Back to School: How to Stay Safe When You're Driving at Altitude

Written by Damon Nielson, Owner, Tire Factory Point S in American Fork, Utah

With the change in altitude, your air pressure is changing as you drive. When people hit elevation, all of a sudden their tire pressure lights are coming on with the altitude and temperature changes. 

The biggest thing we see is a lot of people, they aren't consistently checking their air pressure. This especially happens in the fall, as we go through the hot summertime season and we get our first drop in temperatures. Inevitably, we can almost predict the line of cars with their tire pressure lights on because they haven't checked it regularly.

With a 10-degree drop in temperature, tires can lose as much as 1 psi of pressure. Altitude has a similar effect. If you're at sea level on a nice warm day and you're driving to Salt Lake City, I would go into the shop and make sure you're set at the recommended tire pressure. You've got 10 percent leniency for pressure variation, so if you start at the recommended pressure you should be okay, But if you're going to be at altitude for a couple weeks, you might want to stop at a local tire shop and have them reset them in the morning to make sure they're dialed into where they need to be.

The tires we recommend are all-weather tires. They're for people who are driving from the valley into the mountains, where weather conditions can be unpredictable. Even in the fall when it's not supposed to be bad, you never know what you're gonna hit. But if you have that all-weather tire that can run year-round and has the three-peak mountain snowflake emblem on it, and you get that random winter storm or heavy rainstorm, you're prepared for any conditions.

The three-peak mountain snowflake emblem.

My own daughter and wife run Nokian Tyres WR G4s on our Subarus, and we do that specifically because I don't have to worry whether they'll be able to stop if they hit a random storm. Customers are always worried about, "I can't go," in winter weather. But going isn't as important as stopping. If you can't get going, the chances of being in a wreck are a lot less than if you have to make an emergency stop. Being able to have the right tire in the right situation for when you have that emergency in front of you, you can stop safely. Having a tire on that you don't have to worry about driving, you can go -- and if you have that random storm, you're not in trouble. 

We opened in 1971. My father opened the shop, and I'm the fifth generation in the tire business. We live here, we work here, our friends are here -- we are the community. I don't want to sell you something you're gonna have a problem with, because I'm gonna run into you at the grocery store or a football game. I want to make sure you had a great experience. If I sell a product to you, you can believe it's something I'm willing to stand behind and you're gonna give me positive feedback. 

I recommend Nokian Tyres products because of their reliability and safety.

As of 2024, a successor to the Nokian Tyres WR G4 has been released. Learn more about Nokian Tyres' latest all weather tire innovation: the Nokian Tyres Remedy WRG5.

To find a certified Nokian Tyres retailer near you, visit our Tire Dealer Locator.