According to Fred Koplin of Yokohama Tire Corporation, manufacturer of everything from ultra-high performance tires for passenger cars and SUVs to tires for buses, trucks and airplanes, “Tires that are under-inflated by just 6 to 7 psi (pounds per square inch) can reduce fuel economy by 2 percent or more ... and tread wear life by as much as 10 percent.
“When a tire is under-inflated, the car’s weight rests more on the tire’s shoulders than its center, causing poor fuel economy, uneven wear and a less-than-firm ride, which can significantly reduce driver control.”
Koplin says most people aren’t aware that today’s tires are scientific marvels, holding up under extreme heat and freezing conditions, cruising over pavement, rocks, dirt, water, snow, mud, gravel and all sorts of road hazards. Tires boast advanced tread designs, sidewalls, belts and compounds, and they work so well, they’ve practically become an afterthought in most households.
The Auto Club reports that as many as 86 percent of drivers don’t check their tire inflation properly. However, this percentage is likely to start dropping as gas prices under-inflate consumer pocketbooks and former tire novices learn how to maintain proper pressure levels.
“The tire’s proper inflation level can be found on a placard in the glove box or on the car door or in the owner’s manual,” Koplin says. And while there are about 3,500 sizes and types of tires on the market, he suggests some simple procedures to aid proper tire wear.
* Once a month, when the tires are cold, or at least 3 to 4 hours after the vehicle has been driven, check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. (Normal driving causes tires to heat, raising air pressure. Releasing air when tires are hot may dangerously under-inflate the tires.) And be sure that the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep out dirt and seal against leakage.
* Tires should be rotated at least every 5,000 to 8,000 miles and the alignment should be checked once a year. Misaligned tires can cause the car to drag, which lowers mileage and causes unnecessary tire wear.
* An over-inflated tire puts less tread on the road and increases wear on the center of the tread. A tire is designed to run with the vehicle’s weight spread evenly across the tire’s width.
* Consumers can go to (www.yokohamatire.com/csunderstand.asp) for additional tire care and safety tips or visit the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s Web site at www.rma.org.
“Even though tire technology has advanced as much in the past decade as almost any other facet of automotive engineering, only the discerning consumers understand the high-tech realities of tires,” Koplin says. “However, with escalating fuel prices, the time is fast approaching when drivers are going to focus on simple things like proper tire pressure to maximize tire performance, increase fuel economy and boost tread wear.”
And start heading back down the highway of summer travels.