When it comes to getting the most out of a tank of gas, proper tire inflation plays a real part at the pump.
There are serious safety risks for underinflated tires, but a new study finds drivers still are not listening.
Roxy Labrada babies her new SUV by always keeping it spotless and in tip-top shape. But when it comes to one piece of maintenance, she simply spins her wheels.
"I don't check my tire pressure regularly," Labrada.
In fact, Labrada said she cant even remember the last time she pumped up the pressure.
Labrada said, "I just don't make the time for it."
During a recent survey by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, only 55 percent of drivers reported checking their tires during the prior month. That is down from 70 percent over the same period last year.
"This is a very critical safety concern," Daniel Zielinski of the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Low pressure could lead to poor handling and even tire failure, experts said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns underinflated tires are to blame for 660 deaths and 33,000 injuries on the road each year.
"I wasn't aware that it was that much of an issue," said Labrada.
It's not just safety at stake, experts said. Underinflation could lead to quicker tire wear and consumers could also end up paying more at the pump.
"When your tires are underinflated, you're putting more rubber, more friction on the road, so you're going to burn more gas," said Zielinski.
A growing number of cars are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems and they will be standard in all new vehicles starting next year. However, experts said consumers should not think that will get them off the hook.
"AAA does have concerns that when tire pressure monitoring systems become standard, motorists will pay even less attention to their tires," said Michael Calkins of AAA.
Experts said that is a bad move since the systems do not alert drivers until pressure drops by 25 percent.
"Just like when the engine oil light comes on. That's the time when you may have a serious oil problem. So, same with the tire pressure monitoring system, when that light comes on, you have a serious tire problem," said Calkins.
To prevent problems, AAA said weekly tire checks are best, but monthly is OK, too.
To find the right pressure, experts recommend checking the owner's manual or the decal located on the driver's side door jam.
Contrary to popular belief, Zielinski said, "Motorists should never use the tire pressure that's molded onto the tire sidewall, because that's the pressure required for the tire to be at its maximum load capacity, not the recommended inflation pressure."
When Labrada checked her tire pressure, she was shocked to find all four of her tires were underinflated.
"I need to put some air in my tires," said Labrada.
When checking tire pressure, experts caution to use your own tire gauge rather than the one attached to an air machine at a gas station or service center.
The gauges at gas stations or service centers could be out of calibration and might not give an accurate reading, experts said.
Copyright Copyright 2007 by 10News.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.