North America has a problem with inflation, but it has nothing to do with the economy.
What we're talking about is the underinflated condition of tires on North America's roadways.
A recent survey, organized by Tire Business, clearly points this out and highlights the glaring need for a broad educational campaign encouraging consumers to take their tires more seriously.
While not scientific, this survey of 766 vehicles, conducted by 42 tire dealerships nationwide the week of Oct. 15, found three out of four passenger cars have at least one underinflated tire. The percentage of light trucks with an underinflated tire was even more striking at 78.2 percent, while about six in 10 sport-utility vehicles (59.9 percent) had at least one tire with less than the recommended air pressure.
The survey also showed that four in 10 cars (40.1 percent) and one in three sport-utility vehicles (34.3 percent) had all four tires underinflated by an average of nearly 7 psi. It's no wonder inadequate air pressure is seen as a major destroyer of tires.
These findings are not surprising. Ask any tire dealer or tire manufacturer whether the average motorist checks his or her tires regularly and the answer would be, "No."
Low inflation is a key suspect in the tread separations that have plagued some Firestone brand tires. With the tremendous amount of publicity generated by the recall of 6.5 million Firestone light truck tires, public concern over tire safety is at an all-time high.
Now is the time for the industry and tire dealers to mount a campaign addressing this situation.
It is a fact that an underinflated tire is potentially dangerous. Tires with low air pressure flex more and lose load-carrying capacity.
Under these circumstances, the tires generate greater heat, which can break down a tire.
Dealers who run tire ads in their local newspapers might want to consider including information on the importance of keeping tires properly inflated.
Tire manufacturers might want to consider doing the same in their advertising and promotion.
Retreaders might point out that inadequate tire pressure—and not retreading—is to blame for tread separations known as "road gators."
At the service counter, dealers could instruct employees to relay information on proper tire maintenance and inflation to customers before they leave the dealership.
Dealers also might want to make it a practice to show customers where information on recommended tire inflation pressure is found (usually on the driver's side door post).
Low tire inflation is a nationwide problem and it will take a national effort by tire dealers and manufacturers to change consumers' habits.