Green Driving Tip 9: Your Wallet is Riding on Your Tires
The weight your car is carrying around isn't the only thing that can affect your fuel economy. Your tires can, too. Proper tire maintenance is an often overlooked way to increase your fuel economy. The easiest way to use your tires to save money is to make sure they're properly inflated. Tires that are underinflated negatively affect fuel efficiency. Imagine trying to roll a bean bag up a hill. It would take a lot of energy because it droops all over everything. In contrast, it's easy to roll a well-inflated ball up a hill. Like a ball, properly inflated tires have less contact with the road, which means they encounter less friction, so the engine doesn't have to work as hard to move the car.
To find out how much air should be in your tires, check your owners' manual, or the inside of the driver's door (where the latch is). Most cars have a sticker there that explains the optimal amount of air for the tires. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that properly inflating your tires can increase fuel efficiency by 3 percent [source: fueleconomy.gov].
If you want to get even more efficient, you can switch from regular tires to low rolling resistance tires. Low rolling resistance tires are harder than regular tires, so they encounter even less friction. Treehugger.com reports that using low rolling resistance tires can lead to a 6 percent increase in fuel economy [source: Treehugger.com]. There are some downsides to the tires, however. They're a lot harder than regular tires, so your car's ride and handling may suffer. Also, don't run out and buy low rolling resistance tires unless you were planning on replacing your tires anyway. The savings in fuel won't offset the cost of new tires. Wait until you need new tires before getting them. Finally, work with your mechanic or tire shop to find the proper low rolling resistance tires for your car.
Now that you've cleaned out your car and checked the tires, it's time to hit the road. Read on to find out how you can change the way you drive to save gas.