All UK drivers warned of huge fuel use spike without simple car check

Hypermiling: Drivers go to extremes to conserve fuel

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Millions of Britons could be using excess fuel and taking road safety risks this winter because they haven’t checked their tyre pressures. It’s normal for tyres to lose pressure over time as air permeates through the tyre – usually at a rate of around one to three psi (pounds per square inch) per month. 

And that’s before the effects of cold weather are taken into account – which sees the air inside the tyre contract and lose between one and two psi for every 10°C drop in the outside temperature. 

New analysis from Continental Tyres has revealed the consequences of this pressure loss for drivers, with a recent poll revealing that 83 percent – or 34 million – haven’t checked their tyre pressures in the last month.

Almost a third of drivers who responded to the poll said they hadn’t checked their tyre pressure in three months or more.

Between August last year and the freezing lows of last week in January 2023, average temperatures dropped by around 26.7 degrees.

With moderate tyre pressure loss through permeation, around 12 million motorists could have lost up to 11psi from their tyres since the summer.

Realistically the pressure loss is likely to be significantly higher than that for some, given many drivers admit to not checking their pressures for six months plus.

If a car’s tyres are underinflated, its footprint is extended, and more of the tyre is in contact with the road. 

This means more energy is lost through a process known as hysteresis, whilst the tyre rolls through its footprint. 

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The engine then has to use more fuel, to send more energy to the wheels, to keep the car moving along the road.

A 4.3psi pressure loss means the vehicle will use 1.5 percent more fuel, which is easily worth more than £1 worth from every tank, according to the research.

Pete Robb, Marketing Director at Continental Tyres, said: “The correct tyre pressure is based on a vehicle’s weight and size, and it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s exact recommendations, to get the best out of your vehicle and ensure the safety of everyone on board. 

“We always advise drivers to do a tyre pressure check every two to four weeks, and always before setting off on longer journeys or if you’re carrying additional loads. 

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“It takes no time once you’ve got the hang of it, and it’s more important than ever at this time of year – especially as the worst of the weather is still to come.”

There are also major safety implications which could occur as a result of having underinflated tyres this winter.

A seriously under-inflated tyre isn’t stiff enough to handle the forces generated through cornering and makes the vehicle more difficult to control. 

Underinflated tyres with less grip can also increase a car’s braking distance and even reduce the tyres’ endurance, causing faster degeneration and increasing the possibility of a sudden puncture.

When checking their tyre pressure, drivers will be able to get a more accurate reading if they check the pressure when the tyres are cold.

The best situation to do this would be at home before setting off. Motorists can use a tyre pressure gauge which can be purchased from most automotive shops.

People should also make sure they have the manufacturer’s recommended pressure for the front and rear tyres of the vehicle – and then make a call as to whether normal use or full load is the most appropriate. 

They will most likely find what they need in the handbook, inside the fuel filler cap or on the driver’s door post. The pressure should be checked using an accurate gauge, and then adjusted as required, on all four tyres, and the spare if they have one.

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