Low Tire Pressure is Not Safer in Winter Conditions
During the winter months, having properly inflated tires on your car is one of the best ways to stay safe on the road. When conditions are snowy and icy, it’s important to make sure your tires are capable of maintaining traction with the road so that you can remain in control of your vehicle. But what is a proper winter tire pressure level?
For a long time, a lot of people have thought that it’s good to lower your car’s tire pressure level in the winter because it will put more of the surface area of your tire in contact with the road, improving your traction. While this may work in some unusual circumstances, such as if you’re taking your vehicle off-roading, it’s not a practice that’s recommended for normal day-to-day driving. In fact, underinflating your tires can make it more likely that you’ll be involved in a car accident because it makes your car more difficult to steer and increases the amount of time it takes for your car to stop. Underinflated tires also tend to wear out more quickly, lessen your fuel economy, and force your engine to work harder.
It’s important to regularly check your car’s tire pressure all year long, but it’s particularly important to do so during the winter because the colder temperatures can cause your tires to lose pressure without you even noticing it. As temperatures drop, the air particles in your tire contract, meaning they won’t be exerting as much force on the walls of your tire. Tires tend to gain or lose 1 PSI for every change of 10℉. Remember, it’s very hard to tell a tire is underinflated just by looking at it. By the time a tire becomes visibly deflated, it may be underinflated by 30%.
In most cases, it’s best to simply make sure your tires are inflated according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Appropriate tire inflation levels vary from vehicle to vehicle, so check your car’s owner’s manual, the sticker found inside your car’s driver side door, or tire sidewall to see what the maximum recommended PSI is for your tires.
When you go to check the recommended maximum PSI for your tires, remember that the level will be based on your tire being “cold.” A “cold” tire is a tire that hasn’t been used in at least 3 hours, has been driven less than a mile, hasn’t been in contact with hot pavement, or hasn’t been warmed by the sun. Because of this, it’s generally best to check your car’s tire pressure in the morning before you’ve driven anywhere. Don’t worry that if you inflate your tires to the recommended “cold” PSI, your tires will become over inflated as they warm up throughout the day. Your tire manufacturer has accounted for this kind of fluctuation, so your maximum recommended “cold” PSI level isn’t the absolute maximum your tires are designed to hold.
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