Well, as Bob Dylan sort of sang, "The Tires, They are a-Changin'." And a lot of this metamorphosis is directly related to environmental issues. Nearly every hybrid vehicle now comes equipped with low rolling resistance (LRR) tires, which are designed to minimize the energy wasted as heat while the tire rolls down the road. A wide array of manufacturers are also developing LRR tires (in lieu of standard models) for gas-powered cars and trucks.
The Overall Result
Better fuel efficiency. In fact, says Mark Chung, director of corporate planning and strategy for Yokohama Tire Corporation, studies have shown that for a vehicle averaging 15,000 miles a year, fuel savings (figured at $3 per gallon) on LRR tires will be approximately $100 annually.
"Think of a bicycle," says Chung. "It takes more energy to pedal a bike when the tires have less air because more rubber is hitting the road. The same theory applies to your car. A lot of energy is used to overcome rolling resistance, so gas mileage suffers (and more C02 is emitted) as a direct result. This is the reason properly inflated LRR tires, which provide the least amount of resistance against the road, are gaining acceptance across the U.S."
According to Chung, manufacturers of LRR tires adhere to the same federal guidelines used to control the traction, treadwear and temperature resistance of every other type of tire. So for eco-conscious and budget-conscious drivers who truly want to maximize their mileage, the shift to low rolling resistance tires is a popular upgrade.
"In fact, management at Yokohama is so sure that low rolling resistance is the future of the industry, we've recently introduced the AVID ENVigor tire. Its super low rolling resistance and comes in 69 sizes - the largest tire launch in the company's 40-year history in the U.S.," says Chung.
Some manufacturers have mastered the LLR art while others are still learning. And many original equipment and replacement tires still lack rolling resistance labeling, warns Chung. "Therefore, consumers should consult their tire dealers before making any low rolling resistance purchase," he says.
Also, Chung reminds consumers that low rolling resistance tires are but one way drivers can help the environment and save money. He offers these additional tips:
* Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated.
Once a month, when the tires are cold (at least three to four hours after the vehicle has been driven), check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. Be sure that the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep dirt out and seal against leakage.
* Replace Your Air Filter.
A clogged air filter blocks the air needed to burn fuel efficiently which wastes gas.
* Keep Your Car Tuned-up
Keep your car tuned-up according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule and you'll keep all systems in good working order, which can optimize your mileage.
* Slow Down.
For every five miles per hour you go above 60 mph, you're lowering your gas mileage and, ultimately, paying even more for each gallon of gas.
For additional tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com or www.rma.org.