California Air Pressure Regulation

August 3, 2010

Even though there was a dust up over it in the last presidential campaign, it is universally accepted that low tire pressure negatively affects gas mileage. The Ecology Department of Washington State University estimated that for every 1 psi of under inflation in each of your tires your gas mileage is lowered by 0.4 percent and that just by maintaining recommended pressures you could boost gas mileage by 3.3 percent.

With lowered gas mileage comes an increase in greenhouse gas emissions as vehicles burn more fuel due to poorly inflated tires. This is what a California regulation scheduled to go into effect on September 1, 2010 hopes to curb.

The California Air Resources Board has filed with the state’s Office of Administrative Law a regulation that it hopes will be added to the California Code of Regulations. Aptly named the “Regulation For Under Inflated Vehicle Tires”, it puts the onus of properly inflating tires on automotive service providers.

Under the regulation it will be the service facility’s responsibility to “check and inflate each vehicle’s tires to the recommended tire pressure rating, with air or nitrogen, as appropriate, at the time of performing any automotive maintenance or repair service.” There are additional provisions that control record keeping, the quality of the air gauge used and the availability of tire pressure reference materials.

The shop is not responsible for tire inflation if the vehicle is over 10,000 pounds, the tires are unsafe or the customer declines the service. A customer can decline if their tires have been checked in the last 30 days or they commit to an inflation check in the next 7 days.

Personal responsibility and business management freedom seem to be at odds in this regulation. The auto repair venue is a good clearing place for this screening to take place but if the customer can decline at his own discretion, how well will the regulation achieve the goal of reduced greenhouse gas emissions?          

My reading of the regulation indicates that the repair facility’s responsibilities for bookkeeping and documentation end if the service is free. This is probably a poorly veiled attempt to motivate the shops to offer this service to the public free of charge. The combination of an easy out for the consumer and the need for the shop to charge for the service may frustrate the goal of cleaner air.

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