A tire industry survey reveals that nearly 7 out of 10 vehicles are riding on underinflated tires. Nearly one in five vehicles has at least one significantly underinflated tire, which could be a summertime hazard for Southern California motorists, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), the national trade association for tire manufacturers, sponsors National Tire Safety Week (June 1-7) to help educate U.S. drivers about the need for regular tire maintenance. Underinflated tires waste gasoline, increase the risk of tire damage and cause premature tire wear.
The Auto Club supports the campaign and urges drivers to dedicate the first Tuesday of the month to check their tire pressure, said Steve Mazor, the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center Manager and Chief Engineer.
During summer 2013, the Auto Club rescued 1.3 million stranded motorists, and of those, 157,413 were for flat tires. Underinflated tires pose a safety risk because they generate heat, which can cause tire damage that leads to failure. Underinflated tires are blamed for an estimated 195 fatalities each year, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA).
“Too many motorists continue to ignore the only pieces of equipment on their vehicles that touch the road,” said Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president, public affairs. “It takes just five minutes to check and properly inflate tires to optimize vehicle fuel economy and reduce tire problems.”
2014 Tire Pressure Survey Key Findings:
- 9% of vehicles had four properly inflated tires
- 69% of vehicles had at least one underinflated tire
- 18% of vehicles had at least one tire underinflated by 8 pounds per square inch (PSI)
Previous RMA research revealed how little motorists understand about basic tire care:
- 5 out of 6 motorists do not properly check tire pressure.
- 2 out of 3 motorists do not check the spare tire.
- Half of all motorists do not know how to tell if a tire is bald.
RMA urges motorists to check inflation pressure at least once a month and before long trips, and to remember to check the spare tire. To properly check inflation pressure, an individual must use a tire gauge; use the correct inflation pressure for the vehicle; and check tires when cold, before driving. The correct inflation pressure is found on a label on the driver’s door or owner’s manual, not the tire sidewall.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates that underinflated tires waste more than 1 billion gallons of gasoline annually and that with properly inflated tires and good tire tread, a vehicle’s gas mileage can be improved by up to 3.3 percent, saving an average of 11 cents a gallon.
The Auto Club also recommends that motorists check all five tires – four, plus the spare – for proper inflation using a pressure gauge, according to Mazor. The RMA survey found that two out of three drivers do not check tire pressure in their spare tire. The Auto Club reminds motorists that their new vehicle may not come equipped with a spare.
The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center evaluated the alternatives to full-size spare tires and “found no safety concerns as long as they’re used properly,” says Mazor. These include smaller temporary spares, tire mobility kits and on-vehicle run-flat tires (meaning the tires on your vehicles can go a short distance under 50 mph if punctured.)
Motorists can download a free “Be Tire Smart” brochure filled with tire care tips at www.rma.org
RMA’s national education program is called “Be Tire Smart – Play Your PART.” PART stands for pressure, alignment, rotation and tread – four critical elements of tire care. RMA analyzed tire pressure data collected from approximately 3,300 vehicles at tire retail locations in 26 U.S. cities. The data was collected between November 2013 and February 2014.