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Winter's cold can leave drivers stranded with a flat

Friday - 12/13/2013, 9:27am  ET

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When temperatures drop, drivers should be checking tire pressure more often. Under-inflated tires can lead to flat tires on the road. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - Since Sunday, more than 4,300 drivers have called AAA Mid-Atlantic's emergency roadside assistance switchboard with reports of flat tires.

The region's cold snap has not only resulted in plummeting temperatures but plunging tire pressures.

This past Monday, when temperatures dropped below freezing and the region saw several inches of snow, 359 motorists in Maryland called AAA Mid-Atlantic with flat tires, 199 called in Virginia and 68 in the District.

When temperatures drop, drivers should be checking tire pressure more often, especially with a quality tire gauge, says John Townsend II with AAA Mid-Atlantic.

When the weather is warm, tire pressure can rise or inflate, while in cold temperatures, tires can under-inflate.

On average, about 660 people die in highway crashes because of under-inflated tires, AAA reports.

Cooler weather can also cause the "tire pressure too low" message to pop up on your dashboard, typically during the initial start of the day. It should disappear once the tires warm up. This happens more often in cars that are parked outside in the elements overnight.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association says 83 percent of American drivers don't know how to properly inflate their tires.

Your car's ideal tire pressure can be found in the car's owner manual or on a sticker found on the driver's side door jamb.

AAA advises not to use the tire pressure stamped on the sidewall of the tire and reminds drivers that the recommended pressure is often different for the rear tires than it is for the front tires.

And, while you're checking tire pressure, it's a good opportunity to check your tires' tread. Use a quarter to measure the grooves, by placing the coin upside down in the tread. If the top of Washington's head is exposed, you should start shopping for new tires.

Should you find yourself with a tire blowout or a flat tire, below is a step-by-step video, courtesy AAA, on how to properly change a flat tire:

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