My truck reminded me this morning that colder evening temperatures means the loss of tire pressure. The cold causes your tires to contract and you’ll lose about 1 pound of air pressure for every 10 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature. My vehicles have TPMS or Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems on them to warn you when your tire’s pressure goes below a set threshold. In my case they warn me when my pressure has dropped below 32 PSI (pounds per square inch). If your vehicle is not equipped with a monitoring system be sure to check your pressure yourself with a tire pressure gauge. These are cheap insurance and something any vehicle owner should have in their glove box. In any case you’ll need one to be sure you’ve put the appropriate amount of air in your vehicle.
Proper Tire Inflation
For the sake of completeness I’m going to walk through putting the appropriate amount of air in your tires. If you know your business here skip to the next section otherwise read on. Your vehicle should have a sticker located usually on the driver’s side door post, you’ll need to have your door open to see it. On the placard you’ll see recommended tire pressure for your front and rear tires. Often these will be the same but you should always use the recommended settings. You could also find the tire PSI recommendations in your owners manual.
Now you just need to put the air in your tires. If you do not have an air compressor or tire pump at your current location head to a gas station where most will have some form of air system either free or for a few quarters. Add air to the tires a little at a time then check with your air gauge. If you overshot the PSI setting just let a little air out using the cap or just putting your gauge on partially to let a little air escape. That’s it.
Why Does Tire Pressure Matter?
You should need no more reason than safety. Having under-inflated tires can change the handling characteristics of your vehicle possibly causing an accident. Further you might be more likely to get a flat tire if your tires are under-inflated.
And less important but also something to consider is the impact to your gas mileage by having improperly inflated tires. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Economy Guide you lower your gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 PSI drop below your recommended tire pressure. So as the mercury drops so does your gas mileage unless you keep your tires inflated properly.
Photo courtesy of david.nikonvscanon