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Typical U.S. drivers do not regularly check and maintain their tire pressure. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 70% of drivers check less than once per month, and approximately 93% never check.

Somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of U.S. passenger cars and light trucks have at least one tire that’s 25% below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure limit. Government-mandated tire pressure monitoring systems in vehicles sold after September 1, 2007—as per the TREAD Act—haven’t changed the general picture.

Low tire pressure increases rolling resistance. Although under-inflation typically contributes to only a few percentage points of a vehicle’s total energy use, when added across the entire U.S. vehicle fleet this small percentage costs a lot of money and unnecessarily pollutes. Harris Transport provides a great example from the Canadian long-haul trucking industry.

It’s easy to forget to maintain your vehicle’s tire pressure, but this lack of attention is wasteful and dangerous. Maintaining optimal tire pressure improves your fuel economy (you’ll pay less money for gas) and decreases your risk of an accident (resulting from an improperly inflated tire, damaged treads and steel belt rubber, and so on).

Given the lack of attention most drivers give to tire pressure, what can be done? Joshua Pearce and Jason Hanlon (Clarion University, Pennsylvania) proposed that car care facilities can systematically offer a free tire pressure check when customers come in for an oil change. They estimate that doing so would save nearly 1.4 billion gallons of fuel per year, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27 billion pounds, and save consumers over $4 billion.

Coming up is a description of Pearce and Hanlon’s research, and how easy it can be to save money and help the environment at the same time. The researchers’ results add weight to the idea that auto centers should invest in nitrogen inertion equipment.

  1. M. Pearce and J. T. Hanlon. “Energy conservation from systematic tire pressure regulation.” Energy Policy, 2007, 35(4), 2673–2677. http://

Post Author: Michael Scott Long Ph.D.

Ph.D. Chemistry from Penn State University. Specialization in analytical chemistry, polymer science and nanoscience.

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