Tires play im­por­tant role in fuel costs


Ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers spend bil­lions of dol­lars in search of im­proved fuel econ­omy.

Count­less hours in the wind tun­nel help im­prove aero­dy­nam­ics.

Start/stop sys­tems shut engines down when the ve­hi­cle is sta­tion­ary.

Eight, nine- and 10-speed trans­mis­sions are be­com­ing com­mon.

Elab­o­rate elec­tron­ics are used to squeeze the last pos­si­ble bit of en­ergy from every drop of fuel.

The list is ex­ten­sive and ex­pen­sive.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers go to these ex­tremes to meet emis­sion and con­sump­tion stan­dards. It also al­lows them to brag about fuel mileage.

They know the av­er­age con­sumer is ex­tremely in­ter­ested in fuel econ­omy, whether when mak­ing a pur­chase de­ci­sion, or con­sid­er­ing op­er­at­ing cost.

In the mean­time, the ma­jor­ity of them are throw­ing money down the drain by driv­ing on un­der-in­flated tires.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search, the av­er­age mo­torist can im­prove their fuel mileage by 0.6 to four per cent by sim­ply keep­ing tires in­flated to the cor­rect pres­sure.

But the same re­search shows most driv­ers lack the ba­sic knowl­edge needed to en­sure proper tire in­fla­tion.

Leger, the largest Cana­di­anowned mar­ket re­search and an­a­lyt­ics com­pany in the coun­try sur­veyed 1,255 Cana­dian mo­torists, last month. Among the find­ings:

92 per cent of Cana­dian mo­torists say fuel econ­omy is a high priority

90 per cent are very aware of the fuel sav­ing ben­e­fits of proper tire pres­sure.

Only 21 per cent of Cana­dian driv­ers mea­sure tire pres­sure monthly — the in­dus­try-rec­om­mend fre­quency.

63 per cent are un­aware in­fla­tion pres­sures should only be mea­sured when tires are cold.

34 per cent use the air pres­sure stamped on the tire’s side­wall when iden­ti­fy­ing the cor­rect pres­sure for their tires.

11 per cent rely on vis­ual in­spec­tions to de­ter­mine the cor­rect in­fla­tion pres­sure.

There is clearly a dis­con­nect be­tween knowl­edge and prac­tice, be­tween know­ing that tire pres­sure plays an im­por­tant role in fuel mileage and how to mea­sure tire pres­sure. The num­ber printed on the tire side­wall is the max­i­mum pres­sure the tire can sus­tain un­der max­i­mum load. The cor­rect pres­sure is ve­hi­cle­spe­cific and found on a tag in a door frame or in the owner’s man­ual.

Tire pres­sure should only be mea­sured when the tire is cold, when it has not been in use for at least three hours. A tire can be un­der­in­flated by more than 20 per cent be­fore the loss is vis­i­ble.

Un­der­in­flated tires lower fuel mileage by about 0.2 per cent for each PSI be­low the rec­om­mended amount. Driv­ing with only one tire eight per cent be­low the rec­om­mended pres­sure will in­crease fuel mileage by four per cent. The Tire and Rub­ber As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada (TRAC) says tire in­dus­try re­search shows that one third of driv­ers typ­i­cally have at least one tire un­der-in­flated by more than 10 per cent and one in ten have at least one tire un­der-in­flated by 25 per cent or more

Us­ing data gen­er­ated by this study, TRAC cal­cu­lates that Cana­dian driv­ers will waste 258 mil­lion litres of fuel in 2019 due to un­der-in­fla­tion. At cur­rent av­er­age prices that’s about $348 mil­lion. It also means an ex­tra 593,000 met­ric tonnes of car­bon diox­ide will be pro­duced.

When pur­chas­ing new tires, con­sider the ef­forts tire com­pa­nies have put into re­duc­ing rolling re­sis­tance and im­prov­ing aero­dy­nam­ics. The lat­est gen­er­a­tion of pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle tires ben­e­fit from spe­cial­ized tread pat­terns, ad­vanced rub­ber technologi­es, lighter ma­te­ri­als, and im­proved aero­dy­nam­ics. This has re­sulted in fuel econ­omy im­prove­ments of two to four per cent. If you drive 25,000 per year that means sav­ings of $50-$100 — per year!

As fuel prices make the an­nual march up­ward. Con­sider the role tires play in your costs.


Un­der­in­flated tires lower fuel mileage by about 0.2 per cent for each PSI be­low the rec­om­mended amount.

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