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Survey: Less Than 20 Percent of Drivers Are 'Tire Smart'

This week marks the 12th National Tire Safety Week dedicated to the importance of tire care.  The Automobile Club of Southern California and the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) urge drivers to dedicate the first Tuesday of the month to check their tire pressure.  In July, that would be just in time for  Independence Day when families and friends travel to gather for the holiday.  According to the latest RMA “Tire Smart” survey, released to coincide with the tire safety week observance, only 17 percent of all drivers properly check tire inflation monthly.  Broken down by gender, 20 percent of male drivers are “tire smart” and the number is worse – at 14 percent – for women. 


The new national survey finds that only one in six U.S. drivers is “tire smart” when it comes to checking tire pressure ‐ a quick and simple step that can optimize vehicle safety and fuel economy and helps tires last longer.  The survey also found that younger drivers (18‐39) are less likely to know basic tire care compared to older (60+) drivers.


The RMA, which represents tire manufacturers in the U.S., conducted the survey to gauge motorists’ awareness about proper tire maintenance. Significant differences exist between men and women and also between younger and older drivers. 


Other survey findings that are part of the Be Tire Smart consumer tire care education program:


A more stark difference exists between generations. Twenty‐seven percent of drivers aged 60 and older  are “tire smart” while only 8 percent of drivers 18‐39 know the basic tips for properly checking tire.


The survey identifies “tire smart” drivers as those  who know to check tire pressure monthly; know to check tires when they are cold (before driving) and;  know where to find the correct inflation pressure for their vehicle’s tires – a tire information label on the  driver’s door or door jamb or in the owner’s manual.


“Proper tire care, including maintaining the correct pressure in all five tires, means owners will replace tires less often, use less fuel, and will have less of a likelihood to be stranded on the roadways,” according to the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center Manager Steve Mazor.


The Auto Club urges motorists to take five minutes this Tire Pressure Tuesday to:

  • Check tires monthly and before a road trip, when cool, for uneven or excessive tread wear and proper inflation. 
  • Refer to the vehicle’s doorjamb, fuel-filler flap, or glove box for original equipment specifications or the manufacturer of the replacement tire for proper inflation.  The correct PSI (pounds per square inch of air pressure) for tires is located on the vehicle’s tire information label – not the sidewall of the tire.
  • Inflate tires to recommended pressure.
  • Rotate the car’s tires regularly.  Typically every 5,000 miles—following the recommended rotation patterns in your owner’s manual. Check your car’s wheel alignment so that the tires wear evenly.  


During summer 2012, the Auto Club rescued 1.3 million stranded motorists and of those, 158,150 were for flat tires.  Under-inflated tires pose a safety risk because they generate heat, which can cause tire damage that leads to failure.  Under-inflated tires are attributed to an estimated 195 fatalities each year, according to NHTSA.


The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates that under inflated tires wastes more than 1 billion gallons of gasoline annually and that with properly inflated tires and good tire tread will improve vehicle fuel economy by 11 cents per 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.)


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA helped the RMA launch the tire education observance over a decade ago. Motorists can visit Auto Club branches for a free “Be Tire Smart” brochure filled with tire care tips or download one at


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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.