(BPT) – If 2015 has shown us anything so far, it’s that deflation can cause a frenzy, especially when it comes to footballs. Who would have thought that slightly flat footballs would become a national debate? One thing’s for sure, it’s now clear how important proper inflation is and how deflation can affect things, including your tires.
“The whole ‘deflate-gate’ situation helped raise the awareness of the impact of air pressure on performance,” says Bob Abram, product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “It’s very important that people properly inflate their tires, because they are the only part of a vehicle that actually touches the road. When kept at the right pressure, tires will grip the road better and save you money.”
Correct tire pressure is actually specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the tire maker. You can find the proper inflation levels on a placard on the inside of the car door or in the owner’s manual.
Tires that are underinflated by 8 pounds per-square-inch (psi) can reduce vehicle fuel economy by as much as 2 percent, and tires can lose about 1-2 psi each month under normal driving conditions, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. That’s why Abram strongly recommends taking five minutes each month to check your tire pressure. “It’s quick and easy, and if you do it regularly, you’ll extend the life of your tire and get better fuel economy.”
Tires must be cold when inspected for tire pressure (at least four hours after the vehicle has been driven). Check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep out dirt, water and foreign objects.
Abram says that while today’s tires are true technical marvels, he suggests you manually check them because you can’t tell a tire’s pressure is off by just looking at it. “Even if you were looking at one of our bigger tires, like the GEOLANDAR G055, you wouldn’t be able to tell the air pressure is wrong unless it was almost flat. Same with driving on slightly underinflated tires. You probably wouldn’t feel a big difference, but they wouldn’t be nearly as effective.”
Checking your tires regularly will pay off, but Abram says there are many other ways you can maintain your tires for improved driving and fuel-cost savings. Here are a couple:
* Rotating your tires will prevent uneven wear and promote a smoother ride. Because the weight distribution on your car or truck can vary, it’s best to rotate your tires. Yokohama advises drivers to rotate their tires in accordance with vehicle owner’s manual recommendations to ensure even treadwear and optimum tread life. Yokohama recommends that its tires be rotated at 6,000 – 8,000 mile intervals.
* Tires that are balanced correctly will provide a smoother ride and help prevent improper wear.
* Check your tire alignment once a year. Misaligned tires create unnecessary tire wear and higher fuel consumption.
* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit). It’s best to replace them before they reach 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets). For example, rural streets that aren’t regularly plowed are different than city streets that are regularly plowed. Winter traction and wet traction can decline as tread depth decreases.
* Check your tread depth by placing a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tire’s tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires.