Safety  in NumbersThe ProblemThe FactsWhat you can do

Tire Inflation and TPMS

  • Underinflated tires lead to sluggish handling, longer stopping distances, increased stress to tire components, and heat buildup. These in turn can lead to catastrophic failure of the tire, such as separation or blowout.
  • Underinflation also decreases fuel economy. Proper inflation strikes the perfect balance of maximized safety and fuel economy – both related to the amount of surface contact between the tire and the road.
  • A NHTSA study of tire inflation pressure and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) showed that 12 percent of all passenger vehicles in the United States of model years 2004-2011 (with and without TPMS) have at least one tire underinflated by at least 25 percent. Download PDF
  • NHTSA estimates that TPMS reduces by half (56%) the likelihood that a vehicle will have one or more severely underinflated tires.
  • TPMS is estimated to have saved more than $510 million in fuel across the vehicle fleet during 2011.
  • You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure.
    Download PDF
tire sign

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Indicator

All passenger cars, light trucks, and vans that are Model Year 2008 or newer are equipped with TPMS.

When the indicator illuminates, at least one of your tires is more than 25% underinflated. Inspect the tires and check the tire pressure as soon as possible.

Tire Aging

  • Any rubber begins to break down
    over time. Heat accelerates this process. The rubber in your tires also breaks down over time, a process referred to as tire aging.
  • Even though a tire may have a lot of remaining tread, its integrity may be compromised. The effect of aging may not be visibly detectable.
  • Tires age whether they are driven on or not and are a concern for infrequently used vehicles and spare tires.
  • An analysis of crashes in the National Automotive Sampling System from 2005-2007 estimates that 90 people die and an additional 3,200 are injured each year in crashes in which tire aging was a factor. Download PDF
  • As tires age, they are more prone to failure.
  • Some tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires that are 6 to 10 years old, regardless of tread wear.

Relation to Crashes

  • NHTSA reviewed data from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey for tire-involvement before the crash occurred.
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  • About 9 percent of the estimated total crashes were “tire-related crashes.” Some of the issues included tread separations, blowouts, bald tires, and underinflation.
  • With tread depth at 2/32” or less, vehicles experienced tire problems before the crash three times more than vehicles with tread depth between 3 to 4/32”. According to the tire industry, the average new tire for a car starts with a tread depth of 10/32” to 11/32”
  • Data shows that many more vehicles than expected experienced tire problems when driven under adverse roadway conditions (wet roads, roads underwater, slick roads).
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