What’s the Proper Air Pressure For My Car

Experts and analysts seem to be in agreement on this: the days of cheap oil are finished. As countries compete with each other for oil on a global market, the price of refined fuel and gasoline in the United States may fluctuate somewhat, but it’s likely to stay above $3/gallon for the foreseeable future. That means that every driver needs to be aware of what they need to do to optimize their gas mileage…and that includes tires.

Proper Inflation

You probably already know that proper inflation is vital to fuel economy, and that underinflated tires will not only drop your gas mileage, but will negatively affect handling and drivability. Underinflated tires are also unsafe, building heat that can compromise a tire’s service life and possibly cause tire failure (especially in hotter months); low tires will also cause uneven tread wear. What you might not have known, though, is how crucial tire inflation can really be. The U.S. Department of Energy has stated that even a 1-psi drop in tire pressure can scrub 0.4% off your fuel economy! That’s why it’s so important to frequently check your tire inflation with a quality tire gauge, especially before taking off for a long trip.

Don’t take that to mean, however, that overinflated tires will get even better fuel economy. It might logically seem that way, since overinflated tires mean a lower surface area that’s actually in contact with the pavement…but studies have shown a negligible benefit in gas mileage, especially when it’s traded off for squirrelly handling and a harsh ride (as well as stressed tires).

Look on the sidewall of your car’s tires. Along with other information such as sizing, load rating and speed rating, you’ll find a maximum inflation number for hot tires. This is the tire manufacturer’s recommendation; if in doubt, check your car’s owner’s manual. Simple!