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Survey Finds Increased Attention to Tire Air Pressure

GREENVILLE, S.C., Sept. 20 -- With gas prices at an all-time high, many Americans are making a conscious effort to maintain correct tire air pressure and thus contribute to their vehicle's fuel efficiency, a trend revealed by data from a recent survey by Uniroyal Tire.

According to the survey commissioned by Uniroyal Tire in mid-August, nearly 50 percent of Americans, representing a cross-section of drivers across the country, said they are checking the air pressure in their tires once a month. Another 37 percent said they check their air pressure quarterly.

This represents a significant increase in tire maintenance diligence compared to previous surveys conducted by industry groups. For instance, a 2003 survey conducted by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) found that only one in seven American drivers correctly checks air pressure. The RMA, which represents tire manufacturers, recommends checking tire pressure at least once a month before tires have been driven even a mile and inflating them to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure.

Other research conducted in recent years by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is equally alarming. NHTSA found that one-fourth of passenger cars and one-third of light trucks/SUVS have at least one significantly under-inflated tire.

Despite the best efforts of organizations such as the RMA and NHTSA to educate drivers about the connection between proper tire air pressure and improved fuel economy, the message perhaps did not always resonate with most of the driving population, but a noticeable shift is appearing now with gas prices hovering around $3 per gallon.

Under-inflated tires increase the rolling resistance of vehicles and, correspondingly, decrease their fuel economy. According to NHTSA, fuel efficiency is reduced by one percent for every 3.3 PSI (pounds per square inch) of under-inflation. One industry organization has calculated that properly maintained tires over the typical seven-year life of a vehicle could save the owner $850 - $1,000 in reduced fuel consumption and tire replacement costs - and that was calculated well before gas prices started their steady climb.

"Making sure tires are properly inflated is one of the easiest and most important maintenance procedures drivers can do," said Owen Schiano, brand director for Uniroyal Tire. "Properly inflated tires last longer, perform better and contribute to greater fuel efficiency."

While American drivers now seem to be more conscious of the importance of proper tire inflation, the Uniroyal Tire survey found that there is still considerable confusion over where to find information on the vehicle's proper tire inflation. Fifty percent of those surveyed mistakenly believed that the correct pressure is listed on the tire sidewall. The sidewall lists the maximum PSI the tire can hold, which is typically about twice as much as the recommended pressure. The recommended PSI can be found on the driver's side door in the doorframe and in the vehicle's owner's manual. Interestingly, more men (61 percent) than women (41 percent) thought the correct pressure was listed on the tire sidewall.

Fortunately, most respondents (64 percent) correctly identified the average range of tire pressure at 25-35 PSI. Thirty-one percent said they were not sure, and one percent of respondents guessed "1,000 to 1,500 PSI" -- let's hope these folks don't try to inflate their own tires!

  Other Uniroyal survey findings included:
   - Fifty-seven percent of American drivers said they never check the air
     pressure in their spare tire, and 22 percent said they check it once a
     year. This is not so much a fuel consumption issue, but is certainly a
     safety concern.

   - Fifty-one percent of the survey respondents said they visually check
     their tires for tread depth, irregular wear or damage from road hazards
     once a month, which is the recommended interval. Thirty-one percent
     said they checked quarterly, 11 percent said yearly, and eight percent
     said "never."

   - Fifty-one percent said they did not know at what tread depth drivers
     are legally required (in most states) to replace their tires. Twenty
     eight percent answered correctly -- 2/32".

   - Forty-eight percent said they do not have an emergency roadside kit in
     their car.

This survey on tire maintenance and travel was conducted by using a proprietary research panel of approximately 100,000 geographically representative members from across the US. All respondents (988) to this survey reside within the US, are 21 years of age or older, and are demographically consistent with the US census. All findings are based on statistical analyses of the responses.

Uniroyal Tire is one of the world's leading tire brands for passenger and commercial cars, pick-ups, light trucks, mini vans and sport utility vehicles. Dating back to 1892, Uniroyal Tire has developed a reputation for providing high-quality, affordable tires including its Tiger Paw(R) and Laredo(R) tire series. Uniroyal(R) tires offer just the right combination of dependability, traction and grip in almost every weather condition, and come with one of the industry's leading warranties. Visit Uniroyal Tire online at: