Energy tip #2: inflate your tires

TireFresh off the heels of Tip #1, I bring you Tip #2: inflate your tires. It’s often said that the best things in life are free. And while I’m still waiting for someone to send a free bag of coffee beans to headquarters, inflating your tires doesn’t cost a penny. In fact, it pays you about $57 a year.

According to the the U.S. Department of Energy, you can improve your gas mileage by about 3.3% if you keep your tires at their appropriate pressure. For a vehicle that gets the national average 19.6 mpg and is driven the national average 12,000 miles per year (presumably toting the national average 2.2 children), properly inflated tires result in a savings of about 20 gallons of gas each year. With gas at $2.93/gallon, your net savings is $57, enough for a Standard TerraPass plus a work-week of performance-enhancing java.

I’ve included a spreadsheet that allows you to enter in your average mpg and miles driven to derive your expected savings. One of the nice things that I noticed in doing this a few weeks ago is the improved performance of the vehicle. You can definitely feel the difference when you drive. According to the same DOE website, properly juiced tires also increase safety and last longer.

Most importantly, you’ll be sparing the air 383 lbs of CO2 emissions. Make that 12,383 lbs of CO2 if you spring for the Standard TerraPass.

So there you have it, earn the first 383 lbs by pumping up the Goodyears and the next 12,000 are a cinch.

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  1. Anonymous - July 12, 2006

    how about some TerraPass comments on using cooking oil in a deisel engine???

  2. pj nery - July 12, 2006

    I’ve heard that you can/should inflate your tires another 2 psi over the recommended level to gain even better mileage. Is there any downside to that?

  3. Steve Williams - July 12, 2006

    I don’t disagree about keeping your tires inflated will
    help your fuel economy. But free? Not in the Denver area, for sure. I can rarely find a gas station with a free air pump–it’s usually 50 cents or 75 cents for
    the use of one. Still cheap compared to a latte, no
    doubt. But very rarely free.

  4. Anonymous - July 12, 2006

    Not so free in the Los Angeles area either, and at times a trifle inconvenient. (Who carries around exact change anymore with the domination of Credit, Debit and ATM cards?) Still, I agree, it’s a good idea.

  5. 1985 Gripen - July 12, 2006

    I think it should be pointed out (because it’s not really obvious) that one can learn what the “proper” inflation level (in pounds-per-square-inch or “psi”) on a sticker in the driver’s door jam.
    Just because the tire is marked with a “max inflation”, doesn’t mean that’s how much you inflate the tire to.
    The amount you inflate your tires to also depends on how many passengers you usually have in your vehicle. The door jam sticker should help you decide.
    BTW, as for air not being free, at least here in L.A. the charge for use of the station’s air compressor is usually to pay for vandalism (like pay toilets). If you are a customer of the gas station (pump gas) you can usually tell the attendant and he’ll either remotely activate the compressor for you free of charge or he’ll give you tokens for the compressor. Just make sure you inflate your tires on the same visit as buying gas.

  6. Graham - July 12, 2006

    Here’s a tip for folks wanting free air fill ups for their tires… I simply keep a bike floor pump in my trunk and use that. Yes it takes a little longer (but not that long) but it’s free, you can do it anywhere, it’s easier to fill to your exact desired pressure, and you get a little workout! Not to mention it’s good protection against a slow tire leak – allows you to pump up enough to get to a service station. Plus I find the gas station air hoses sort of stressful… running around trying to fill up all the tires before your time runs out. Give it a try, you might like it!

  7. kevin - July 12, 2006

    In California, you *should* get free air as a paying customer at any gas station. State law mandates free air and water to all paying customers. So, every time you fill up your tank, you should be able to fill up those tires too. I’ve come across a few stations that try to charge for air. If you ask nicely, the attendant will almost always just give you the air for free.

  8. disdaniel - July 13, 2006

    Why don’t we have self-optimising/inflating tires yet? That seems like the solution to me. If you save $50-$60/yr, a tire company could charge an extra 50% for tires if they add a little gizmo that calculates interior tire pressure and uses braking energy (or pothole energy) to inflate/deflate tires to optimal pressure!

  9. Aimee - November 13, 2007

    I live in Scottsdale, Az. and my boyfriend works at discount tire co. and you can get a free air check there…