Winter: A Good Time to Use Your Tire Gauge

February 8, 2011 at 7:25 pm 2 comments

If you’ve not already heard the news, the groundhog saw his shadow.  You know what that means:  six more weeks of winter.  We can all agree that this winter has been especially long and cold for us North Carolinians!

Did you know that winter is a great time to use a tire pressure gauge?  The air in your car tires (or bike for that matter) contracts in the cold weather, leaving your tires with lower pressure.

Did you know that maintaining the recommended tire pressure helps you to get the optimal gas mileage out of your car?  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, under-inflated tires are responsible for nearly 3.3 million gallons of wasted gasoline each and every day.  Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires.

Last week a friend looked at my tires and suggested I test their air pressure.  They looked low, and sure enough they were 20 pounds of pressure (psi) under what was recommended—yikes!  This means that I was probably getting 6% fewer miles per gallon—or at the current average cost of gasoline in the Triangle of $3.03 per gallon, I was paying the equivalent of $3.21 per gallon by not having my tires properly inflated.  As you can imagine, I drove straight to the gas station and filled them up!

But what pressure should I fill them to?  Contrary to popular belief, you should NOT use the pressure printed on the tire—that is the MAXIMUM that the tire can withstand.  The car’s recommended tire pressure is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or in the car’s user manual in the glove box—for most passenger vehicles the magic number is 32-34 psi.  It’s not a bad idea to test each tire a few times to ensure the accuracy of your read.  You should check tire pressure at least every 2-3 months, but the more often the better.

Low tire pressure not only impacts gas mileage.  It also puts a strain on the tires, making them likely to wear down faster, and increasing the chances of a blow-out.

Check out this link for a video, and written instructions on how to check your tire pressure.  Check out the US Dept. of Energy’s website about fuel economyCheck out these gas mileage tips.


Entry filed under: Energy Tips, Transportation.

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