Uniroyal survey relates to tire air pressure

Sept. 21, 2005

A recent survey commissioned by Michelin North America Inc.'s Uniroyal brand group indicates that many Americans are making a conscious effort to maintain correct tire air pressure and thus contribute to their vehicle's fuel efficiency.

According to the survey, nearly 50% of Americans, representing a cross-section of drivers across the country, said they are checking the air pressure in their tires once a month. Another 37% said they check their air pressure quarterly.

This represents a significant increase in tire maintenance diligence compared to previous surveys conducted by industry groups. For instance, a 2003 survey conducted by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) found that only one in seven American drivers correctly checks air pressure.

The RMA, which represents tire manufacturers, recommends checking tire pressure at least once a month before tires have been driven even a mile and inflating them to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure.

Other research conducted in recent years by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is equally alarming. NHTSA found that one-fourth of passenger cars and one-third of light trucks/SUVS have at least one significantly under-inflated tire.

Despite the best efforts of organizations such as the RMA and NHTSA to educate drivers about the connection between proper tire air pressure and improved fuel economy, the message hasn't always resonate with most of the driving population.

But a noticeable shift is appearing now with gas prices hovering around $3 per gallon.

Under-inflated tires increase the rolling resistance of vehicles and, correspondingly, decrease their fuel economy. According to NHTSA, fuel efficiency is reduced by 1% for every 3.3 psi (pounds per square inch) of under-inflation. One industry organization has calculated that properly maintained tires over the typical seven-year life of a vehicle could save the owner $850-$1,000 in reduced fuel consumption and tire replacement costs -- and that was calculated well before gas prices started their steady climb.

"Making sure tires are properly inflated is one of the easiest and most important maintenance procedures drivers can do," says Owen Schiano, Uniroyal brand director. "Properly inflated tires last longer, perform better and contribute to greater fuel efficiency."

While American drivers now seem to be more conscious of the importance of proper tire inflation, the Uniroyal Tire survey found that there is still considerable confusion over where to find information on the vehicle's proper tire inflation.

Half of those surveyed mistakenly believed that the correct pressure is listed on the tire sidewall. The sidewall lists the maximum psi the tire can hold, which is typically about twice as much as the recommended pressure.

The recommended psi can be found on the driver's side door in the doorframe and in the vehicle's owner's manual. Interestingly, more men (61%) than women (41%) thought the correct pressure was listed on the tire sidewall.

Fortunately, most respondents (64%) correctly identified the average range of tire pressure at 25-35 psi. Thirty-one percent said they were not sure, and 1% of respondents guessed "1,000 to 1,500 psi!"

Other Uniroyal survey findings include the following:

* 57% of American drivers said they never check the air pressure in their spare tire, and 22% said they check it once a year. This is not so much a fuel consumption issue, but is certainly a safety concern.

* 51% of the survey respondents said they visually check their tires for tread depth, irregular wear or damage from road hazards once a month, which is the recommended interval. Thirty-one percent said they checked quarterly, 11% said yearly, and 8% said "never."

* 51% aaid they did not know at what tread depth drivers are legally required (in most states) to replace their tires. Twenty-eight percent answered correctly -- 2/32".

* 48% said they do not have an emergency roadside kit in their car.

This survey on tire maintenance and travel was conducted by https://opinion.trone.com/ using a proprietary research panel of approximately 100,000 geographically representative members from across the United States. All respondents (988) to this survey reside within the U.S., are 21 years of age or older, and are demographically consistent with the U.S. census. All findings are based on statistical analyses of the responses.