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Can tires improve fuel economy?

Consumer Reports News: September 15, 2010 07:38 AM

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Your car’s tires can play an important role in helping you get the best gas mileage and save money at the pump. Checking tire pressure regularly is one step toward optimum fuel economy, but your choice of tires can also help.

Automakers often specify low-rolling-resistance tires as original equipment to enhance vehicle performance in government fuel-economy tests. But replacement tires are not limited by any vehicle manufacturer's requirements, and attributes such as all-season grip and tread life are big selling points. In the past, consumers often had to weigh a trade-off between low rolling resistance and other performance capabilities, such as wet braking. But in recent years, tire manufacturers have been achieving a better balance of rolling resistance and all-weather grip.

Consumer Reports recently tested a few all-season tire models with low rolling resistance and found that those tires can improve fuel economy by an additional one or two mpg. The reward for replacing a less-optimum tire can be a payback covering most of the cost of the new tires over their lifetime in fuel savings. Moreover, you generally don't have to pay more to get a tire with better rolling resistance.

Here are some additional tips for getting the most fuel economy from your tires:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated. (A label on the driver's doorjamb tells you the correct pressures to use.)
  • Check inflation pressure at least monthly; do this when the tires are cool.
  • If you were happy with the tires that came with the car when it was new, consider replacing them with an identical set. Low rolling resistance is a common trait of original-equipment tires.
  • Before buying replacement tires, check Consumer Reports' Ratings for tires that excel in overall performance and use rolling resistance as tie-breaker.

Related:
NHTSA publishes a final rule on car tire fuel efficiency, Consumer Reports' take

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