Tuesday, May 22, 2012

They're Not Just Blowing Air: Proper Tire Pressure Saves Money and Increases Safety

Of all the ways to save on gas, keeping your tires properly inflated is easiest to do

Before you start packing the family car for that long-awaited summer trip, think about the single most important way you can offset the very high gasoline prices across the country.

Maintain proper tire pressure. This is by far the easiest way for most drivers to increase their fuel economy. Tires with low pressure will definitely use more gasoline; how much depends on how low they are.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System indicator
Tires with pressure that's too high or with uneven pressure may handle in unexpected ways or lead to an uncomfortable, bumpier ride.
A modern car's suspension system is a marvel of complex engineering and geometry that allows even economy vehicles to run rings around the top cars of only a couple of decades ago. But the weak spot in that system is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road -- the tires. Tires are the one part of the system that the driver can change easily, or that can be changed inadvertently.
The prevalence of large rims and low profile tires, whether they're for fashion or for handling, means that tires are more susceptible to damage from potholes and other road hazards, and are even more finicky about having proper air pressure to produce the expected handling.
It's worth investing in your own air pressure gauge rather than trusting the one at your gas station; they get knocked around a lot and can't be depended on for accurate readings. Don't scrimp; a good mechanical gauge only costs a few dollars.
Don't "fill by eye" and just guess by how the tire looks; you have to use a tire pressure gauge or you're almost certainly going to be either high or low, and every tire may be differently inflated. If possible, check and fill tires only when cold (air expands when it heats up and that would affect your pressure reading). Remember, underinflated tires can be just as dangerous as overinflated tires.
How do you know what the tire pressure is supposed to be? Always look on the driver's door jamb, sill, or pillar and you'll find the manufacturer's specified tire pressure for your particular vehicle. That's the only number you should use, it's the number that makes the car handle the way the manufacturer intended, and it's the point of best balance between MPG, comfort, safety, and tire wear. Do not go by what's printed on the tire itself: that's the maximum allowable pressure, not the normal pressure that's recommended by the manufacturer.
What if your car has a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system)? Typically, these systems, mandatory since 2008, are meant to alert you to low pressure before it becomes dangerous, not before it becomes inefficient. Some of these systems don't see a problem until the pressure is more than 5 PSI (pounds per square inch) below normal. While that's immensely helpful, if you're running on tires that are 4 PSI low, you're wasting money and adversely affecting handling.
There is one notable exception: heavy loads. If you're going to be really loaded down or towing a trailer, it may be best for you to inflate the tires to a higher pressure. But this should be done only using guidelines that you will find in your owner's manual. Look for "tire pressure" or "towing" sections of the owner's manual and follow the advice there.
At any of the Conicelli Autoplex dealerships in Conshohocken and Springfield, Pennsylvania, customers are always welcome to make an appointment to come in for a free safety check. There's no better way to have peace of mind before your long-awaited summer vacation than to make sure your car is ready for the journey.
"We have a year-round concern for safety, but with kids out of school and families traveling long distances on trips and vacations, this may be the most important time of the year for overall safety checks, says Jack Monteleone, Service Director for Conicelli Autoplex in Conshohocken, PA. "It always makes sense for you to make safety the first concern for you and your family, and we're here to help you with that, six days a week, at any of our five service centers. You can call during business hours or you can make an appointment on our websites 24 hours a day."
Conicelli Autoplex Service Departments
(click to visit a Service Department's web page)
Conicelli Honda 610-828-1400, ext. 2005
Conicelli Hyundai 610-832-7911
Conicelli Nissan 610-825-4200

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