How to Get Better Gas Milage: Tire Pressure!

Mitch Kahn knows that I cover more than just tech these days…

I just caught your podcast on tips to get better gas mileage and was surprised that there was no mention of TIRES – yes TIRES. Since I’ve become somewhat of an expert on this, I thought it was worth a detailed email.

Most noticeably missing from the list was TIRE PRESSURE – it should have been tops!

He rolls on:

Tires should be properly inflated at all times. Insufficient air pressure will not only reduce your mileage but also cause your tires to wear out prematurely. Keeping air pressure higher will yield better mileage albeit with a harder ride (don’t over-inflate or you’ll also wear out your tires prematurely).

In addition to tire pressure, make sure your wheels are balanced and aligned.

Not as well known is that tire tread can also make a big difference. Rolling resistance is the keyword here.

My car supposedly has some kind of tire pressure monitor, but I believe they improved it in subsequent years (somehow). So long as the dealership maintains the 5k mile checkup records, I’m not too worried.

Mitch has a story, however:

I bought a Toyota Prius hybrid in April 2004. I now have 114,000+ miles on it (yep, that’s 30k/year). The vehicle (which is now my favorite of all the cars I’ve owned) came with Goodyear Integrity’s. Utilizing some restraint in driving techniques I was able to squeeze out 55 mpg in normal everyday driving.

At around 45,000 miles I decided to replace the tires. None of the Prius blogs had much information on replacement tires because the model was so new (2004 was the first year of the 2nd generation Prius and I had one of the first delivered). I was also probably one of the first to wear out the OEM tires.

I opted for a set of Michelins at COSTCO (best place to get tires for many reasons). My mileage immediately dropped to 45. I upped the tire pressure to try to compensate but that yielded only a marginal improvement.

After struggling through 30,000 miles on that set of tires I had a conversation with the manager of the tire department about it and he offered to replace them (free of charge) with a set of special order “green” tires from Michelin. They did no better. I didn’t feel like pushing my luck with COSTCO and decided to just live with the situation and wait until I needed to replace tires again. This was Dec 2006.

At some point last summer (2007) while browsing the tire store at COSTCO again, I noticed that Michelin changed their tread pattern to match the Goodyear Integritys that came with the Prius. I wondered about it but couldn’t justify replacing the tires again. I certainly wasn’t going to ask for a SECOND set of free tires.

Fast forward a few months. Last week one of my tires picked up a nail and by the time I noticed it was too late to save it. This was just the excuse I needed to replace ALL the tires. I bought the updated Michelins and voila – the mileage is now back up to 55 mpg. In fact the other day driving with a tail wind (at 65 mph), I averaged over 58 mpg on a trip from Miami to West Palm Beach. Word must have gotten back to Michelin about the problem with the previous tread pattern.

In closing, the Prius is an extremely kool car and it’s technological bells and whistles truly make it a geek’s delight. Properly maintained and intelligently driven it CAN get it’s advertised mileage. How many people do you know who can go 550 miles on $30 worth of gas? If every car delivered 55 mpg, the Saudi’s would be left to drink their oil.

18 thoughts on “How to Get Better Gas Milage: Tire Pressure!”

  1. So natually when I saw that you didn’t have tire pressure on the list i was surprised as well, but after reading this post and the email that encloses it, i was even more shocked, i knew that tire pressure had a lot to do with milage but I was unaware of how the tire tred played a part in it.

    Now a new question arises in my thought process here, How do you know which tred pattern will give the best milage?

  2. So naturally when I saw that you didn’t have tire pressure on the list I was surprised as well, but after reading the blog post and the email you received with it I was even more shocked. I knew that tire pressure had a lot to do with mileage but I was unaware of how the tire tread played a part in it.

    Now a new question arises in my thought process here, How do you know which tread pattern will give the best milage?

  3. Tires do get neglected, not only does low air pressure effect you gas milage and tire wear it also raises your chances of a blow out. Nice add Mitch. Check your tires every month.

  4. It is not just the tread that makes a difference. The composition of the tread rubber makes a BIG difference. Softer rubber compounds give improved traction but increases rolling friction and gives slightly lower mileage and tread life. It is a trade off – how much gas mileage do you give up for handling (SAFETY)? Having been in situations where I had to evade an oncoming truck in my lane, I’ll stick with my Goodyear Response Edges, even though they do cost a little mpg. I’ll make that up in other ways, like PulseStar plugs (they do work on my Mazda6), regular maintenance and good driving habits.

    Proper air pressure is a MUST for both mileage and safety, though.

  5. Very good article, keeping up with the tire pressure on my vehicle has helped alot. I travel at least 65 miles total per day going to work. With the gas prices as high as they are, every little bit can help. Thanks Chriss!

  6. These are great tips which I need to start utilizing. Especially because I do most of my traveling so far has been planned in the winter at the beginning of the year.

  7. These are great tips that I need to start utilizing better. Especially because most of my travel planning is in the winter around the beginning of the year.

  8. As a new driver, I never that tire pressure was really important. The story was awesome and the next time i drive I will always be sure to check the tire pressure.

  9. My friend tried many different things to get his truck better milage. Taking tailgate off.. Taking complete bed of truck off…. Nothing quite worked until he bought a honda lol

  10. I think that your driving habits have more impact on overall gas milage than anything. If your massing the gas at every light your going to use a lot more gas than if you do it easy.

  11. This is something that a lot of people fail to realize.

    another good thing to do, is to clean your fuel injectors or carburators (if your car is olfd enough to have one). With these clean, you can also help increase the fuel mileage.

    Also, do not “floor it”. Slowly accelerating up to speed is better because you dont use the fuel in a one shot.

  12. I own a 2006 Dodge Charger RT and have been able to travel from atlanta ga to jacksonville fl on a single tank of gas. This was possible using cruise control set at 85 mph the whole way. The car has a 19 gallon tank and the trip mileage is 380 miles. thats 20-25 miles to the gallon.

  13. The opposite side of that coin. I remember seeing a safety film when I worked for Goodyear. Sever over inflation causes the sidewall to bulge out actually making the tire look under inflated. In the film the tire (radial) was inflated to failure and you could actually see this happening. The belts in radials will not stretch and merely force the sidewalls out. Over inflation only stress a modern, belted radial tire.

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