The number of personal vehicles rolling on improperly inflated tires has fallen dramatically since 2003, advancing both road safety and fuel efficiency.
The assertion was a key point of a comprehensive study released by the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC) to mark National Be Tire Smart Week.
The study, conducted for the RAC by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, found that 49% of the vehicles inspected had at least one tire that was under- or over-inflated. In 2003, a similar RAC driver survey found that 71% of vehicles tested had one or more improperly inflated tire. The percentage of drivers with one or more tires severely under-inflated by 20% or more – a potentially hazardous condition – also declined significantly to 10% from 23% in 2003.
The survey’s not-so-good news is that fewer Canadian drivers (30% versus 39% in 2003) are taking monthly measurements to ensure their tires are inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation, a practice that is critical to ensuring optimum tire safety, performance and fuel efficiency.
The RAC attributed the rising number of vehicles with properly inflated tires to the dramatic upswing in winter tire changeovers in recent years, public education about the fuel efficiency benefits of proper tire inflation and the growing use of tire pressure monitoring systems.
The survey, which was national in scope, tested driver knowledge and attitudes about tire inflation and maintenance. Motorists in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Sherbrooke and Fredericton were interviewed at service stations by engineering students, who also checked tire inflation levels and tread depth.
The study also found that significantly higher numbers of Canadian drivers understand that tire under-inflation wastes fuel. When asked why tire inflation was important, the top two reasons cited by four in five drivers surveyed were safety and fuel efficiency. In 2003, the top two reasons given were safety and longer tire life.
While the survey’s findings clearly show that Canadian drivers are more knowledgeable about their tires, the study also revealed major information gaps that need to be filled.
The survey, for example, found that, while 52% of drivers knew how to locate the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure (owner’s manual or vehicle placard), 9% did not know and 26% wrongly believed that the pressure stamped on the sidewall, which refers to the maximum pressure a tire can contain under maximum load, was the recommended inflation level.
As well, 59% of drivers interviewed made the serious mistake of relying on a visual inspection to tell them if their tire pressures should be measured. In fact, a tire can be under-or over inflated by 20 percent or more and look normal.
“Properly inflated tires deliver the exceptional performance that tire makers want every consumer to have,” says Glenn Maidment, president of the Rubber Association of Canada. “Drivers need to know that improperly inflated tires increase stopping distance; lessen vehicle stability, particularly when cornering; waste fuel and shorten tire life. All it takes to get the outstanding performance your tires are designed to deliver is a reliable tire gauge and five minutes each month to measure and, if necessary, adjust your tire pressures.”
The study, which also examined attitudes towards tire recycling, found that drivers are generally aware and supportive of the work done by Canada’s provincial Tire Stewardship Boards to manage scrap tire recycling operations across the country. More than half the drivers interviewed (58%) said they were aware of tire recycling systems currently in place, and 81% were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the manner in which scrap tires are managed.
“Proper tire inflation and maintenance is a perfect fit for Canadians who care about the environment,” says Maidment. “When you take care of your tires, you not only protect your family and pocket book, you also reduce harmful emissions and the number of scrap tires.”
May 17 to 23, 2010, is National Be Tire Smart Week, during which the tire industry, including retailers, distributors and manufacturers, will be reminding motorists about the safety, fuel efficiency and environmental benefits of proper tire inflation and maintenance. Canadian motorists are invited to stop by their local tire retailer to learn from the tire professionals how to make sure their tires are always properly inflated and maintained.
Canadians can learn more about the importance of proper tire inflation and maintenance and Be Tire Smart Week by visiting www.betiresmart.ca.