Believe it or not an act as simple as checking the tire pressure on your car, truck, or SUV can do more than just extend the life of your tire, which saves you money, but also benefits the environment.
Here’s how: The tires on your vehicle serve four basic functions: carry the weight of the vehicle, turn the vehicle, stop the vehicle, and accelerate the vehicle. And the engineers who designed your car works with the tire manufacturer to select a particular size and type and after extensive testing determined the ideal air pressure that best balances those four functions.
You’ll find the proper inflation pressure clearly marked on a tag inside the driver’s door of your car and in your vehicle’s owners’ manual. The number marked on your car (for example 32 PSI) is the number you should use to inflate and check the tires when cold.
One fallacy that continues, not just among consumers but at some tire shops as well, is that the proper inflation pressure is what’s stamped on the tire. In the case of most cars in the US and Canada, that’s 35 psi. That’s actually the maximum inflation pressure for the tire, and not the recommended pressure for the car.
Some believe that you’ll achieve better fuel economy at 35 psi because of the lower rolling resistance of the more highly inflated tire. But you’ll increase tire wear, especially in the middle of the tread and reduce the car’s other capabilities including, most importantly, wet braking. It’s certainly not worth the potential risk.
On the other hand, underinflation can lead to even more problems than overinflation. First, you’ll wear the tires much faster, especially on the outside edges. As the tire tread is not flat against the road, the car uses the edges of the tires when turning which speeds-up shoulder wear. The most dangerous outcome of underinflated tires is that the tire could overheat and blow out the sidewall. This is due to excessive flexing in the sidewall area which heats up and causes the tire to fail.
By the way, did you know that most tire wear comes from turning and stopping? If all you did was drive coast-to-coast back and forth on Interstates your tires would last for 100,000 miles or more.
Now we know the reasons are for maintaining the correct tire pressures on your vehicle, how do we get to the saving money part? Since both overinflation and underinflation will cause premature tire wear, you’ll have to replace your tires more frequently. And have you seen the cost of new tires these days? Maintaining the correct air pressure as stated by the vehicle manufacturer is the best way to extend the life of your tires, replace them less frequently, and save money in doing so.
So here are some tips on making sure you’re riding around on tires at the proper inflation pressure:
1. Buy yourself a decent tire pressure gauge from an auto parts store. They’re best able to guide you to a reliable but not too expensive gauge. The accuracy of the pressure gauge at the end of the gas station air house is dubious at best, so best to control your own destiny by keeping the newly-purchased gauge in the glove box.
2. Write your tire’s proper inflation pressure on a sticker and slap it on your gauge. You’ll never have to hunt around for the recommended tire pressure again.
3. Check your tires’ pressures only when they are cold, which means they haven’t been driven on for at least three hours. If you check when they’re hot, the reading will be higher, you’ll be tempted to let out air, and then the tire will be underinflated when cold again.
4. Develop a routine as to when you check your tire pressures. It should be once a month so maybe you pick a payday, lucky number, birthday (i.e. 17th of the month), or some other easy-to-remember date. Or just enter it as a reminder into your smartphone so you have no excuses.
In regards to environment impact, have you ever stood at a busy intersection and noticed a fine gray dust everywhere? That’s rubber coming off tires as they wear. And tires are made of nasty stuff like polyisoprene, carbon black, polystyrene, and styrene-butadiene, and who wants more of that stuff floating around than necessary? So by increasing the life of your tires, the less of these chemicals you’re adding to the atmosphere per mile driven.
Further, worn out tires are virtually indestructible and have resisted many attempts at recycling them on a cost effective basis until recently. So years of worn-out tires have built up in giant tire piles that recyclers are working their way through. They’re so large they can be spotted on Google Earth. Besides runoff polluting local steams, if a tire pile should ignite it’s almost impossible to extinguish.
The other great advantage of maintaining the proper tire pressure is the reduced consumption of fossil fuels. According to Department of Energy data, even a 1 psi improvement in inflation pressure increases MPG by 0.3%. Not much individually, but taken across all vehicles in the US that’s nearly 500,000 gallons of gasoline wasted and related greenhouse gases pumped into our atmosphere.
Now you know all the reasons why a monthly tire inflation pressure check is in your best interest. And all what it takes is for you to take five minutes or less a month to make sure it happens.
Courtesy Ford in Okemos is your partner in maintaining your tires. If you have any questions about your tires, locating the manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure sticker, concerns about a wear pattern or an imbedded object, the tire experts at Courtesy Ford are here to help. And if for some reason one or more tires need replacing Courtesy Ford offers 13 major brands of tires with a “Hassle Free” price guarantee. So stop in and get to know the real Ford tire pros – they’ll even help you learn how to use that fancy air gauge you just bought.