Fuel consumption is not only a factor of engine capacity and badly maintained tyres can be a significant contributor to increased fuel use – and spending a lot more money at the pumps where prices have just shot up and are likely to see further increases during the year.

“South Africa’s fuel prices are adjusted monthly, largely due to international factors, such as crude oil prices, levies, and the Rand/US Dollar exchange rate. All these factors are outside of our control as everyday South Africans, but to make sure we get to school and to work, we need to travel by road,” says Sumitomo Rubber SA CEO, Lubin Ozoux.

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“For drivers, this means we do have control over one critical aspect of our vehicles that has a direct impact on our fuel consumption, and that is our vehicle’s tyres. We need to empower ourselves with information on how to purchase the right tyre, and how to inspect a tyre to avoid having issues that would lead to extra fuel consumption."  

Vehicle owners often overlook tyre maintenance, but its impact on fuel consumption is significant. Properly maintained tyres not only ensure safety but also contribute to better fuel efficiency. Conversely, neglecting tyre care can lead to increased fuel consumption, resulting in unnecessary expenses and environmental harm.

  1. Underinflation:
    • Underinflated tyres create more rolling resistance, requiring the engine to work harder to propel the vehicle forward.
    • Studies suggest that for every 1 psi drop in tyre pressure, fuel efficiency can decrease by about 0,2%.
    • Underinflation also causes tyres to wear out faster, leading to frequent replacements, which further adds to costs and environmental impact due to tyre disposal.
  2. Overinflation:
    • While overinflated tyres may seem to offer better fuel economy initially, they result in uneven wear patterns, reducing tyre lifespan.
    • Overinflated tyres have less contact area with the road, which compromises traction and handling, especially in wet or slippery conditions.
    • Reduced traction may prompt drivers to compensate by accelerating more aggressively, ultimately increasing fuel consumption.
  3. Imbalanced Tyres:
    • Imbalanced tyres cause vibrations that affect vehicle performance and fuel efficiency.
    • These vibrations result in discomfort for passengers and can lead to mechanical issues such as premature wear on suspension components.
    • Balancing tyres ensures even weight distribution, minimising vibrations and optimizing fuel efficiency.
  4. Misalignment:
    • Wheel misalignment causes tyres to drag instead of rolling freely, increasing fuel consumption.
    • Misaligned tyres also wear unevenly, reducing tyre lifespan and necessitating premature replacements.
    • Additionally, misalignment can lead to steering instability and compromised vehicle safety.
  5. Poor Tread Depth:
    • Worn-out tyre treads diminish traction, particularly in adverse weather conditions like rain or mud.
    • Vehicles with inadequate tread depth require more energy to maintain grip on the road, resulting in higher fuel consumption.
    • Moreover, shallow treads increase the risk of hydroplaning, posing a safety hazard to drivers and passengers.
  6. Neglected Tyre Rotation:
    • Failure to rotate tyres regularly leads to uneven wear, affecting fuel efficiency.
    • Front tyres typically wear faster than rear tyres due to steering and braking forces. Uneven wear results in increased rolling resistance and fuel consumption.
    • Rotating tyres at recommended intervals ensures even wear distribution, prolonging tyre life and maintaining fuel efficiency.

Correct tyre maintenance is essential for optimising fuel efficiency and reducing overall vehicle operating costs. Neglecting tyre care not only increases fuel consumption but also compromises safety and contributes to environmental degradation through unnecessary fuel consumption and premature tyre disposal.

Vehicle owners should prioritise regular tyre inspections, proper inflation, alignment, rotation, and tread depth checks to ensure optimal performance, safety and sustainability on the road. By investing in proper tyre maintenance, drivers can not only save money but also minimise their carbon footprint and contribute to a greener, more sustainable future.

Colin Windell