Whether you drive a compact car, a sporty coupe, a family-friendly SUV, or a rugged work-ready pickup truck, taking care of your tires is an important part of vehicle maintenance. With the right tires that are correctly inflated, you'll enjoy optimal fuel mileage and enhanced safety and control while on the road.
Of course, the opposite is also true - tires that are either over, or under-inflated, worn out, old, misaligned, damaged, or unsuitable for your vehicle or the road conditions can do more than drive up your fuel bill - they can be downright dangerous.
Here's what you need to know about proper tire care.
Under-Inflated Tires = Lowered MPG
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can improve your gas mileage by 0.6 percent on average - up to three percent in some cases - by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure.
The folks over at MythBusters confirmed the importance of proper tire care with their own testing, during which they under-inflated the tires on their test car by 15 percent. The result? Their test vehicle used 1.2 percent more fuel compared to when they drove it with the tires inflated to the manufacturers' specs.
This slight increase in fuel consumption can really add up over the long run; the average American driver uses about 583 gallons of fuel per year, so keeping tires inflated at the recommended pressure can reduce fuel costs by up to 17 gallons annually.
It's a good idea to take a look at your tires on a regular basis, checking for any bulges, uneven wear spots, or damage that could lead to premature tire wear, a flat tire or even a blowout. The AAA recommends that drivers also monitor their vehicle while driving to keep an eye on their tires, listening for thumping noises, and feeling for vibrations and pulling in the steering wheel that could indicate a problem such as a tire that's out of balance, or a separated tread.
Tires Wear Out Even When Your Vehicle Is Parked
The tragic death of "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker reignited public awareness about the importance of keeping current tires on vehicles. Reports on the crash that killed the actor was caused in part by the fact that the car he was a passenger in had a set of nine year old tires on it, and chances are good those tires had become hard and deteriorated over time.
Part of proper tire care is knowing the age of the tires on your vehicle, and replacing those tires as soon as there's any sign of wear or deterioration.