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December 23, 2014

Low-Rolling Resistance Tires: Pros and Cons with RNR Custom Wheels and Tire Express

Dear Bree,

What’s the difference between a regular tire and a tire with low-rolling resistance?  I’m told it will improve my gas mileage, but I don’t understand how or how much.  Are there negatives to low-rolling resistance tires?  I mean, are they too good to be true?  It seems like if they were so great, everyone would be clamoring for them, so what gives?

Confused in Clearwater

Dear Confused,

Great question!  Low-rolling resistance tires have become very popular with car companies looking to improve the fuel economy on their new line of vehicles.  Per EPA regulations, fuel economy standards are on the rise, and car companies have mandates to improve fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025.  That means that they’re looking for more and more ways to make their numbers rise, and low-rolling resistance tires are one of the things they’re pushing for.  The difference between regular tires and low-rolling resistance tires is created by tread patterns and harder sidewalls (material composition).  To lower roll resistance, basically tire makers need less of the tire to meet the road.  As you probably know, when rubber meets pavement, friction is created, and thus heat.  The more rubber on road, the more rolling resistance and the more energy expended by the vehicle to go (and more fuel consumed).   Low-rolling resistance tires can add a mile or two to those fuel economy numbers that car manufacturers are chasing.

The downside: Less rubber on the road means less grip, which could affect stopping (especially on wet roads) and taking off.  Some consumers complain of handling and performance issues; others say that these tires wear out faster and don’t improve their mpg enough to make up for the handling issues and reduced life of tires.  Part of the problem is this: Consumers’ expectations are high.  If they’re getting tires that are supposed to improve their mpg, they want to see improvement of 5 to 10 mpg, and that’s just not realistic–at least for now.  Research shows that for a 10% reduction in rolling resistance, you get about a 1% gain in fuel economy.  Another issue is that when customers come in for new tires and choose low-rolling resistance tires, they want to drive away and see results immediately, but the bald tires they replaced had an even lower rolling resistance (considering their lack of tread), so no matter what new tire is put on, the rolling resistance is bound to increase.  Make sense?  You’ll really see the difference in fuel economy over the life of the tire, rather than right away.

Technology keeps improving and these tires do, too.  Tire manufacturers continue to work on material composition and tread patterns to improve the fuel economy and other issues consumers are concerned with.  Low-rolling resistance tires are here to stay, and engineers keep working to make them better and better.  Keep your eye on them.

Come into any RNR store and talk to one of our associates about these tires for more info and to see the differences in tread pattern, etc. for yourself.  Things are always changing, my friend, and that goes for tires, too; and we think change can be good.  If you’re looking to get new tires, come see us.  We can definitely make some recommendations for you, and get you back on the road fast (with a payment plan you can afford!)!  Stay safe!


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