tires and wheels

Why Does My Tire Pressure Light Come On In Cold Weather?

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The purpose of the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) is to alert you when tire pressure is too low and could to create unsafe driving conditions. If the light is illuminated, it means your tires could be underinflated, which can lead to undue tire wear and possible tire failure.

For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tire pressure decreases 1-2 PSI according to the Car Care CouncilPSI stands for pounds per square inch, and is a common unit for measuring pressure. "Cold shrinks – warm expands, basically.  It's typical at this time of year for motorists to get TPMS warnings and then get worried about their tires." In this case, what's shrinking is the volume of the air, thanks to the cold weather. Thus, less air equals less well-filled tires.

The TPMS constantly checks air pressure via small sensors inside of the tire's air stems, explains Jason Lancaster, auto expert and founder of the site AccurateAutoAdvice. These systems, although well-intentioned, are not always totally accurate, and can be off by as much as 2 PSI. 

So What Should You Do If You See The TPMS Light On?

  1. Find a safe place to pull out of traffic so you can stop to check your tires. NOTE: If you are driving at higher speeds (highway), immediately take firm hold of the steering wheel with both hands because, in the event that you are experiencing a blowout (rapid deflation), you'll need to be prepared to handle your vehicle. Then, slowly decelerate and move out of traffic.
  2. Once you have checked to ensure you are not having a blowout, use a tire gauge to check the pressure of each tire against your manufacturer's recommended pressure level. (A tire gauge should be a standard component within your set of emergency items in your vehicle.) The recommended pressure level can be found on the tire placard, a label located just inside the driver's side door.
  3. If you are not comfortable checking the tire pressure on your own, proceed with caution to have your tire pressure checked by a professional tire technician.*
  4. Fill your tires to the proper placard tire pressure, either with the help of your nearest tire service center or by using a tire air supply at a nearby filling station.
  5. If necessary, have any damaged tires, as well as the TPMS system, serviced at your nearest service center.
  6. The TPMS light should turn off within several minutes after reinflating the tires to their recommended pressure.

*Checking tire pressure before you've driven on them, when the tire is "cold," is always the best way to get the most accurate reading.

Tire Pressure Affects Handling

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 250,000 accidents occur in the U.S. per year due to low tire pressure.

If my TPMS light comes on and I put air in my tires, will the light go off by itself or do I need to take my car to the dealer or a tire shop?

When the TPMS warning light comes ON and flashes ON for one second and OFF for three seconds, this indicates a problem with the vehicle's computer and can be corrected only by the dealership service center. When the TPMS warning light comes ON and stays ON, this indicates a low tire pressure condition in one or more tires. Inflating the tire to the recommended tire pressure found on the door placard should cause the light to turn OFF. Remember that one or more of the tires may be low in pressure, so you should always check the pressure in all of your tires.

If you add air and the problem persists, have a mechanic you trust check it out for you. And check your tires monthly to maximize tire health and spot problems early. The best time to do this is in the morning or when your vehicle hasn't been driven in several hours. The tires should be "cold" to give the most accurate reading. Not sure how to check tire pressure? Visit the DMV's step-by-step guide.

 

Don’t Let Your Thanksgiving Road Trip be a Turkey

Nobody wants to be surprised with car trouble, especially on the way to a family dinner! One way to ensure you will get to dinner in time for turkey on Thanksgiving weekend is by making sure that the vehicle you will be driving is running well.

A Thanksgiving pre-trip inspection helps reduce the chance of costly and possibly dangerous on the road trouble. It also provides an opportunity to have repairs done by mechanics you trust. Especially important, it provides peace of mind. While no inspection can guarantee a car’s performance, it’s comforting to know proper precautions were taken to avoid a ‘turkey’ of a holiday weekend.

The Car Care Council suggests the following 10-minute checkup to help ensure vehicle safety and reliability on Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans take to the roads to visit family and friends:

  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check lighting to identify any problems with exterior and interior lighting as the chance of an accident increases if you can’t see or be seen.
  • Check wipers. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months. Make sure the windshield wipers are working properly and keep the reservoir filled with solvent.

Make sure to also restock your emergency car kit -- if you don't have one yet don't delay! Make sure you have supplies like tennis shoes, blanket, band-aids just in case your car leaves you on the side of the road.  Also, check to see if your gas cap is damaged, loose or missing as it should be replaced to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating. 

thanksgiving car care tips