Can the right tyres improve my car's fuel economy?
Updated 10 Oct 2019
Tyres are a considered factor in a car or truck’s fuel economy figures, always have been since John Dunlop came up with the pneumatic tyre - rubber tubes filled with air - in the late 1880s.
Today, tyres can affect fuel efficiencies by up to 20 per cent and so the idea is to have that rubber running down the road with the ‘rolling resistance’ as low as possible; extra work for the engine means extra fuel.
There are a few elements to be considered when looking to get the best fuel efficiencies through tyres.
Keep it standard
Vehicle manufacturers are obliged by laws, and consumer demand, to keep engine emissions and fuel consumption as low as possible.
So the standard tyre size on your vehicle, the original rubber, should be the best choice for that vehicle and its fuel efficiency.
Moving to a bigger tyre - in width or diameter - and its extra weight will likely mean more engine effort to overcome extra rolling resistance.
Moving to a more aggressive tread pattern or a lower sidewall profile will also affect fuel usage.
For day-to-day use, stick with the manufacturers’ recommended tyre pressures.
Again, the factory engineers have worked out optimum operating parameters for a particular machine; while higher than suggested pressures may have tyres running with less resistance there are trade-offs in extra tyre wear and less ride comfort.
Care and consideration
Look after your tyres, give them a quick glance most mornings and check air pressures when feasible.
Low pressures will bring on uneven tyre wear and make an engine work harder to keep the show on the road.
Best to check pressures when tyres are relatively cool and remember to adjust them for heavier loads if advised so by the manufacturer’s tyre placard, normally found on the door jamb.
Have the wheels rotated and checked for balance at least every 10,000 kilometres to spread the load around.
And include a front-end alignment with at least every major service; all four tyres need to be at the right pressures, evenly balanced and evenly worn to lessen that rolling resistance.
Filling tyres with nitrogen, rather than plain air (or oxygen), may be of some benefit in maintaining optimum tyre pressures, though regular tyre checks of oxygen-filled tyres will be just as beneficial.
There are some tyres that are claimed to be ‘fuel-savers’ but these may not last as long, nor be quite as confident in wet weather.
Best to check on any fuel-saving claims with one of the many tyre experts found on AutoGuru.
Drive to save
Last, but not least, there are a couple of motor racing adages to consider:
If the tyres are squealing, you’re going nowhere fast.
Hard acceleration or deceleration, and cornering too fast for a car’s capabilities, may have tyres protesting because of a lack of traction - that means engine power, and fuel, is being wasted.
And: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.
Again, smooth and smart driving lessens the rolling resistance of those tyres, saves fuel and will get you there much easier.
If you’re in need of some new tyres, hit up AutoGuru to get some quick quotes from local, high-quality tyre specialists.
Bruce McMahon is a Queensland-based journalist who’s spent a fair slice of his career dealing with automotive matters.
His first car was a 1949 Riley Roadster, followed by a mix of machinery from Porsches to Jeeps, Alfa Romeos and Range Rovers through to the current four-wheel drive Mazda ute.
He’s driven the Nurburgring and the Tanami Tracks.