U.S. drivers are more likely to wash their cars than correctly check tire pressure, according to a national survey released on April 30 by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA). The survey found that three out of four American drivers wash their vehicle at least once a month while only one in seven correctly checks tire pressure. Motorists rank checking tire pressure as the second most important regular vehicle safety action, but more than three times as many drivers believe regular oil changes are most important to the safe operation of their vehicles. Correct tire pressure maximizes vehicle safety, performance and tire life, but 85 percent of drivers do not properly check tire pressure. "Our research shows that too many Americans are driving clean, well-oiled cars on poorly maintained tires, and we want to change that by helping motorists to be tire smart," said Donald B. Shea, RMA president and CEO. "We want American motorists to become as conscientious about checking tires as they are about using safety belts." Shea also noted that high gasoline costs can be reduced with properly inflated tires. "Keeping tires properly inflated improves gas mileage and saves money," he said. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drivers can improve their gas mileage by about 3.3 percent by keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure. In 1995, the U.S. Department of Energy said under-inflated tires waste 4 million gallons of gasoline daily — or nearly 1.5 billion gallons annually — in America. At today's prices, that's nearly $3 billion dollars a year in additional gasoline costs.

Other findings from the study include:

  • More than half of drivers — 55 percent — wrongly believe that the correct inflation pressure is printed on the tire sidewall.
  • 30 percent of drivers wrongly believe that the best time to check their tires is when they are warm after being driven for at least a few miles.
  • Nearly 1/3 of drivers wrongly believe that if they are taking a trip with a fully loaded vehicle that they are better off if their tires are a little bit under-inflated.
  • Two out of three drivers don't know how to tell if their tires are bald.