UNDER-inflated tyres, as we have all had drummed into us, can be dangerous. Insufficient air pressure can make a car unstable, cause uneven wear and lead to a stern lecture from traffic police.
But there are two other serious down sides too: greater road resistance from under-inflated tyres causes greater toxic emissions to damage the environment and seriously adds to a vehicle’s fuel consumption.
In fact, the latest research shows that even a relatively small degree of tyre under-inflation can result in up to a 10 per cent increase in fuel use – and with the rocketing cost at the pumps, that effectively adds 15p to the cost of a litre.
So regularly checking that you have the right amount of air in your tyres could, at a stroke, wipe out all the recent price hikes, not to mention improving your car’s efficiency and safety. It’s a no-brainer, as they say.
Richard Lyons, European boss of Tyre giants GT Radial, says: “Even a slight level of under-inflation increases the rolling resistance of the tyre and means motorists are losing pence on every litre of fuel and pounds on every tank. By making sure that their tyres are at the correct pressure, many drivers could effectively wind back the clock on recent fuel increases.”
Surveys, he says, have shown that up to two-thirds of motorists are driving around on under-inflated tyres. And the problem gets worse as the weather warms up because tyres will lose air more quickly.
Meanwhile a survey carried out among 46,000 cars across 11 European countries for tyre manufacturers Bridgestone reports similar findings. The extra drag this causes is leading to needless extra expenditure on fuel, causing an extra 7.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to be emitted.
The survey checked 180,000 tyres and found that 17.5 per cent of motorists were found to be running on seriously under-inflated tyres, while 67 per cent of cars across Europe had at least one under-inflated tyre.
It also found that almost 20 per cent of tyres were worn down below the EU legal minimum. This could lead to the danger of hydroplaning at speeds 40 per cent lower than normal and face a high safety risk due to loss of road grip.
Bridgestone’s Andy Dingley says: “There are several different, but equally worrying, conclusions from this research. Aside from motorists, who are already feeling the pinch through higher insurance, tax and petrol prices, wasting their money through unnecessary fuel consumption and replacing tyres more frequently, driving on low pressure tyres also increases the potential hazards.
“As pressure reduces, the driver experiences a loss of handling control and a sharp rise in tyre wear. We’d urge all motorists to check their tyre pressures at least once a month – it can save them not only a lot of money but also could avoid road accidents.”
The GT Radial advice, incidentally, was for a weekly check, but the message is clear enough: a few minutes spent ensuring your car tyres are hitting the right numbers can be good news for the planet, for your safety and for your wallet.