Keep your tires properly inflated
Keep your tires properly inflated to maximize the fuel efficiency of your car or truck and reduce harmful emissions generated by your vehicle. It also ensures fewer tires are sent to landfills every year, since properly inflated tires last longer.
How to keep your tires properly inflated
Checking your tire pressure and ensuring all four tires are properly puffed up is a relatively simple procedure:
- Be familiar with your car's documentation: You can find information about your tires and the recommended pressure in your vehicle owner's manual or in the tire information placard in the driver's door frame, glovebox, or trunk. The "recommended cold inflation pressure" in pounds per square inch (psi) will not necessarily be the same as that on the tire‚ so don't rely on the "maximum permissible inflation pressure" on the tire sidewall, as that information may not refer to your vehicle.
- Look for "cool" conditions: Ideally, you should check your air pressure before driving while the tires are still "cold." The friction generated by driving more than a short distance will naturally create heat in the tire, which will raise the pressure and provide an inaccurate measurement. Also note that the air pressure in your tires will change based on the ambient temperature (every 10 degree drop in air temperature will result in about a 1 pound drop in air pressure in your tires).
- Check the air pressure regularly: At least once a month, check the air pressure in each of your tires using a tire pressure gauge. Don't rely on a visual inspection, since tires can lose up to 10 pounds of pressure without looking "flat." Since tires can lose a pound or more of pressure every month, it's important to check them regularly.
- Optimize inflation: Once you have checked the pressure in all of your tires, either add air or release air from your tires based on the results. Be sure not to overinflate your tires—driving with your tires overinflated is unsafe and can also cause your tires to wear prematurely.
High-use drivers, take note: It's advisable to check your pressure more frequently than once a month if you drive over large potholes or other objects, or if you strike a curb while parking. Tires can lose air suddenly in those situations, and it is best to check your air pressure afterwards to ensure that your pressure is still correct.
Keeping your tires properly inflated helps you go green because...
- Your vehicle's fuel economy can improve up to 3.3 percent. Underinflated tires lose about 0.4 percent of their fuel efficiency for each one pound drop in tire air pressure.
- Using less fuel equals lower carbon dioxide emissions. Conserving just 1 percent of the fuel used by an average vehicle each year (about 8 gallons of gas) would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from that vehicle by over 150 pounds per year.
- It prolongs the life of your tires, which means that fewer raw materials need to be consumed to make new replacement tires (each automobile tire contains about 2.5 gallons of oil, for example). Prolonging the life of your tires helps keep them out of the waste stream, which minimizes the risk of other environmental problems like tire fires.
There are over 160 million cars and light trucks in the US, and over 126 billion gallons of gasoline are consumed by them each year. If every vehicle in the US maintained the proper tire air pressure, up to 600 million gallons of gas could be saved per year.
Thirty percent of all of the carbon dioxide emitted each year in the US comes from cars and light trucks. If every car and light truck in the US maintained the proper tire air pressure, up to 11 billion fewer pounds of carbon dioxide would be emitted by drivers each year.
New technology is making proper tire pressure even easier. Automatic tire pressure monitor systems (TPMS) have always been mandated on passenger cars and light trucks with run-flat tires, but only recently has the US government mandated their installation on all new vehicles. According to the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act, all new cars and light trucks for sale in the US must have a TPMS by September 1, 2007.
Automatic tire inflation systems have been used successfully for years on commercial vehicles but are not yet available equipment on passenger vehicles. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that use of an automatic tire inflation system on a long-haul truck can reduce fuel use by 100 gallons per year, thereby eliminating nearly a metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. The cost of installing such systems is usually recouped in just over two years; however, high fuel prices can reduce that period.
The TPMS requirements created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are controversial, as they only require a notification to the driver if the tire is 25 percent or more underinflated, and the situation has persisted for at least 20 minutes. Therefore, drivers will still need to check their tire pressure regularly, as they will only receive a warning from their vehicle when the tire pressure becomes dangerously low.
Related health issues
Proper tire maintenance is critical to the safe operation of your vehicle. The major causes of tire failure are underinflation, overinflation, and overloading. Proper tire inflation affects not only the fuel economy, but also the steering, braking, and traction of your vehicle.
- Be Car Care Aware - Tires & Wheels: Proper Tire Inflation
- Green Car Congress
- Rubber Manufacturers Association
- US Department of Transportation - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Tire Safety
- Fueleconomy.gov - Keeping Your Car In Shape
- California Integrated Waste Management Board - Evaluation of Employee Health Risk from Open Tire Burning
- Green Seal - Low Rolling Resistance Tires
- SAE International - The Effects of Tire Inflation Pressure on Passenger Car Fuel Consumption
- US Environmental Protection Agency - SmartWay Transport Partnership: Automatic Tire Inflation Systems
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Tire Safety