Learning Center / Tire Pressure and Temperatures

Every make and model of tire will come with a recommended tire pressure to keep the tires filled at while under operation. Hours and hours of research by manufacturers determine the exact PSI (pound per square inch) that your tire will performance at its best at. Proper inflation allows the tire to provide maximum handling, traction, and durability on any surfaces or conditions that the tire is rated for. The air pressure of your tire is what supports the entire weight of your vehicle, so it’s improbably to frequently monitor to ensure for safe operation and maximum performance from your tire.

As temperatures change, tire pressure will fluctuate. In many areas, some parts of the year will bring very warm temperatures of 80 degrees and higher, while the winter months can plummet down into the 30’s and below. It’s important for the vehicle owner to understand how these temperature changes can affect the PSI within their tire and how to check to ensure that pressure levels are adequate for driving in different seasons.

The air that fills your tires is a gas. When a gas is heated, it expands, and when it is cooled, it contracts. When the temperature at night begins to drop, regular tire pressure checks should start up to ensure that the air in the tire has not contracted to the point of being unsafe to operate. It’s important to note that the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is based on cold inflation pressure. It’s important to check tire pressure at different times of the day, as something like being in direct sunlight can cause the air pressure to change by a few pounds, which can possibly cause your vehicle to handle improperly.

A general rule of thumb is to equate 1 PSI of change to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Remembering that gases expand in heat and contract in cold, a 10 degree increase in the ambient temperature will result in a 1 PSI increase in your vehicle’s tire pressure. Inversely, a 20 degree decrease in the ambient temperature will result in a 2 PSI decrease in your vehicle’s tire pressure. In most parts of the country, average summer and winter temperatures vary by roughly 50 degrees. This means that your tires will fluctuate approximately 5 PSI throughout the year just from the changes in air temperature. Operating a vehicle in winter conditions while your tires are underinflated by 5 PSI will cause a noticeable difference in handling, traction, and performance.

Many people who live in colder climates will take advantage of having a heated garage, but this can actually place you at a greater risk of losing tire pressure as you are driving. Because the tires are kept at a regular temperature while in the garage, one they hit the outside air, which would presumably be much colder than inside the heated garage, they will continue to lose pressure at the 1 PSI per 10 degrees rate until they level out.

During the winter months, it’s very important for the safe operation of your vehicle to check tire pressure a few times a week, especially if the outside temperatures are fluctuating significantly during the daytime and night time. A small, pen-sized, tire pressure measuring device is all that is needed to ensure that your tires are at the optimum pressure for you to handle any conditions that the roads may present.