Smart drivers roll with fuel efficiency

With the summer driving season in full swing and thousands of motorists getting set to hit the highway this long weekend, drivers are reminded they can save at the pumps by ensuring their tires are properly inflated.

  • Jul. 28, 2011 11:00 a.m.

With the summer driving season in full swing and thousands of motorists getting set to hit the highway this long weekend, drivers are reminded they can save at the pumps by ensuring their tires are properly inflated.

Every year Canadian drivers waste millions of litres of fuel simply because their tires are not inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. In 2011, Natural Resources Canada estimates that under-inflated tires will waste 533 million litres of fuel at a cost of $722 million in unnecessary fuel bills. This wasted fuel, which is enough to power 275,000 vehicles for a full year, will also release an additional 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Why does an under-inflated tire burn more fuel?  A tire that is under-inflated does not roll as smoothly or as easily as it was intended. The result is increased rolling resistance, which causes the vehicle to consume more fuel than necessary.

According to the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC), which represents tire makers, the average Canadian motorist who drives 20,000 kilometers per year can save more than $100 at the pumps if their tires are properly inflated. For drivers who spend considerably more time behind the wheel, the annual fuel savings can add up to hundreds of dollars.

Despite these obvious benefits, too many Canadian drivers ignore tire inflation. According to a recent study commissioned by the RAC, one third of Canada’s 21 million vehicles have at least one under-inflated tire, and only 30 per cent of drivers measure their tire pressures monthly.

The study also revealed major knowledge gaps about tire inflation. For example, only 52 per cent of drivers knew how to locate the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure (owner’s manual or vehicle placard) and 26 per cent wrongly believed that the pressure stamped on the sidewall, which refers to the maximum pressure a tire can contain under maximum load, was the recommended inflation level.

As well, 59 per cent of drivers interviewed made the serious mistake of relying on a visual inspection to tell them if their tire pressures should be measured. In fact, a tire can be under or over inflated by 20 per cent or more and look normal.

“Properly inflated tires deliver the fuel efficiency and exceptional performance that tire makers want every driver to have,” says Glenn Maidment, president of the RAC. “Drivers need to know that improperly inflated tires waste fuel; increase stopping distance, and hamper performance by lessening vehicle stability, particularly when cornering. All it takes to get the outstanding fuel economy and performance your tires were designed to deliver is to use a reliable tire gauge each month to measure and, if necessary, adjust your tire pressures.”

Shortened tire life should also be of concern to motorists who want to save their money and help the environment.

According the RAC, under-inflation can carve as much as 15,000 kilometers off the service life of a tire, adding to tire-related vehicle costs and the number of scrap tires.

The RAC recommends motorists take fuel economy and environmental protection into their own hands by buying a reliable tire gauge and using it at least once a month to ensure their tires are always inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation.

The RAC’s study also revealed that more than half of drivers (58 per cent) were aware of work done by Canada’s provincial Tire Stewardship boards to manage scrap tire recycling operations and lengthen tire life through public education. Of this group, the vast majority (81 per cent) were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the manner in which scrap tires are managed.

The RAC Tire Inflation and Attitudinal Study interviewed 1,811 drivers. The results are considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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