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How Tires Can Vastly Improve Your Fuel Economy

When you think of enhanced fuel economy, you probably think of the usual things…aerodynamics, engine size, rear end gear ratio, vehicle weight, driving style and speed, and your engine’s state of tune (clean air filter, good spark plugs, etc). Did you know, though, that your tires can have a huge bearing on gas mileage as well? 

  • Tire Size – The bigger, wider and heavier a tire is, the more rolling resistance it presents. Don’t believe me? Go for a ride on a skinny-tire racing bike, then go for a ride on a fat balloon-tire beach cruiser and see the difference. You shouldn’t go for a narrower tire than original equipment, as engineers tune suspensions and steering for a given tire size, but also remember that wider tires can cut into your fuel economy (even if they do look cool and possibly handle better).

  • Tire Design – Newer tires are designed for lower rolling resistance, meaning the amount of force it actually takes to get the car moving down the road and keep it going. Manufacturers tweak tread designs, rubber formulations and other design factors to squeeze the best rolling resistance out of their tires, and great strides have been made in the last ten years.

  • Tread Pattern – Part of the rolling resistance equation is tread design; big knobby mud tires are going to be tougher to keep rolling than less-aggressive tread designs.

  • Inflation – Here’s the key point to tires and fuel economy. Underinflated tires will not only make your car handle like a dump truck, wear unevenly and dangerously overheat…they will also shave as much as 2 or 3 mpg’s off your gas mileage. It doesn’t take much to make sure your tires are inflated properly, so check them at least once a month and always before a long trip!