The answer is a little more interesting than you might expect!
Here’s a quote from the US government:
“You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.
The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall.”
But that’s not quite the whole story. Over- or under-inflated tires can be more safe — in very particular conditions. On a dry, clean road, slightly over-inflated tires will improve mileage. On a slushy wet road, under-inflated tires, at low speed, can put more rubber on the road — improving traction.
But there’s more. The California Energy Commission estimates that 252 million gallons of fuel could be saved each year — if the poor tires on older cars were replaced.
What’s the bottom line? Have newer tires, and check the rolling resistance rating, before you buy. Then, if you are a typical driver, keep the tires inflated to the norm.
But remember, the main purpose of tires is to keep your car on the road and to brake quickly. Saving a few bucks on gas isn’t as important as tires’ primary functions.
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