Now that gasoline prices in the U.S. have again reached record levels, there appear to be two options for on-the-go American drivers. One is to complain loudly about the increased pain at the gas pump, but continue driving. The other option is to keep driving, but begin implementing some easy vehicle maintenance actions that can help offset those rising gas prices.
Representatives of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company say a close watch on the air pressure in a vehicle’s tires is an effective way to keep fuel consumption in check.
"Each time a driver stops to fill up his gas tank, he may be grumbling as he notices the per-gallon charges that are now averaging almost $2.40 across the country," said Bob Toth, marketing manager for Goodyear auto tires. "However, as he exits the vehicle and walks to the pump, he ought to be reminded of his four tires and the part they play in smart fuel usage."
Motorists can improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent simply by keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which says underinflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch) drop in the pressure of all four tires. Plus, properly inflated tires are safer and last longer, according to the Department of Energy’s www.fueleconomy.gov web site.
Gas prices continue to climb, and according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the national monthly average reached a record $2.39 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline this week. By comparison, the national average a year ago was $1.86 per gallon.
"Undoubtedly, drivers are feeling the pinch at the pump when average gas prices are more than 50 cents per gallon higher now than one year ago," said Toth.
"When gas prices are this high, it’s easy to see why tire maintenance is so important. A tire that is substantially underinflated doesn’t roll as smoothly or as easily as it was intended, and the increased rolling resistance requires more energy, which robs the vehicle of fuel efficiency."
Goodyear says running a tire 20 percent underinflated – only 5 to 7 PSI – can increase fuel consumption by 10 percent. That easily may cost motorists two or three miles per gallon.
Proper tire care begins with knowing where to look, and then making it part of a regular vehicle maintenance program.
However, according to February 2005 research by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, 85 percent of drivers surveyed do not check their tire pressure properly, and many simply do not know enough about how to care for their tires correctly. Most drivers don’t even know where to find the recommended proper tire inflation pressure for their vehicles’ tires.
Goodyear recommends that motorists should check tire inflation at least monthly or before a long trip. Tires should be inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations printed on the vehicle door jamb, in the glove box or in the owner’s manual, not the maximum limit stamped on a tire sidewall.
In addition, Goodyear, which operates complete tire and automotive service centers nationwide, recommends consumers follow other vehicle maintenance practices to protect their automotive investments and perhaps further reduce fuel costs. This includes keeping the vehicle’s engine properly tuned, along with checking and replacing air filters as needed.
"Many people keep their eyes open for an outlet that offers gas for a couple cents per gallon less than the stations down the street. However, most motorists don’t have to look as hard for a money-saving opportunity that is much closer – their tires," Toth said.
For those who consider a tire pressure check too dirty or mundane, Toth noted that at Goodyear-owned tire and service outlets, consumers can have their tires checked for free, including an inspection of tread condition and tire inflation.
Goodyear is the world’s largest tire company. Headquartered in Akron, Ohio, the company manufactures tires, engineered rubber products and chemicals in more than 90 facilities in 28 countries. It has marketing operations in almost every country around the world. Goodyear employs about 75,000 people worldwide.