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Why Do Tires Go Flat in Cold Weather?

By: Milstead Automotive | Published 03/07/2022

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Your tires play a crucial role in the safety and functionality of your vehicle. Proper tire maintenance is vital in preventing flats, enhancing road safety and improving gas mileage. During the colder months, tires will need routine inspection and care. Colder temperatures will cause tire pressure to drop about one PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 18°F drop in air temperature. Check your tire pressure regularly by monitoring the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system). When the TPMS light turns on, this means that one or more tires have dropped below their recommended pressure. Your vehicle’s tire pressure reading should match the recommended tire pressure as stated in the owner’s manual. 

The best way to prevent a cold-weather flat is to keep an eye on tire pressure. When cold weather hits, drivers may see a low-pressure warning light on the dash or simply observe that the tires need to be inflated. This is normal in cold weather. Curious to learn more? Read on to find out more about why tires go flat in cold weather. 
 
How Cold Weather Affects Tire Pressure
Cold weather temperatures pose a threat to your rubber tires. Lower temperatures may cause the rubber to contract, which creates spaces between the rubber and rim. This will allow air to leak slowly. The cold can also cause rubber tires to become brittle and harder. If you use summer tires during the winter months, this can pose the risk of cracking and losing grip on the road. It is crucial to ensure that you have the right tires during winter. 
 
Air Pressure Decreases in Cold Weather
Air contracts when it is cold. In colder weather, air molecules don't move as quickly, and they don't take up as much space inside the tire. The slower air molecules move, the lower the amount of air pressure. Less space will also mean that the smaller molecules are pushing against the tire walls, which leads to a drop in tire pressure. Driving a few miles will allow the tires to warm up, and you will likely see your tire pressure light go off because the molecules will re-expand. It is still best to ensure your tires are topped off with a bit of extra air.
 
Don’t wait for the tire pressure warning light to come on. Check the pressure in all your tires monthly. The correct tire pressure will ensure that you’ll get more life of your tires, while improper tire inflation may result in rapid or irregular wear, which can cause significant internal tire damage. Keep your tires properly inflated throughout the year for safe and effective driving. 

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