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Air Can Save You Money

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The simplest way to boost your gas mileage and save money is to make sure your tires are properly inflated. The resistance of tires rolling along the road can account for as much as 30 percent of your fuel consumption. A fully inflated tire will roll better, and will require less power to start rolling.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one of every three cars is running on a seriously under-inflated tire. According to Goodyear, running a tire with only 80% of the recommended air pressure will cost motorists two to three miles per gallon. An economist working for the US Department of Energy determined that American drivers waste 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline each year, simply by driving on low tires. That’s more than 3 million gallons of gasoline wasted every day. At current prices, that means Americans are wasting $6 billion annually by driving on under-inflated tires.

There are other advantages of checking your tire pressure as well. A vehicle with properly inflated tires will handle better and will be safer. Filling your tires with (usually) free air will save you money and prolong the life of those expensive tires. It will also reduce your likelihood of having a flat tire and reduce the amount of oil needed to manufacture new tires. Conservative estimates suggest that having properly inflated tires can add thousands of miles to the life of a tire. Depending on a number of factors such as weather, temperature, and road conditions, tire life can vary from 4 to 6 years, but proper tire inflation can add several months to that.

All new cars sold in the US are now required to have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System to warn motorists when a tire is seriously low on air. Once found only on high-end luxury cars, there are several different types of monitoring systems, and they differ in terms of accuracy and reliability. Designed to warn when tires become unsafe, some models may not be accurate enough to detect the slight changes in air pressure that can affect mileage. Even if your car is equipped with TPMS, it’s a good idea to periodically check your tire pressure with a manual gauge.

The recommended air pressure is specified by your car’s manufacturer, not the tire maker, and is usually found on a sticker on the driver’s doorjamb, as well as in the owner’s manual. (Note: there may be a difference between this number and the maximum tire pressure listed on the sidewall of the tires.) Some manufacturers recommend different pressures for front and rear tires. Invest in an inexpensive tire pressure gauge, and check your tires at least once a month. Tires should be checked at a cold temperature, preferably before the tire has run more than a mile. Air pressure drops with temperature, so check your tires more often in the winter months. The kind of tires can also make a difference. Radial tires get only slightly better mileage than bias-ply tires, but enough better to add up to significant savings over the life of the tires.