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Neglecting your tires can cost you at the gas pump

Underinflated tires lower fuel mileage by about 0.2 per cent for each PSI below the recommended amount. - File

Vehicle manufacturers spend billions of dollars in search of improved fuel economy.

Countless hours in the wind tunnel help improve aerodynamics.

Start/stop systems shut engines down when the vehicle is stationary.

Eight, nine- and 10-speed transmissions are becoming common.

Elaborate electronics are used to squeeze the last possible bit of energy from every drop of fuel.

The list is extensive and expensive.

Manufacturers go to these extremes to meet emission and consumption standards. It also allows them to brag about fuel mileage.

They know the average consumer is extremely interested in fuel economy, whether when making a purchase decision, or considering operating cost.

In the meantime, the majority of them are throwing money down the drain by driving on under-inflated tires.

According to research, the average motorist can improve their fuel mileage by 0.6 to four per cent by simply keeping tires inflated to the correct pressure.

But the same research shows most drivers lack the basic knowledge needed to ensure proper tire inflation.

Leger, the largest Canadian-owned market research and analytics company in the country surveyed 1,255 Canadian motorists, last month. Among the findings:

92 per cent of Canadian motorists say fuel economy is a high priority

90 per cent are very aware of the fuel saving benefits of proper tire pressure.

Only 21 per cent of Canadian drivers measure tire pressure monthly — the industry-recommend frequency.

63 per cent are unaware inflation pressures should only be measured when tires are cold.

34 per cent use the air pressure stamped on the tire’s sidewall when identifying the correct pressure for their tires.

11 per cent rely on visual inspections to determine the correct inflation pressure.

There is clearly a disconnect between knowledge and practice, between knowing that tire pressure plays an important role in fuel mileage and how to measure tire pressure. The number printed on the tire sidewall is the maximum pressure the tire can sustain under maximum load. The correct pressure is vehicle-specific and found on a tag in a door frame or in the owner’s manual.

Tire pressure should only be measured when the tire is cold, when it has not been in use for at least three hours. A tire can be underinflated by more than 20 per cent before the loss is visible.

Underinflated tires lower fuel mileage by about 0.2 per cent for each PSI below the recommended amount. Driving with only one tire eight per cent below the recommended pressure will increase fuel mileage by four per cent. The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) says tire industry research shows that one third of drivers typically have at least one tire under-inflated by more than 10 per cent and one in ten have at least one tire under-inflated by 25 per cent or more

Using data generated by this study, TRAC calculates that Canadian drivers will waste 258 million litres of fuel in 2019 due to underinflation. At current average prices that’s about $348 million. It also means an extra 593,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide will be produced.

When purchasing new tires, consider the efforts tire companies have put into reducing rolling resistance and improving aerodynamics. The latest generation of passenger vehicle tires benefit from specialized tread patterns, advanced rubber technologies, lighter materials, and improved aerodynamics. This has resulted in fuel economy improvements of two to four per cent. If you drive 25,000 per year that means savings of $50-$100 — per year!

As fuel prices make the annual march upward. Consider the role tires play in your costs.

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