Across all seasons, there are some things that your car needs in order to run smoothly and to last long. Many forget that in the winter, that fact is devastatingly apparent and it shows on our gas bill receipts. Truth be told, the prime cause of the heightened gas fee lies in your tires! There is a direct causation between tire pressure (or rather, incorrect vs. correct tire pressure) and the amount of gas that you have to buy for your car. There are a few intermediate steps, but by the end of the article, you will understand why you're paying 5-10% more on gas in the winter. Keep reading to find out the correlation...
Executive Director of the Car Care Council, Rich White, gives us some insight on how the weather affects the tire pressure in our cars. Regularly checking your tire pressure reaps some benefits as well. For example, let's say the pressure in all four of your tires drops by only 1 PSI (or Pounds per Square Inch). In that case, your car won't be able to use its gas as efficiently. Your gas mileage, or the distance you can travel with a given amount of gas, will go down by 0.3%, which might not seem like much. To put that number in perspective, the average pressure drop in tires (according to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association) is 2 PSI for every 10-degree drop in temperature, and in Chicago, the average temperature change between summer and winter is almost 50 degrees. That means that your tires would lose about 10 PSI in the winter and that you'll only be able to travel 97% of the distance that you would have if all of your tires had the correct pressure. In the winter, it can be very dangerous to get stuck in the cold before reaching your destination, and it is particularly easy to run low on gas if your tires aren't well-pressurized.
"It's typical at this time of year for motorists to get TPMS [tire pressure monitoring system] warnings and then get worried about their tires...Often drivers will see this in the morning when it's coldest. If the temperature warms, the light could turn off but it's likely that tires will still be a few PSI underinflated. This is why it's important to check tire pressure regularly."Rich White
Executive Director, Car Care Council
At the same time, since your gas mileage goes down, you'll end up having to pay more for gas in the cold seasons. Since your gas mileage goes down if the tires aren't well-kept, the only other option is to get more gas. The issue with getting more gas is that you'll have to pay more money. In our previous speculation using Chicago's weather changes over the year, you'll be spending 5% more on gas every time you get your gas pumped since you can only travel so far with deflated tires. To add salt to the wound, driving with deflated tires damages them. Normally a new set of tires will last three to four years, but flattened or damaged tires remain usable for a much shorter time.
There are other variables that decide when you need to replace your tires, but the moral of the story is that you have to pay for new tires if you drive them flat! If you don't check your tires regularly, you'll end up having to pay for an extra gallon of gas each time you get your tank filled, and also you could end up with an extra tire replacement bill-- not to mention replacing the TPMS in your car to match the tires.
TPMS - Tire Pressure Monitoring System
An electronic system designed to monitor the air pressure inside your tires on your vehicle. TPMS report real-time tire-pressure information to you either via a gauge, a pictogram display, or a simple low-pressure warning light.
Now you may be thinking, "don't I still need to pay to pump my tires anyway?" Technically, the answer is yes. The difference is that you'll only have to pay pocket change to completely pump your tires at a nearby gas station, whereas the gas bill with flat tires will be increasingly problematic for every gallon you pump until the end of winter. Think of it as an investment-- if you spend a small amount before winter on tires, you will effectively be spending that much less every time you go to get pumped. By the end of winter, your car (and your wallet) will be thanking you for being car care aware.
To help alleviate some of these issues during the winter season or any season, look through the AutoPair directory of partners in your area to find a shop that has your needs in mind.
This article was written with the help and resources from the non-profit Car Care Council. The "Be Car Care Aware" campaign is a consumer education program about the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair, designed to provide knowledge from all segments of the automotive aftermarket industry.
The non-profit Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. To view the Car Care Council's consumer education website, visit www.carcare.org