Back to top

Encompass® Insurance Insights & Articles

The Impact of Cold Weather on Your Car's Tires

winter tires

Issues with tires contribute to approximately 11,000 crashes annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many of these crashes occur during the coldest months of the year. Why? Because dropping temperatures can impact your tires — and as a consequence, the safety of your vehicle.

How Dropping Temperatures Affect Your Vehicle’s Tires

To understand how dropping temperatures impact your tires, you first need to know how temperature impacts air volume. When the temperature increases, the gas molecules start to move faster and take up more space. When the temperature drops, they slow down and require less space. That means that in a space with a flexible barrier around it — like a tire — dropping temperatures will cause the air pressure inside the tire to decrease. In fact, for every 10 degrees the temperature decreases, a tire can lose between one and two pounds of pressure.

The Consequences of Driving With Underinflated Tires

So what exactly can happen if you drive with underinflated tires?

  • Your car becomes less responsive. Underinflated tires are more flexible than they’re supposed to be for driving. This has an adverse effect on the vehicle’s handling and makes it harder to stop. All things considered, it makes your car less safe to drive.
  • You risk a tire blowout. Because the tire doesn’t contain sufficient air, there’s increased friction. This can cause a tire blowout — and that in turn can lead to a serious accident.
  • You get lower mileage. With more friction on the tires, your car has to work harder, which means it consumes more gas.
  • There’s increased wear and tear. Even without a major problem like a blowout, there’s still going to be a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the tires. As a result, you’ll have to replace your tires sooner than if they were properly inflated.

How to Maintain the Recommended Tire Pressure

Your car’s recommended tire inflation PSI (pounds per square inch) is listed in your owner’s manual; it should also be noted on a sticker inside the door jamb on the driver’s side. You should check the pressure of all tires — including the spare — monthly. In addition, it’s a good idea to check it after any significant changes in temperature. Use a tire gauge, which you can purchase at a hardware store or online, to measure the PSI. It's best to do this when the car hasn’t been driven for three hours or more; tire pressure increases due to the heat caused by friction when driving, so you won’t get an accurate reading if you check immediately after driving. If the pressure is low, go to a gas or service station and add air to the tires.

Note that the Consumer Reports article titled “Tire Safety Checklist: What to Do Before Your Next Road Trip” warns that when your Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) light comes on, it’s not simply a reminder to check tire pressure. Instead, it’s an indication that your tires have already lost 25 percent or more of their pressure and therefore require immediate attention. In other words, you need to inflate your tires to the correct pressure immediately.

Family in the kitchen.

Cover home, auto & more.

Encompass Insurance offers protection for the things that matter most.

Find an agent

The general information contained in The Encompass Blog is provided as a courtesy, and is for informational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this website are subject to periodic change without notice. Information provided on The Encompass Blog is not intended to replace official sources. Although attempts will be made to ensure that the information is accurate and timely, the information is presented "as is" and without warranties. Information contained on The Encompass Blog should not be mistaken for professional advice. Information contained herein should not be considered error-free and should not be used as the exclusive basis for decision-making. Use of website information is strictly voluntary and at the user's sole risk. We encourage you to obtain personal advice from qualified professionals when making decision regarding your specific situation.

Other resources linked from these pages are maintained by independent providers. The Encompass Blog does not monitor all linked resources and cannot guarantee their accuracy. Statements, views and opinions included in an independent provider's material are strictly those of the author(s). These views may not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of The Encompass Blog, the Encompass family of companies or its agents, officers or employees.

ECC Monitor: OK