Tire Tips for Better Fuel Economy and Safety
Written by Chris Hagerbaumer, Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), Clear Air Campaign Partner
If you ride a bike, you know it's harder to peddle with soft, under-inflated tires. When your bike's tires are properly pumped, there's less resistance and your trip is easier. It's the same for your car! You don't notice because all you need to do to overcome the increase in resistance is to push the gas peddle a bit harder. But doing so makes your car's motor work harder. The harder your car's motor has to work, the more gas it burns. Under-inflated tires waste gas, which results in more pollution. Low tire pressure also reduces the handling and safety of your car, especially in rainy weather.
You can improve your fuel economy by about 3.3% if you keep your tires inflated properly. Make it a habit to check your tire pressure at least monthly because you won't notice if your tire pressure is low until your tires have about half the recommended level of air.
Buy a tire-pressure gauge and add air as necessary. The PSI number noted on the sidewall of your tires is the maximum pressure of the tire, not the proper inflation level. Find the recommended tire pressure in your owner's manual or on a sticker on the doorjamb of the driver-side door.
The ideal time to check your tires is before you start your car. You can't get an accurate read if the tires are warm.
Also check your tire alignment. Look at the tread on your tires—if the wheel alignment is bad, they'll show uneven wear across the tread. Poor alignment not only wastes gas, it can make your car harder to handle in an emergency. Ask your mechanic to realign your tires if they're off kilter.