How Does Tire Pressure Affect Fuel Economy?

 When shopping for a car, the phrase “fuel economy” will come up a lot. Fuel economy is the rate you burn gasoline to make your car run. Using less fuel is always your goal, as you'll spend less and keep your carbon footprint lower. Whether you’re a commuter, business owner, or fleet manager, fuel economy deserves your attention. 

Fortunately, you don't have to buy a new car to improve your fuel economy. Maintaining your tires with the correct air pressure can also make a difference. Here's what you need to know.

Why Tire Pressure Matters

Fuel economy often depends on reducing resistance so your car can move more easily. If your tires aren't inflated to the proper tire pressure, they are saggy and soft. The softer your tires are, the more rolling resistance there is between the road and the rubber, and the harder your engine will have to work to move your car. When your engine works harder, you burn more fuel — and spend more money to get where you're going.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, keeping your car tires at the recommended pressure can improve your gas mileage by up to 3%. In a season where gas prices hit $4.00 per gallon, that results in a savings of $2.40 every time you fill up a 20-gallon tank. If you fuel up once per week, that's an annual savings of almost $125.

It's also worth noting that underinflated tires are also a safety issue. They can lead to longer stopping distances, poor handling, and dangerous blowouts on the road.

How to Maintain Your Tires and Improve Fuel Economy

1. Keep Tires Inflated

First, you'll want to keep your tires properly inflated. This is a Goldilocks situation: you don't want too much air or too little, but just the right amount. Information on recommended tire pressure can be found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or in your owner's manual. 

Once you know the correct pressure, use a tire gauge to measure your tires' PSI. If the number is incorrect, add or release air as needed to get the to the correct pressure. Most gas stations offer free air for tire inflation if you don't have a pump of your own.

2. Rotate Tires Regularly

Rotating your tires is another way to keep your money in your wallet. Rotating tires approximately twice a year, or as often as specified in your car’s manual, will help spread tread evenly among all four wheels. This helps your tires last longer and, more importantly, ensures higher-quality rides and better car safety. Buying tires from places that offer free lifetime rotations can help make the rotation process inexpensive and hassle-free.

3. Check Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are set to the car maker’s specifications. The purpose of these adjustments is to reduce tire wear and to ensure that vehicle travel is straight and true, without “pulling” to one side.

Improper wheel alignment can affect driving performance and put pressure on one tire, causing uneven and potentially dangerous wear. When your alignment is correct, it decreases rolling resistance, which increases your gas mileage.

4. Replace Tires When Needed

Finally, remember that no tire lasts forever. When the treads wear down, you'll lose fuel economy as well as traction, which can lead to skids and poor braking. To know when to replace your tires, insert a penny between treads. If your tires don't reach the top of Lincoln's head, you need new ones. 

Improve Fuel Economy With Safer Driving

Did you know that driver's ed courses are about more than just traffic laws? You can also learn important information about safety and basic car maintenance facts to make sure you're ready to hit the road with everything you need. Check out your online course options at today. 

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