your tires and possibly tire failure.

Learn Your Recommended Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is measured as psi, which means pounds per square inch. Every automaker has a recommended tire pressure for the tires on each of its vehicles. This recommended psi ensures that the tire is inflated enough to provide the best traction and fuel economy and that it wears correctly so it doesn’t need to be replaced prematurely.

You can find the recommended tire pressure in the manual, or you can just open the driver’s side door. There you’ll see a sticker on the door or door jamb that has the correct tire pressure for your vehicle’s tires.

Check Your Tire Pressure

Once you know the recommended tire pressure, checking for the correct tire pressure is quick and easy:

  1. Start by obtaining a tire pressure gauge. These are available in a range of styles. Make sure you pick one that you can easily read, as some have smaller markings than others.
  2. Remove the valve cap from your tire, and attach the tire pressure gauge to the valve stem. There will be a brief hiss of air, but keep pressing until the hiss stops. Once it stops, you’ll know that the gauge is correctly attached and it will display an accurate pressure reading.
  3. If your tire pressure is lower than recommended, then go ahead and add air. You don’t want the pressure to be too high or too low, so aim for exactly what the automaker recommends for most driving situations.
  4. Once you’re done adding air, it’s a good idea to store the gauge in your car so you can check your tire pressure at a moment’s notice.

How Often Should You Check Tire Pressure?

That first morning when you feel like you need to put on a sweater or break out a jacket is the perfect time to check your tire pressure. If you feel the cold, then so do your tires. As the temperature continues to drop during fall and winter, you should check periodically to see if your tires need a bit more air. It only takes a few minutes, so check your tires when the cold weather arrives to make sure they’re safe for driving.

Check out all the tire gauges available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about tire pressure and cold weather, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Nicole Wakelin View All

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.

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