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Eco-Facts and Tips on Inflating Tires

How to properly inflate tires to save gas, via SustainableBabySteps.com

You would think properly inflating tires on a vehicle would be an obvious maintenance routine. But according to one study done by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 33% of light trucks and 25% of cars have at least one underinflated tire. 3-8% had all four underinflated!

Why does this matter? Well, lots of reasons:

  • It decreases your fuel economy by 10%, by creating "drag" between the tire and the road
  • Reduces the life of your tires by about a year
  • Makes handling more challenging and leads to accidents
  • More likelihood of tire damage while driving
  • Creates more greenhouse emissions and pollutants in the air

Checking and properly inflating tires on your vehicle is good for your vehicle, your budget and the environment.

Follow these guidelines to ensure it's being done right.

Tips for Properly Inflating Your Tires

Rule number one: Your tire pressure needs to be checked at least once a month, but many manufacturers actually recommend checking tire pressure once a week. (A simple way to remember this is to use your gas guage as a reminder: If you need to get gas, you also need to check your tire pressure.)

Rule number two: Your tires must be "cold", having sat overnight or at least 4-5 hours, before checking the air pressure. To ensure that the tire is the coldest, we suggest doing checking and inflating tires in the morning. If you're filling them up at the gas station, check your tire pressure beforehand so that you know how much to inflate them before driving to the gas station. It's also recommended to use your own tire guage, as many guages at service stations have been shown to be inaccurate.

Next, it's important that you check the sticker on the inside of your vehicle, usually on the driver's door. The recommendation on the wall of the tire is generally the max PSI, which can make for a rough ride. Too much pressure in the tire can also decrease the traction your tires have and can also cause a blowout.

As the weather gets colder, you lose air pressure, about 1psi for every 10 degree drop in the temperature. So keeping on top of properly inflating tires on any vehicle you have is important year-round.

And remember, if you can perceive with the eye or by thumping the tire that your tires are low, they are already way too low. Your tires PSI and your fuel economy and wear and tear is affected before it's visible or audible.

Inflating Tires: A Quick Primer

Whether you're new to vehicle maintenance or just to inflating tires, we've created a simple step-by-step process to make it simple.

  1. Find the stem on the outside of your tire; there is usually a plastic cap that you will unscrew. Put this in your pocket - they like to roll away or be forgotten and disappear.
  2. Next, press your tire guage on the stem of your tire to get a reading. The guage should give you an instant reading, although same guages you will need to hold on the tire to get the reading, while other guages will keep the reading after you remove the guage. The PSI of your tire will be the dot or line your guage lines up with.
  3. If your tire is lower than your sticker reocmmendation inside your vehicle, you can usually find an air compressor at most gas stations.
  4. You'll fill the tire the same way you checked the tire, pressing the nozel of the air compressor to the stem of the tire, but with constant pressure on the stem. Check the tire pressure again as you fill to get a feel for how fast your tire fills and to avoid over-inflating tires.
  5. Over-inflating tires sometimes happen. If so, you can release some of the air by using something to press the little needle inside the stem of the tire. Often your tire guage will have a deflator; if not, a small key will do the trick.

Many service stations, such as Goodyear, will do a free tire check and properly inflate your tires for you as well. Just make sure you haven't done a lot of driving before you head to your nearest service station.

TIP: If you don't fill up often or don't think you'll remember to check before you've driven, set a reminder on your calendar at home, at the office or on your phone, perhaps to even write yourself a quick note that can be left on your steering wheel.

Make properly inflating tires a priority in your vehicle maintenance and do your part to decrease the 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline wasted in the U.S. alone each year due to under-inflated tires.

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