April 18, 2024

Bucks: A Tire Engineer’s Tips for Better Gas Mileage

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Gas is nudging toward $4 a gallon or more in some parts of the country. You can search online to find the cheapest gas in your town. But you also can take steps to boost your mileage, says Forrest Patterson, lead engineer on Michelin’s most fuel-efficient tires. He spoke with me this week and shared some tips for squeezing as many miles as possible out of increasingly pricey tanks of gas.

In the big picture, Mr. Patterson says, consider buying a more fuel-efficient car. He happens to be 6-foot-5 inches tall, so he might be forgiven for driving a large vehicle. Instead, “I drive a compact turbo diesel that gets 40-plus miles to the gallon,” he says. He and his wife, a materials researcher at Michelin, drive to work together near Greenville, S.C., to minimize fuel costs. And they use fuel efficient (Michelin GreenX brand, of course) tires.

Beyond the equipment, he says, it’s behavior that matters. One pet peeve of Mr. Patterson’s is drivers (O.K., I’m guilty) who don’t check their tire pressure. “Maintaining the proper pressure at recommended levels can really have an impact on their mileage,” he says.

The Energy Department estimates that properly inflated tires can increase fuel efficiency by more than 3 percent. Yet research shows, he says, that passenger-car tires are typically 5 to 15 p.s.i. below the commonly recommended level of 30 to 35 p.s.i. Under-inflated tires add resistance, making your engine work harder to push the car along the road and burning more fuel. It’s akin, he says, to jogging in sopping wet sneakers; its harder to go fast.

So, he advises, get yourself an inexpensive tire gauge at the tire or hardware store and keep it in your glove compartment. Don’t try to eyeball it. Check the inside of your driver’s side door jamb, or your owner’s manual, where you’ll find the recommended pressure for your tires.

When you fill the tank— or at least, once a month — check the pressure and add air as needed. It’s best to check pressure when the tires are relatively cold, rather than after a long drive.  “I check my tire pressure on a regular basis, and I check my wife’s car too,” he says.

One trick of the trade, he says, is filling your tires with nitrogen instead of air. It’s probably not necessary if you check your tires regularly, but some drivers can get a small beneficial effect from it, he says. Nitrogen seeps out of tires more slowly than oxygen, meaning the tires maintain the proper pressure for longer periods of time. Mr. Patterson is lucky in that his company provides nitrogen fill-ups free to its employees. For us nontire engineers, service shops will sometimes fill your tires with nitrogen for an added fee when getting a tune up, or some outlets provide it free with a new set of tires.

The other main way to cut gas costs, he says, is to slow down, and drive more smoothly. If you’re one of those people who speeds up, slows down, and then speeds up (O.K., guilty again), you’re throwing cash out the window.

And for every five miles per hour you drive over 60, it’s like spending an additional 24 cents per gallon, the Energy Department says. That’s because when you drive fast, you’re displacing more air and, again, making your engine work harder. Driving moderately can increase fuel efficiency by as much as 33 percent.

Idling the car excessively can burn fuel, but so does turning your car on and off. If you’re waiting for just a minute or two, it’s probably a toss up. But if the line of cars at the Starbucks drive through is very long, you might want to park and go inside. Mr. Patterson usually does that, regardless: “I like coffee shops,” he says.

Do you check your tire pressure regularly? Have you changed the way you drive to cut down on gas costs?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=7202efdc192bf1e6d49d3ad80524f09a

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