Low tire pressure is common in cold weather—especially when there’s a big, sudden dip in temperature. This is because the air inside the tire condenses and takes up less space in the cold.
Low tire pressure makes driving less predictable and more dangerous—especially when you throw winter road conditions into the mix. You’ll want to make sure you’re monitoring tire pressure and refilling your tires as necessary.
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Jerry, will explain why your car experiences low tire pressure in cold weather and how to fill your tires back up when you need to.
How cold weather impacts tire pressure
When air molecules are cold, they tend to slow down and get closer together. In warm temperatures, they move faster and spread out further.
When this plays out inside your car’s tires, your tire pressure gets lower—by about one to two PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature loss. And when temperatures fluctuate quickly, this can wreak havoc on your tire pressure.
Low tire pressure reduces braking performance, handling, and fuel efficiency—and can even damage your tires or rims. Keeping your tire pressure optimal is extremely important.
If your low-tire-pressure-light comes on in cold weather...
Most modern cars have a tire pressure management system, or TPMS, which warns you if air pressure in one or more tires gets too low. When this happens, you’ll see the TPMS light—usually horseshoe-shaped with an exclamation mark inside—on your dashboard.
If this light comes on, find a safe spot to park and visually inspect each tire. As long as they look inflated, you should be safe to check your tire pressure and inflate your tires as needed.
How to check tire pressure
Most tires require a pressure of 30 to 35 PSI. You’ll find the recommended pressure for your car in the owner’s manual. Sometimes it’s also listed on a sticker inside the door jamb or fuel hatch.
To check tire pressure, you’ll need a tire pressure gauge—a thin, shiny metal device resembling a long pen. It will come with instructions, but it’s usually as simple as pressing the gauge down on the tire’s valve stem (the bit where you pump air in) and reading the little white stick that pops out.
Pro Tip Many new vehicles have a direct TPMS system that displays tire pressure from the comfort of your driver’s seat—and they’re usually accurate within one PSI.
Fill your tires if necessary
If your tires need air, you’ll need to take your car to the nearest air pump. You can usually find air pumps outside gas stations, auto parts stores, and auto repair shops.
Here’s how to fill your tires:
Remove the valve stem cap and press the nozzle on the air hose down onto it
Listen carefully for air escaping—if this happens, lift the nozzle, adjust the angle, and try again
Add air to the tire in short bursts, checking the tire pressure between each burst
If you fill the tire too much, press down on the metal pin in the valve stem so air escapes, then check the pressure again
Filling a car tire with air can be a bit of a guessing game, but it gets a lot easier with a little practice!
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Is it normal to have low tire pressure in the cold?
Yes, low tire pressure in cold weather is common. Tires can lose one or two PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature loss, so be sure to check your tire pressure regularly in colder weather.
Should I put air in my tires when it’s cold?
Yes! But don’t assume your tires need more air simply because it’s cold. To fill them accurately, you need to check the pressure and fill only to the recommended level.