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In extreme cold, checking your tire pressure can be critical

In the winter, you may have a list of regular services you perform on your car. You might switch to winter tires, or you may stock your car with chains. But one safety step many people fail to take is regularly ensuring their tire pressure is within a safe range.

In cold winter weather, the air in your car's tires contracts--causing the tire pressure to drop. For every 10 degrees the air temperature drops, your tires lose an average of two pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI). Low PSI can create serious safety risks on the road.

Tire pressure and safety

Low tire pressure can lead to unpredictable vehicle handling. When your tires are underinflated, it causes the tread to bow in at the center. This means that the whole middle of your tire is effectively out of commission--unable to assist in maneuvering through snow, slush or ice.

When the middle of your tire isn't being used, it greatly limits your stability in making turns. It also makes braking far less effective. Add these detriments to already slippery driving conditions, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Checking your tire pressure

If you own a car made in 2007 or later, it is already equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system--and it will automatically alert you if your pressure falls more than five PSI below the recommended range. If your car is older than this, then it's important to check your tire pressure every day during extreme cold conditions--or on days where there is high temperature fluctuation. Be sure to check your pressure when the car is cold--as driving your car can warm up the air in the tires and skew the reading. If your pressure is below acceptable levels, then head to a gas or service station immediately to add air.

Ignoring a tire pressure issue is not only hazardous to your safety, but if you're involved in an accident, it can also affect your insurance coverage. That's why it's important to stay ahead of any dangers before they start.

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