Tires and Fuel Economy (2023)


There are a lot of things that can affect the gas mileage of your car. At first glance, the wheels and tires of your vehicle may not seem like they would have an impact at all on your fuel economy. However, they directly impact the overall performance and life of the automobile and how efficiently the car performs, depending on how well they are maintained and the size of the wheels.

Can Tires Really Affect Gas Mileage?

The short answer: yes. Tires can make a big difference in the number of miles a driver gets to a tank of gas. In fact, 20% to 30% of a vehicle’s fuel consumption and 24% of road vehicle CO2 emissions are tire-related. Tires affect vehicle fuel efficiency primarily throughrolling resistance.

What is Rolling Resistance?

Rolling resistance is how the tire overcomes inertia. But there are a lot of factors involved in rolling resistance and fuel economy, such as road quality and air drag.


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Rolling resistance is defined as the measure of force at the axle in the direction of travel required to make a loaded tire roll. That is a technical way of saying rolling-resistance measures how much effort the vehicle must put into making the tires roll along the pavement. Tires with low rolling resistance use modern tread design and new materials tominimize the amount of gasoline or electricity required to move the car.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road


Tires are the only material connecting a vehicle to the road. And only a small patch of each tire, called the “contact patch”, is connected to the road at any time. If tires are worn out – it not only impairs handling, but worn tires are likely to slip more on the road which requires the engine to work harder to move the vehicle forward.

A harder working engine translates to an inefficient vehicle. An overworked engine also means it uses more gas per mile than a vehicle driving on properly maintained tires.


Tire treads can impact your fuel economy because 35-50 percent of the rolling resistance of a tire comes from the tire tread.Some tread compounds can reduce rolling resistance a great deal. In addition, the shallower the tread, the more fuel efficient the tire will be. So if you can achieve traction, the more fuel-efficient tires might be shallow-tread rib designs. Unlike race car drivers, who use tires with no tread because they provide less resistance and allow their vehicles to more easily achieve higher speeds, the average driver needs tread to help the vehicle easily brake when the weather is bad. Use the proper type of tire for the type of driving. For instance, using chunky tires suited for off-roading for urban driving will significantly decreasing fuel efficiency.

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Be mindful that as a tire loses treadwear, its performance decreases – especially in the rain and snow.

Tire Size


Larger tires decrease your fuel economy because they are heavier, while smaller tires increase fuel efficiency. Bigger tires also have a higher rolling resistance than smaller tires which means they require more resistance and effort to get them rolling. So, in stop-start traffic the smaller tire would be the better option because less power is needed so it will get better mileage. However, for freeway driving at high speeds, having larger tires can help increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Is this because while it is easier to get a smaller wheel and tire moving than a larger one, once moving, the engine works harder to make the smaller wheel cover the same distance as a larger one. So, for better fuel economy when cruising, the larger wheel would be better.

However, there’s also weight to take into consideration. Somegood advice on tire sizeand weight is for every inch you add in wheel size, compensate by reducing the height of the sidewall. Keep in mind that this will also affect your load capacity, or how much weight the tire can carry.

Proper Inflation

One of the easiest ways to improve fuel economy is to make certain tires are properly inflated. A tire that is 20 percent underinflated can increase a vehicle’s fuel consumption by 10 percent because it provides more resistance, causing your car to expend more effort to get going. Tires with low air pressure will also cause the rubber to bulge where it meets the pavement and create more driving friction (more tire surface meeting the road). Since the weight of the vehicle is not properly supported, this also will put additional strain on the engine. Underinflation also increases the rate of wear on tires and are estimated to cause as many as 10 to 25 percent of blowouts


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In contrast. overinflation of tires can also be dangerous. It can seriously alter the contact patch, reducing the tire’s grip and performance. Overinflation can also place undue stress on the tire, shortening its life span.


To get the best gas mileage, make a habit of checking your tire pressure once a month. Studies show that 42 percent of drivers are unable to identify low tire pressure in their vehicles. By checking your tire’s air pressure regularly, you can ensure that the recommended psi is maintained for optimum performance. Relying solely on the tire pressure monitoring system is not recommended as it will usually provide an alert only when the air pressure reaches 25 percent below where it’s supposed to be.

Nitrogen-filled Tires

There are many claims that nitrogen-filled tires enhance a vehicle’s handling and extends the life of the tires. The claims sound impressive, but are they true? Well, yes….and no.

Airing up tires with nitrogen won’t enhance a vehicle’s performance such as improving ride, handling, or braking. While the air we breathe and tend to fill our tires with is primarily composed of nitrogen anyway (78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and traces of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and noble gases such as neon and argon), pure nitrogen affects tires differently, and can have some advantages.

The main advantage of filling tires with nitrogen over regular compressed air is its ability to maintain proper tire pressure better than regular air, which is key in maintaining traction between the vehicle and the street. Nitrogen reduces the temperature swing’s effect on tire pressure as it isn’t as susceptible to temperature changes as oxygen. Since the molecules that comprise nitrogen’s chemical structure are larger than oxygen’s molecules, nitrogen is less likely to seep through rubber, the prime culprit for deflated tires. Nitrogen-filled tires less susceptibility to temperature swings, is also partly because air has water vapor in it (humidity), and humid air is also more susceptible to pressure changes as a result of temperature. These factors help nitrogen keep the tire pressure more stable over the long term under a wide variety of temperatures and vehicle speeds, and might also extend the life of tires.

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Water vapor produced by oxygen in air can have a corrosive effect on certain components of the tire, such as the sensors used by tire pressure monitoring systems. The corrosion can cause the sensors to wear out faster. Pure nitrogen is an inert gas that doesn’t react to other substances, and therefore has no water vapor that can corrode the components of the tire.

The increments in pressure change due to temperature fluctuations in regular air is relatively small because air is 78 percent nitrogen. In addition, most auto parts are made to be non-corrosive in the long term. These reasons, combined with regular air being cheaper and more accessible than nitrogen (which can cost more than $5 per tire to inflate and be difficult to find), there is not enough of a meaningful difference to justify the extra expense and effort of filling with nitrogen for the average driver. Keeping tires properly pressurized is far more important than what air is used to fill them.



If you still think your vehicle could be more fuel efficient after all these steps, consider customizing your wheels. Most wheels are made of steel, but depending on the weight of your vehicle, you may be able to opt for a lighter alloy wheel. This could decrease the weight of your vehicle and, thus, minimize your car’s resistance. However, be aware that this may affect the types of tires you can buy for your car. If it forces you to get wider tires, you will be trading off some fuel efficiency.


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While the type of tires and wheels can impact gas mileage, proper alignment can also affect a vehicle’s performance. If the alignment is off, it makes the car work harder when you are steering, which means it uses more gas. Regularly take your car in to check the alignment and to have the tires rotated. It is also a good idea to have your shocks or struts checked for excessive wear or damage. Their failure can quickly lead to uneven tire wear.


Does tires affect gas mileage? ›

The short answer: yes. Tires can make a big difference in the number of miles a driver gets to a tank of gas. In fact, 20% to 30% of a vehicle's fuel consumption and 24% of road vehicle CO2 emissions are tire-related. Tires affect vehicle fuel efficiency primarily through rolling resistance.

Does mpg go down with new tires? ›

New Tires Generate More Rolling Resistance Than Worn Tires

The automotive industry estimates a 10% increase in tire rolling resistance equals a 1% to 2% decrease in vehicle fuel efficiency. So, drivers should expect a 2% to 4% decrease in mpg after installing new tires.

How much mpg do you lose with bigger tires? ›

Change one, and you throw the equation off. With today's new tires, there is virtually no difference in mpg due to tire size. As with many questions related to cars and tires, the answer to this question can have nuances, conditions, and variations.

Do at tires use more gas? ›

Consequently, all terrain tires have a greater rolling resistance than their pavement-bound counterparts. They also have a larger effect on fuel economy. The consensus is that on average, all-terrain tires decrease fuel economy by about 3% compared to highway tires.

Will lighter wheels and tires increase gas mileage? ›

Enhanced Fuel Mileage

According to testing by, a combined 3 lb reduction per corner (wheel and tire) improved freeway MPG by 5%. Even bigger savings are generated with city driving as wheel weight is crucial during frequent acceleration and deceleration.

What are fuel saver tires? ›

What are Fuel Efficient Tires? Fuel efficient tires have low rolling resistance that require less energy than standard tires to propel them in the direction of travel. The easier it is to roll the tires, the less heat is generated, and the less fuel needed to propel the vehicle.

Which tire is better for fuel efficiency wide or narrow? ›

Wide tires provide for more friction, making your vehicle consume more fuel, whereas narrow tires cause your car to consume less fuel because they have lower amounts of friction.

What makes a car fuel-efficient? ›

The greater the thermal efficiency of an engine — the more energy that an engine converts into mechanical energy — the greater the engine's fuel efficiency. Compression engines have a higher thermal efficiency because they have higher compression ratios.

How can you maximize fuel economy when accelerating? ›

Pressing the accelerator pedal gently will help you save gas. Following this rule of thumb allows for more efficient driving. Aim to take about five seconds to accelerate your vehicle up to 15 miles per hour from a stop. For a manual transmission, use a moderate throttle position and shift between 2000 and 2500 rpm.

Do bigger tires affect mph? ›

You might ask: do bigger tires make your speedometer faster? The answer is no.

Do wider tires ride better? ›

As a result, a wider tire will give you better traction on dry surfaces but also on damp roads. If you compare the same car with narrower and wider tires, the braking distances will be shorter with the wider tires attached. Moreover, the vehicle can drive faster through the corners and accelerate with less wheel slip.

Does rotating your tires save gas? ›

Getting your tires rotated routinely can also help save you gas mileage. Tire rotation service helps to reduce uneven wear to the tread of the tire, so your tires last longer.

Do tires last longer with more or less air? ›

Keeping your car's tires properly inflated to the automaker's recommended pressures is a critical element of tire maintenance. Tires that contain the specified amount of air pressure last longer and contribute to vehicle safety.

Is it better to have more or less air in tires? ›

Low tire pressure always is more dangerous than high tire pressure. When tires are deflated, more rubber touches the ground, the tires heat up and you're in danger of a blowout.

Does having rims waste more gas? ›

Where rims and tyres are concerned, their weight and diameter can directly influence momentum. For any given speed, wheels with wider widths and larger diameters will increase momentum. This means more torque will be needed and hence more fuel will be consumed by the engine.

What are the benefits of lighter tires? ›

Reducing unsprung weight pays dividends in a number of ways, not only making for less mass to get rolling (and stopping) but for less wear on suspension and in some cases a better ride. And the less unsprung weight there is, the easier it is to keep the tires in contact with the road.

Do 20 inch tires wear out faster? ›

That said, a given 20″ car tire is more likely, on the whole, to be a high-performance tire, and those do wear out more quickly. Longevity and performance are opposites, which is why race cars change tires so often.

What tires give the best mileage? ›

Best Touring All-Season Tires for Fuel Economy
  • Continental TrueContact Tour. Check Price. at at at at at at ...
  • Michelin Defender2. Check Price. ...
  • Yokohama AVID Ascend LX. Check Price. ...
  • Goodyear Assurance MaxLife. Check Price.

Are all-season tires less fuel-efficient? ›

Even so, you should think about: All-weather tyres always represent some kind of compromise. For example, fuel consumption with these tyres is more than for normal summer tyres. The reason for this is that the softer rubber mix also accelerates wear.

Is fuel saver worth it? ›

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true. While fuel saver devices make some lofty promises to improve your fuel economy, they typically make little impact on the MPGs a driver experiences. Popular Mechanics even discovered that some of these devices hurt drivers' MPGs.

Which tires matter the most? ›

Rear tires provide the vehicle stability, and if they have little tread, then stability is lost. Although new front tires will spread water and maintain traction, worn tires in the back will hydroplane and may cause the vehicle to spin out, says Tire Review.

Do wider tires hydroplane easier? ›

Wider tires have an increased risk of hydroplaning on slippery or wet surfaces, but they generally provide better grip for dry surfaces. Narrow tires will offer better traction in slippery conditions, but they are generally better for lighter vehicles.

What are the disadvantages of wider tires? ›

Wider tires create more friction than narrow ones, reducing fuel economy. Besides, wider wheels will be heavier and require the engine to work more to move. That's why your car will have to fill up faster than usual.

At what speed is my car most fuel-efficient? ›

Midsize conventional gasoline cars achieve their best fuel economy at 55 mph. The fuel economy of midsize conventional diesel cars declines gradually from 45 to 55 mph and then drops quickly thereafter. The midsize hybrid electric vehicle loses efficiency more evenly between 45 and 75 mph.

How can I increase my gas mileage by 70 percent? ›

How to Increase Your Gas Mileage by 70 Percent
  1. Never drive above 45 mph. Yes, this includes highways. ...
  2. Remove passenger side mirror. ...
  3. Avoid braking and rapid acceleration. ...
  4. Turn off engine at red lights. ...
  5. Windows up/AC off. ...
  6. Try to stay relaxed. ...
  7. Legally draft when possible. ...
  8. Overinflate tires by 10 percent.

Does driving faster save fuel? ›

The short answer: Nope. The reason: The common understanding is that going faster burns more fuel and therefore, the slower you drive, the less fuel your car will use, but this actually isn't true. Most cars' peak fuel efficiency occurs somewhere between 50-60 miles per hour.

Does AC waste gas? ›

Yes: The alternator, which is powered by the engine, is what provides energy to the air conditioner. The engine runs on fuel, meaning you are using up gas when you run the AC. With that said, enjoying a bit of cool air doesn't necessarily mean you're being inefficient.

Why is 55 mph the most efficient speed? ›

Cars use 50% of their energy overcoming aerodynamic drag. Reducing highway speed to 55 mph or less can improve fuel economy between six to eight miles per gallon.

Does cruise control save gas? ›

Generally speaking, yes. Cruise control can help you become more fuel-efficient and can help you save an average of 7-14% on gas thanks to its ability to maintain a continuous speed. In comparison, the constant change in acceleration and deceleration of the driver placing their foot over the pedals can eat more gas.

Do bigger tires hurt your transmission? ›

Increasing Tire Size Can Wear Out Your Drivetrain & Transmission.

What happens when you increase tire size? ›

Installing larger wheels and tires, also known as “plus-sizing,” can affect the accuracy of its speedometer and odometer, handling, steering response and more. If done incorrectly, changing the tire size can be detrimental to the safety of your vehicle.

Does a car go faster with bigger or smaller tires? ›

Larger wheel diameters can result in faster and more composed handling; however, it can also result in slower acceleration capability. While there are a few disadvantages for any vehicle when increasing the wheel and/or tire size, curb appeal usually outweighs them.

What hurts gas mileage the most? ›

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic. Excessive idling decreases MPG. The EPA city test includes idling, but more idling will lower MPG.

What wastes the most gas in a car? ›

Speeding shouldn't come as a surprise as one of the top ways to waste gas. When you speed, you force your car to operate at a higher level that requires more gas and the more you speed, the more gas you'll use. For the best MPG performance, our fleet fuel card company suggests driving at a speed of 55-60 mph.

Why is my gas draining so fast? ›

A bad fuel injector or dirty/old fuel filter can drastically affect the flow of fuel into the engine. A fuel system problem is one of the most common causes of poor gas mileage. The more you run your A/C, the lower gas mileage you will get.

Should you put bigger tires on front or back? ›

While it's fine to put narrower tyres on the front and wider on the back, it's pointless to put wider tyres on just one side of the car. This would change the weight balance and would mean one side of the vehicle would grip differently to the road when braking. It would change the cornering dynamic, too.

Is it OK to put wider tires on my car? ›

As a general rule of thumb, it's safe to fit a tire up to 20 millimeters wider than stock on the original rim. The actual width of the tire will vary depending on the width of the rim: The tire will expand 5 millimeters for every half-inch (12.5 millimeters) increase in rim width.

Can I replace 275 tires with 265? ›

Going from 265 to 275 is fine on your car and you should not notice any difference in driving. It's less than a 4% difference in width: 10/265 = 0.0377).

Will alignment help gas mileage? ›

Fuel Efficiency

Misalignment can decrease gas mileage by up to 10%, writes Investopedia. Instead of rolling freely, misaligned tires drag. That means if your tires aren't adjusted properly, you could be spending more money on gas. A wheel alignment could help you conserve fuel and fill up less often.

How often should I get an alignment? ›

Generally speaking, you'll want to get your vehicle's wheels at least checked for proper alignment once a year or every other oil change.

Should you balance your tires every time you rotate them? ›

It's not completely necessary to balance tires when rotating, but it is a good idea to do so. When performed by a shop, the balancing procedure is inexpensive, so its usually paired with the rotation. If you're doing a rotation job yourself, it's up to you whether you want to also balance.

What shortens the life of tires? ›

Poor driving habits like hard cornering, quick acceleration, and sudden braking can increase the stress on tires tremendously, causing them to wear rapidly. Drivers can extend the life of their tires significantly by avoiding aggressive driving.

Should you always buy 4 tires at a time? ›

It's always best to replace all 4 tires at the same time. This is because all 4 tires spin independently of one another, and different tread depths and/or styles can cause them to spin at different speeds. That could potentially damage the drive train, and possibly affect an indirect TPMS system if the vehicle has one.

Is 36 psi too high for tires? ›

Recommended tire pressure

Based on normal tire sizes for each segment, small-sized car are usually 30 psi, medium-sized cars are 36 psi, and large cars are 42 psi. Keep in mind that warm tires normally exceed recommended cold tire pressures by 4-6 psi.

Do properly inflated tires help increase gas mileage? ›

You can improve your gas mileage by 0.6% on average—up to 3% in some cases—by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.

Is 40 PSI too high for tires? ›

For instance, if 35 psi is recommended, and the maximum safe pressure listed on your sidewall is 44 psi, you can safely put 38 or 40 psi in your tires. You can even go to 44 psi. You'll experience a harder ride, but you won't create a blowout danger. You may even experience sharper cornering and increased fuel economy.

Is 35 PSI too much for tires? ›

Ideal Tire Pressure

Tire pressure between 32 to 35 PSI is most suitable for most vehicles. However, one can go as low as 20 PSI (although that is not recommended). Anything below 20 PSI is considered a flat tire. PSI stands for Pounds per Square Inch.

Do tires make a difference? ›

If your tires are old and worn, they are far more likely to lose traction and cause your car to hydroplane. In addition to improving your stopping power, new tires provide better handling and decrease the chances of hydroplaning and losing control of your car.

Can bad tires affect acceleration? ›

If your car tyres are worn or damaged in any way, it affects braking, acceleration, traction, handling, steering and comfort.

Is it better to replace 2 tires or 4? ›

It's always best to replace all 4 tires at the same time. This is because all 4 tires spin independently of one another, and different tread depths and/or styles can cause them to spin at different speeds. That could potentially damage the drive train, and possibly affect an indirect TPMS system if the vehicle has one.

Should I replace all tires or just 2? ›

To achieve optimum vehicle handling, ride comfort, and road traction, it's generally recommended that you have all four tires replaced at the same time.

What speed is most fuel-efficient? ›

About 55 miles per hour is the optimum speed for most cars. Kick it up to 65 mph and you are 8 percent less efficient; at 80 mph you are 28 percent less efficient. Slowing down can also mean reducing your carbon footprint.

What can help Maximise fuel economy? ›

Shift up early – when accelerating, shift to higher gear early, usually by around 2,000-2,500 revs per minute (RPM). Skip gears when appropriate. Avoid excessive speed – high speeds greatly increase fuel consumption.

Does a car get faster with harder tires? ›

Speed. If you're a car owner who likes to drive fast, then you'll definitely want to take tires into consideration. Harder tires will give your car better traction, which means they'll be able to handle top speeds; this is because they don't have as much grip.

Do bad tires slow your car down? ›

As the tire is warped and forced to flex because of the reduced pressure, this will cause the tire to wear down faster. Then, the performance decreases as the car becomes more difficult to control at increased speeds. You'll have to drive much slower to maintain the grip you'd typically have.


1. AGGRESSIVE tires effect on FUEL ECONOMY?
2. Do Bigger Tires Really Hurt Fuel Mileage?
(Crutchfield Automotive)
3. LRR Tires vs. Fuel Economy (A little disappointing)
(Jack Talks Tires)
4. 1,000 Mile Update - Do Larger Tires Affect MPG?
(We're the Russos)
5. Can tires improve fuel economy? | Consumer Reports
(Consumer Reports)
6. Size of wheels and tires affect fuel economy and MPG
(Jace Auto)


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