Rolling Resistance & Fuel Economy

Dear Tracy,
I know that I am going to need to replace my tires soon and am currently doing research on my options. Can you tell me how important a factor “rolling resistance” is when selecting tires? Is this a crucial feature in getting the best fuel economy with my car?
Adam S.

Dear Adam,
Rolling resistance refers to the force resisting motion when the tire moves along the surface of the road. The rolling resistance of a vehicle’s tires definitely does have an impact on its fuel economy. In fact, most vehicle manufacturers specify original equipment tires with low rolling resistance to optimize performance for government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate testing. These tires are usually designed for lower weight and rolling resistance, and can be constructed with thinner sidewalls and shallower tread depths. Even the tire’s chemistry may have an impact of rolling resistance. While good for fuel economy, these tires may not have all the attributes you would want in your replacement tires.

Fuel economy is one of many tire buying considerations you should think about in selecting a set of replacement tires. The type of tire you select should offer both performance and safety for your particular car, the type of driving you do, and for the climate in which you live and drive. Many of today’s major tire manufacturers are now offering fuel-saving, low-rolling-resistance tires. Make sure you work with your tire dealer to find a quality tire that offers a good balance of the features and benefits that are important to you.

Finally, when striving for the best fuel economy, remember that your tire selection is just the beginning. Proper tire maintenance is essential not only in getting the best fuel economy, but also making the most of your tire investment. Monitor your tire pressure at least monthly, and keep the pressure level at the amount recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. The correct pressure will be listed in your owner’s manual or labeled on the driver side doorjamb. Regular checks on balance and alignment will also help to make sure you get the best mileage and longest performance life from your tires.