Tires — we tend to take them for granted. "Tires are the only contact between your vehicle and the road, so it's really important that they're properly maintained," says Marty Yurjevich, executive director of advanced tire engineering and race tire development for Bridgestone Americas Technical Center in Ohio. Yurjevich offers three easy tips: Inflate, rotate and evaluate.
Tires make up about 7 percent of the car energy use, so proper inflation alone will probably do more for fuel economy than anything, he says. "It can cost 3 to 5 cents a gallon against your expense just by having your tires underinflated."
Tires lose pressure by about 1 psi (pound per square inch) per month under normal driving, Yurjevich says. So checking the tire pressure frequently is important.
Another warning: "With these low-profile tires that are becoming more popular, a tire can be as much as 50 percent underinflated, and the average individual can't recognize it. And that'll be a significant effect on rolling resistance," he says.
When you're checking tires, make sure you do this when the tires are "cold" — before you drive on them. "When you drive tires, they generate heat, the air expands, and the pressure won't represent what the tire would have been inflated cold," he says.
Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. That will minimize your tread wear and improve your ride as well, Yurjevich says.
Routinely check for signs of tread wear and tire damage. Do the "Lincoln Penny Test" in several areas to examine the tread depth and to check for wear.
"If you're not sure, take it to a local tire store and have a professional check it out," he says.