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Low Tire Pressure: A Leading Cause of Winter Accidents

This time of year, the simple act of driving to work requires contending with a lot of extra hazards. In addition to heavy snow, black ice, and white-out visibility, you also have to deal with severe cold—and its impact on your car’s functionality.

You may have equipped your car for winter by stowing warm blankets and chains in the trunk. You might have even switched to antifreeze windshield wiper fluid. But one thing many car owners fail to do is regularly check their tire pressure. This oversight can have a serious impact on driver safety.

Changing tire pressure

In the winter months, your tire pressure can change quickly and significantly. As temperatures drop, the air in your tires becomes denser—thereby deflating your tires. For every five degrees Celsius the outside temperature falls, your tires will lose around one pound of pressure.

Identifying low tire pressure

Check to see whether your car is equipped with an automatic tire pressure sensor—which will notify you if your tire pressure drops to a dangerous level. Some cars are sold with such sensors. However, unlike in the United States, such sensors are not mandatory in Canada.

Therefore, if you’re not sure you have such a sensor installed in your car, it’s advisable to check your tire pressure every day during the winter months—as well as during any other period of high temperature fluctuation.

Why it matters

Driving on semi-inflated tires creates real safety hazards. When your tires have insufficient pressure, they do not ride evenly. Instead, the center of the tire tread bows inward—leaving the full weight of your vehicle on the edge of your tires. This naturally puts more wear and tear on your tires, but it also creates more immediate safety risks.

When the weight of your vehicle is dispersed unevenly, it creates balance issues. Your car will be far less stable executing a turn on such tires. In addition, when you brake on tires with this bowed in shape, any traction you would have normally gained from the center of the tire is gone. You also lose this added traction when attempting to navigate through icy or snowy roads. All of these factors create a recipe for disaster.

As noted above, it’s important to check your tire pressure every day during winter months. As soon as you notice it is low, take your car to a service station to add more air. Not only is driving on low-pressure tires a serious safety concern, if you get into an accident, insufficiently inflated tires could affect your insurance coverage.

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