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Proper tire inflation

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Proper tire inflation

Do you remember the classic 1960’s television show “Hogan’s Heroes”? I call it a classic because it was a successful situation comedy about a German P.O.W. camp during World War II. That idea would never make if off the drawing board in today’s politically correct society.

One of its main characters, Sergeant Schultz, had a catchphrase he used whenever he was asked what was going on, either by the prisoners or his commander, Colonel Klink: “I know nothinggg!”

I was reminded of that recently when the New England Patriots were accused of breaking National Football League rules during a playoff game. They played with footballs that were at least 2 psi below league requirements.

When asked about it, New England coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady each channeled their inner Schultz: “I know nothinggg!”

Everyone in America knows about under-inflated footballs now, even Belichick and Brady (some are blaming a drop in temperature for the discrepancy). Leading up to the Super Bowl, the alleged cheating scandal was one of the top news stories on national television broadcasts.

And that is sad, partially because people know more about under-inflated footballs than under-inflated tires.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) has been tracking tire pressure trends for years as part of its “Be Tire Smart — Play Your PART” national education program (“PART” stands for pressure, alignment, rotation and tread). According to the results of its 2014 Tire Pressure Survey, five out of six vehicle owners (83%) do not properly check tire pressure. In addition,

  • 91% of the vehicles had at least one improperly inflated tire (over- or under-inflated).
  • 69% had at least one under-inflated tire.
  • 18% had at least one tire under-inflated by 8 psi.

In 2008, six out of seven motorists (85%) surveyed did not properly check tire pressure.

Eight years ago, the federal government mandated that a program to educate consumers on the value and proper care of tires be created. Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), has campaigned to oversee the development and implementation of that program ever since.

Whether or not the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will ever entrust TIA or another organization with the responsibility of running the nationwide consumer education program is unknown. NHTSA appears to be trying to do it alone.

First, it created a pamphlet, “Tire Safety: Everything Rides on It,” that focused on the importance of maintaining proper tire pressure. Then in 2014, it launched TireWise, an educational campaign designed to provide consumers and tire retailers “with essential information about choosing and caring for tires.”

To reach as many consumers as possible, all of the TireWise content, including a “Life as a Tire” video, is available to tire retailers and tire manufacturers across the United States. TireWise also is featured on

Littlefield did not wait around for the government to make up its mind. TIA filmed a series of videos under the “Tire Safety Starts Here” umbrella and posted them on YouTube. To date, there are six videos, including “Tire Safety Starts with Inspection,” which explains to motorists how they should inspect their tires for proper tire inflation, tread depth and wear. There is also a video emphasizing the safety benefits associated with tire pressure monitoring systems.

Despite the efforts of the RMA, NHTSA and TIA, the majority of consumers seem to take proper tire inflation for granted. In order for that to change, educating consumers is going to have to be relentless. And I still hope NHTSA asks TIA for help.

Hopefully, the NFL’s “Deflate-gate” debate has enlightened some drivers. Prior to the Super Bowl, Michelin North America Inc. tweeted a picture of the Michelin Man with a tire gauge and a football and the words: “Inflation matters!”

Maybe none of us would be talking or writing about this if the footballs had been filled with nitrogen.   ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at

Want to read more of Bob Ulrich's editorials? Click here:

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