For fleet and personal vehicles alike, monitoring tire pressure is a commonly overlooked duty for drivers. While it is an important thing to do all year long, during the winter it is especially important.
When the temperature drops, there is less moisture in the air. This makes the air contract and causes things to shrink, including your tires. Just think about walking across hardwood floors during winter. They get awful squeaky, right? That’s because they have become more brittle from the lack of moisture.
In fact, for every 10 degrees of temperature change, a tire can drop 1 to 2 pounds. The dramatic temperature swings here in the Midwest, coupled with the fact that tires constantly lose pressure during use, is very problematic for maintaining the necessary tire pressure.
While some newer vehicles are equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) that will alert the driver once the pressure reaches certain low levels, older models don’t have that luxury. Regardless of your vehicle’s equipment, it is of utter importance that your tires stay full. Here’s why:
Wear and tear increases as pressure decreases
Low-pressure tires have a larger surface area that is actually touching the road. This causes the tread to wear down at a much faster rate, decreasing the amount of time that tire will last you.
Low-pressure tires are harder to maneuver
Low-pressure tires are much more sluggish and can negatively impact the ease at which you brake and turn and ultimately lower your control of the vehicle.
Blowouts are more common at low pressures
A full tire rolls better than a flat one. Thus, your car must work a lot harder when tires are under-pressured to compensate for the lack of ease of movement. This generates much more heat than usual around your tires, one of the biggest contributors to tire blowouts.
Low pressure negatively impacts gas mileage
This extra work by your vehicle doesn’t just generate more heat, it makes your vehicle burn more gas to help keep you at your desired speed. This means more stop to fill up at the gas station. Low-pressure tires actually cost you money.
With all that in mind, it should be obvious how important it is to maintain the proper tire pressure. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes time to fill up:
Don’t fill hot tires
Avoid filling your tires after an extended driving session, if possible. While you’re driving, your tires heat up which can cause them to swell and give you an inaccurate pressure reading when you go to fill them up. Let your tires cool off before filling. This will ensure you get a more accurate reading and put the proper amount of air in your tires.
Check tire pressure at every gas fill up
Raben Tire recommends filling up your tires monthly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t monitor your tire pressure regularly. The rate of tire pressure loss can increase if you have a particularly cold stretch of days or you’ve recently spent more time than usual in the car. Although you may not actually fill up, a good rule of thumb for safe driving is to check your tire pressure every time you stop for gas.
Don’t overfill your tires
As dangerous as low-pressure tires are, overfilled tires are a hazard as well. Every tire is marked on the sidewall with the manufacturer-recommended pressure level. It’s different from manufacturer to manufacturer, but you will typically find most tires require between 30-35 PSI to handle the maximum load.