JULY 2009

RMA sees drivers wasting gas due to low tire pressure

Tens of millions of United States motorists continue to ignore a simple step that can save money, save gas and save lives: checking tire pressure.

A project sponsored by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) found that about half of surveyed passenger vehicles had at least one under inflated tire. More alarming is that nearly one in five vehicles had at least one significantly under inflated tire that can compromise safety and waste gas.

RMA spearheaded its eighth annual National Tire Safety Week in June to help educate motorists about the importance of proper tire care. To drive home the point of Americans’ lack of tire sense, RMA worked with several tire retailers to collect actual tire pressure measurements from more than 5,400 vehicles.

“Few actions that are so simple and quick to do have such striking benefits,” said Charles A. Cannon, RMA president and CEO. “Taking five minutes every month to check tire pressure will put money in consumers’ pockets, reduce national fuel consumption, help tires last longer and save lives.”

Properly inflated tires can improve fuel efficiency by 3.3 percent and save $.06 a gallon at the pump, according to the United States Department of Energy. Approximately 1.2 billion gallons of fuel are wasted each year by motorists driving on under inflated tires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that under inflated tires contribute to more than 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year.

Among the RMA tire pressure survey findings:

  • Only nine percent of vehicles had four properly inflated tires.
  • 50 percent of vehicles had at least one under inflated tire.
  • 19 percent of vehicles had at least one tire under inflated by 8 pounds per square inch (psi).
  • 26 percent of vehicles had at least one tire under inflated by 6 psi.
  • 38 percent of vehicles had at least one tire under inflated by 4 psi.

Although all new vehicles are now equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems, these systems issue a low pressure warning only after tire pressure drops 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure. In many cases, an 8 psi loss of pressure would not trigger a warning light and would cause a loss of fuel economy and could lead to a vehicle safety issue.

In addition to the tire pressure survey, RMA commissioned a poll of registered drivers to gauge their knowledge of proper tire maintenance.

While a strong majority of drivers rate checking tire pressure as one of the top actions they can take to save fuel, 82 percent do not know how to properly check tires.

  • 44 percent of drivers wrongly believe that the correct inflation pressure is printed on the tire sidewall. Another 14 percent do not know where to find the correct pressure.
  • 20 percent of drivers wrongly believe that the best time to check their tires is when they are warm after being driven for at least a few miles.
  • Nearly two out of three drivers do not know how to tell if their tires are bald.

To properly check tire pressure, motorists should check once each month; check tires when cold – before the vehicle is driven and; use the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure found on a label located on the driver’s door or door post or check the owner’s manual.