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Does rolling resistance really matter?


With fuel prices on the rise again and  consumer demand for eco-friendly products higher than ever, many motorists have their sights set on low rolling resistance tires. These tires, which minimize the friction (and therefore energy lost) between the tread and the road, promise better gas mileage and less oil consumption. Many swear by low rolling resistance tires, but many are also starting to ask questions about just how effective they are, as well as how uniform and accurate current rolling resistance measurment tests are.

Major tire manufacturers such as Goodyear have begun to heavily market their eco-friendly tires as a guaranteed way to generate improved fuel economy. The Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires promise a 4% improvement. But can drivers really expect this improvement to be standard regardless of other circumstances and conditions? The short answer is that while low rolling resistance tires can improve fuel economy, there are dozens of factors which affect the amount of rolling resistance a tire generates. That means it’s very difficult for a manufacturer, or even a third party like the NHTSA, to estimate a tires rolling resistance. Factors like vehicle weight, its aerodynamic design, the condition of the road surface, tire inflation, and wheel alignment can all affect a tire’s rolling resistance. In light of this, it’s important to understand that any improvements promised by manufacturers should be taken as ballpark figures, not laws etched in stone. This also means that regulating agencies must be careful not to make rolling resistance standards cost-prohibitive to the manufacturer.

The bottom line? Low rolling resistance tires will save you fuel and money in many cases. The exact percentage is subject to debate and vulnerable to influence from many other factors. If you want to do everything you can to improve your fuel economy, these tires are the way to go. But if you’re purchasing them because the manufacturer or the NHTSA or anybody else promises an x.x% improvement, understand that you may not see the same results that these organizations achieved in controlled laboratory conditions.


Filed under: Eco-friendly Tires, Low Rolling Resistance Tires, , ,

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