Technical Marvels that Deserve Respect — With rising gas prices, smart drivers are boosting mileage by assuring their tires are properly inflated.
FULLERTON, CA -- Tires are the Rodney Dangerfield of the automotive world. Even though they're the only component of the car that actually touches the pavement, tires don't get no respect.
Tires influence the braking, steering, comfort, handling, fuel efficiency and overall safety of every vehicle, but are often ignored or misunderstood by many consumers. Tires pound over potholes, careen off curbs and screech to a halt, but the prevailing public sentiment is, "they're round, black and have tread. Beyond that, who cares?"
With gas prices blowing by $3 a gallon, smart drivers care. Savvy consumers are seeking to increase fuel economy and the life of their tires by paying more attention to those rubber objects that are attached to their vehicle. As Dylan meant to say, "The tires, they are a changin'."
Most people aren't aware that today's tires are scientific marvels, holding up under extreme heat and freezing conditions, cruising over pavement, rocks, dirt, water, snow, mud, gravel and all sorts of road hazards. Tires boast advanced tread designs, sidewalls, belts and compounds, and they work so well, they've practically become an afterthought in most households. That is, until now.
According to Mark Chung, director of strategic marketing for Yokohama Tire Corporation, which manufactures everything from ultra-high performance tires for passenger cars and SUVs to tires for buses, trucks and airplanes, "Tires that are under-inflated by just four to 12 psi (pounds per square inch) can reduce gas mileage by five percent or more...and tire life by as much as 40 percent.
"When a tire is under-inflated, the car's weight rests more on the tire's shoulders than its center, causing poor fuel economy, uneven wear and a less-than-firm ride, which can significantly reduce driver control."
The tire's proper inflation level, which is usually between 20 and 36 psi, can be found on a placard in the glove box or on the car door. And while there are about 3,500 sizes and types of tires on the market, Chung suggests some simple procedures to aid proper tire wear.
The Auto Club reports that as many as 86 percent of drivers don't check their tire inflation properly. However, this percentage is likely to start dropping as gas prices under-inflate consumer pocketbooks and former tire novices learn how to maintain proper pressure levels.
So, it seems, tires might actually start getting a little more respect.
"Even though tire technology has advanced as much in the past decade as almost any other facet of automotive engineering, only the discerning consumers know about high-tech matters like the adaptive helical long grooves in our PARADA line and the top-end line ADVAN's nanotechnology-enabled tread compound," says Chung. "However, with escalating fuel prices, the time is fast approaching when drivers are going to focus on simple things like proper tire pressure to maximize tire performance, increase fuel economy boost treadwear."
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