What’s the story behind low-rolling-resistance tires?

Car manufacturers, especially those who create hybrid cars, pay careful attention to fuel efficiency and look at everything possible to increase it, including combining electric motors with gas engines, the weight of a car, the materials used to make it and also its aerodynamics. In the last few years however they have also devoted quite a bit of time to something that most people hadn’t even thought of; their car’s tires.

Indeed, hybrids have been rolling off the factory floor with “low rolling resistance” tires for a few years including makes from Toyota, Lexus, Ford and Honda among others. All of these carmakers have realized that where the “rubber meets the road” they can actually squeeze out a few extra miles with the right tires.

So what exactly are low rolling resistance tires? In the most basic terms, they are simply tires that are harder than regular tires. They use a harder rubber compound and, due to this, roll easier. With a lowered rolling resistance, most automobiles will thus save fuel because their engine or electric motor will have to work less to keep their car moving forward.

Before rushing out to buy a new set of low rolling resistance tires for your car  you’d best take a little time to understand the advantages and some disadvantages that they have.

Increased mileage is the main advantage of course. The reason car manufacturers are using them on all of their new hybrid vehicles is because of this, but the question is how much will they save you if you put them onto your regular car once your tires have worn down enough that they need to be replaced. It’s been shown that the average automobile will typically increase their MPG by 1 to 2 miles per gallon which, on the surface, it seems to be insignificant but actually amounts to about a $300 savings per year, depending on how much you drive.

One of the major disadvantages to low rolling resistance tires is that, since they’re harder, they also produce a bit more noise on the road and a ride that’s a bit rougher than normal. In some cases they can actually reduce your car’s handling performance and even increase the distance your car needs to come to a complete stop when you’re braking. Most of the major manufacturers are hard at work figuring out ways around these disadvantages.  Keep in mind that some tires are better at solving them than others.

If you already own a hybrid car than you already are enjoying the extra fuel efficiency that these new tires can provide. If you are looking to increase your MPG and possibly by your own set of low rolling resistance tires for your existing car, make sure to do your due diligence and research before you make your final decision. Just like purchasing a set of “regular” tires, low rolling resistance tires aren’t exactly cheap but they can make a big difference in your car’s performance and handling and thus should not be a decision you take lightly.

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