Proper Tire Pressure Is a Win on All Sides

Summer vacationers can do their part beginning this week to help the environment, save gas, and be safe with one simple action: checking their vehicle's tire pressure, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. Properly inflated tires improve vehicle safety while reducing emissions and gas usage, says the Auto Club.

The Auto Club and Rubber Manufacturer's Association have distributed "Be Tire Smart" brochures in AAA offices recently to educate motorists of the importance of proper tire care. On an average day, the Auto Club's roadside assistance providers will respond to more than 400 tire-related member calls for help or about 144,000 tire-related calls annually.

"When tire pressure decreases, rolling resistance increases. This drags on the engine and wears the tires out faster. By maintaining correct pressure, you'll replace tires less often and burn less gasoline, which results in big savings to the motorist," said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club's Automotive Research Center based in Diamond Bar, Calif. "Also, by extending their life, tires won't be sent to a landfill any sooner than necessary," added Mazor.

Vehicle handling can be adversely affected by improperly inflated tires. Under-inflated tires run hot, which can lead to tire failure and a possible crash. Under-inflated tires pose a safety risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that under-inflated tires are a factor in 660 fatalities and 33,000 crash injuries each year. Over-inflated tires can cause uneven wear, reduce vehicle handling, and make tires susceptible to road hazard damage.

Properly inflated tires can improve fuel efficiency by 3.3 percent and save six cents a gallon at the pump, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Approximately 1.2 billion gallons of fuel are wasted each year by U.S. motorists driving on under-inflated tires. That's an extra tank of fuel for 48 million vehicles with a 25-gallon tank.

Although all new vehicles are now equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems, these systems issue a low pressure warning only after tire pressure drops 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure. In many cases, an 8 psi loss of pressure would not trigger a warning light and would cause a loss of fuel economy, accelerated tire wear. and could even lead to a vehicle safety issue.

Motorists should take 5 minutes to:

  • Regularly check tires when cool for uneven or excessive tread wear as well as proper inflation.
  • Inflate tires, including the spare, to recommended pressure. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and can cut gas mileage as much as 2 percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.
  • Refer to the vehicle's doorjamb or glove box for original equipment specifications or the manufacturer of the replacement tire for proper inflation. The correct PSI (pounds per square inch of air pressure) that's right for tires is located on the vehicle's tire information label—not the sidewall of the tire.

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