The big story this week in Montana is that we're finally getting winter.

Hardcore, freeze your butt off, arctic, polar vortex, -35 to -60 degree windchill Winter. Snowfall from the latest storm has been light in much of eastern Montana, while the western mountain elevations and passes are certainly getting more snow.

Looking a little flat there, tire. Credit Canva
Looking a little flat there,  buddy.  Credit Canva

A personal pet peeve with winter driving in Montana.

Treacherous roads are not pleasant, we can all agree, but there's one winter-driving pet peeve that annoys me more than slippery roads, black ice, and blowing snow... it's the low tire pressure warning light in my vehicle. It drives me crazy.

According to the experts, your tires can lose an average of 1 PSI (pound per square inch) of air pressure per month in warmer months, through tiny leaks in the valve stem or around the rim. This is completely natural, notes Les Schwab, and that's why it's wise to routinely check your air pressure and top off as necessary.

Snowy, cold parking lot at Billings airport. Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Snowy, cold parking lot at Billings airport. Credit Michael Foth, TSM

When temps drop, so does the air pressure in your tires.

Usually, there is a sticker on your driver's side door panel that notes the recommended air pressure for your specific vehicle. When the temperatures drop, the air pressure loss in your tires is much more noticeable. The company wrote,

Tire pressure can decrease about 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10 degrees the temperature drops.It’s not due to air escaping, but rather the air inside the tire condensing. Once it does that, it takes up less space inside the tire. When a tire drops below the recommended fill pressure, the TPMS light comes on.

The warning indicators came on in my vehicle this week. My normally inflated tires (at around 34 PSI) are now at 25 - 27 PSI when I head to work in the morning. That's almost ten pounds too little. The warning light usually goes off once I've been driving on the highway for a few minutes as the tires warm up and the air inside expands.

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You'll see lots of this. Credit Canva
You'll see lots of this. Credit Canva

"Out of Order"

Adding to my unexplainable phobia of the tire pressure warning light is the fact that when it's super cold, most of the air compressors at gas stations are out of order. Why? Because it's too darn cold. When air compressors do their thing, they create moisture in the lines. And when it's -22, that moisture quickly freezes, rendering the air pumps inoperable. So, when you need air the most... it's much harder to find.

One option is to stop by any tire shop in town, where they'll likely air up your tires for free. Some locals also recommended visiting your favorite oil change place or even a car dealership to get air when none seems available at the gas stations.

LOOK: The most extreme temperatures in the history of every state

Stacker consulted 2021 data from the NOAA's State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) to illustrate the hottest and coldest temperatures ever recorded in each state. Each slide also reveals the all-time highest 24-hour precipitation record and all-time highest 24-hour snowfall.

Keep reading to find out individual state records in alphabetical order.

Gallery Credit: Anuradha Varanasi

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