A Better Way to Check Tire Pressure

Feb 26th, 2014 | By Amy Leibrock

How often do you check your car’s tire pressure? Do you even know how often you should check your tire pressure? (Scroll to the bottom for the answer.) It’s not a difficult task, but it’s not convenient, either. You have to find your gauge, keep track of four tiny caps, get your hands dirty, wrestle with an air hose. Is it all worth it?

Well, yes.

Consider this: Approximately 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries occur every year due to low tire inflation, according to the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS). And a shocking amount of gas—4 million gallons a day—is wasted by drivers with low tire pressure, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. There’s a good chance that your car has underinflated tires right now; according to NASS, one in four cars has a tire that is at least 25% under pressure.

Even for people aware of these important stats, checking tire pressure is still an easy task to forget or put off. But what if you could check your tires’ pressure just by glancing at them—with no gauge or caps to mess with? That’s the idea behind a clever new product called RightPSI developed by John Milanovich in Bozeman, Montana. RightPSI is a set of caps that replace your tire caps and let you know when pressure is low or high with a color-coded system; it turns black when the tire is correctly filled, orange when low, and yellow when overfilled. Then you can fill the tire right through the cap—there’s nothing to unscrew (or lose).

RightPSI is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign. They reached their funding goal of $20,000 in just a few days, and the pledges are still rolling in to fund some of their “stretch” goals. We think RightPSI is a great idea that simplifies an important but easy-to-forget task and has the potential to make a real difference in fuel consumption in the United States. We caught up with Milanovich to find out more about his product.

RightPSI Tire Pressure Indicators in a packageSustainable America: How did you get the idea for RightPSI?
John Milanovich: My dad had the original idea and got it patented in the ‘90s. Growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, his family would be continually patching tires, and he became interested in the importance of tire pressure. My dad showed me the patent a few years ago, and I realized we had a great solution. I then hired a team of industrial designers who built off our existing patent and created RightPSI. We were able to get two new patents around our product.

SA: How does it work?
You unscrew your tire cap and then you screw ours on instead. The cap then acts as our indicator. It is black when the tire is correctly filled, orange when low, and yellow when overfilled. It’s visible from more than 20 feet away, and you can pump air directly through the cap.

SA: What kinds of vehicles can it be used on?
RightPSI can be used on any vehicle that has a Shrader valve stem. This includes practically every automobile in the world. The Shrader valve is the only consistent part used across every car in the world. It can also be used on most motorcycles, bikes, wheelchairs, and trailers. Basically, unless you are riding a horse, you are on a tire. We are working on a Presta valve version of our tire, which will address the missing segment of bicycles that do not have a Shrader valve.

SA: Why is it important to keep your tires properly inflated?
Keeping your tires filled correctly improves safety, decreases tire wear, saves money, and decreases pollution. Fuel efficiency is reduced by 1% for every 3.0 PSI that tires are below recommended levels. This means that the average driver can save at least $65 a year on gas and save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere just by keeping their tires properly inflated.

SA: Do you have any research about drivers’ behaviors around filling their tires?
The general population knows it is important, but they just do not check their tires. This is where we see our product adding value. A Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) vehicle safety survey found that 1 in 5 drivers correctly checks their tire pressure, while more than 80% of drivers do not know how to properly check tire pressure. However, 92% of respondents reported that they are concerned with tire pressure.

SA: How much gas does RightPSI have the potential to save?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, under-inflated tires waste 4 million gallons of gasoline daily, or nearly 1.5 billion gallons annually. The amount of oil lost in a year from low tire pressure is close to 1/10 of all U.S. oil imported from Saudi Arabia. This is almost seven times the environmental impact compared to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into Gulf of Mexico.

SA: How does your product compare to electronic tire pressure monitoring systems?
There are 280 million cars in the U.S. Of those, 180 million have no tire pressure monitoring system and 100 million have the electronic version. Ninety percent of the cars with TPMS (electronic pressure monitoring) have the industry standard, which is a light that comes on on the dashboard. This tells you that one of your tires is 25% low, but it doesn’t tell you which tire is low. With ours, you know which tire is low. Also, it acts as a gauge while filling. We think we are a nice complement to TPMS. Also, ours turns bright orange by 20% low, so it is a bit quicker in letting you know you’re low.

SA: What has the response been to the product?
It has been fantastic. We were recognized for our product design with a Popular Mechanics Editor’s Choice Award. We have been at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show for a few years building buzz about the product, and were greeted with amazing interest. We have people who want to distribute the product from Brazil, to China, Russia, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, Korea, Europe, and countries in between.

SA: What stage is your company in?
We are just going into production tooling. Manufacturing is always a hurdle, but we are working with some of the best plastic engineers in the nation.

SA: When will the product be available?
We are looking for a distribution date this summer.

SA: What are some of your biggest challenges right now as a company?
Hiring the right people to take the product to the next level, and getting the word out.

SA: What is the Kickstarter money going to allow you to do next?
Money from Kickstarter is going to help us purchase our tooling and other production items (laser, etc.). Also, we have some reach goals where the money would be very helpful, such as creating a version for a Presta valve and putting a locking mechanism on the base.

We wish John and the RightPSI team luck, and we’ll be keeping an eye on their progress. In the meantime, we’re off to check our tire pressure!

(Safercar.gov recommends checking tire pressure at least once a month. Also, check pressure after driving on poor road surfaces or before a long road trip. The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall.)

Amy Leibrock
Sustainable America Blog Editor

Tagged: fuel savings, fuel efficiency, fuel economy, fuel, fuel saving, startups, save gas, RightPSI, Kickstarter, tire pressure, crowdfunding, Amy Leibrock, Science & Tech, Innovation

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