Back in 2008, during one of the more memorable exchanges in the US Presidential race between then-Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain centred on offshore drilling — its value to the American nation, or lack thereof. Sen Obama took an unusual approach to the argument: He focused on tyre pressure. "Making sure your tyres are properly inflated, simple thing, but we could save all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling, if everybody was just inflating their tyres and getting regular tune-ups," he said. "You could actually save just as much."

Replied Sen McCain: "My opponent doesn’t want to drill, he doesn’t want nuclear power, he wants you to inflate your tyres."

Obama's claim — that simply maintaining proper tyre pressure could save as much fuel as the country stood to gain from offshore drilling — sent fact-checkers scurrying for answers. Could it be true? Could such a simple trick — managing four tyres' PSI can be accomplished in about four minutes — really improve fuel economy by 4% and, collectively speaking, save a billion gallons of petrol a year? The answer, according to the US Government Accountability Office, is an emphatic yes. Notes a GAO memorandum dated 9 Feb 2007: "The Department of Energy’s designated economist on this issue indicated that, of the 130 billion gallons of fuel that the Transportation Research Board (TRB) estimated were used in passenger cars and light trucks in 2005, about 1.2 billion gallons were wasted as a result of driving on underinflated tires." The memo notes that in 1999, underinflated tyres contributed to the deaths of nearly 250 motorists and caused the injuries of some 25,000 more.

Check out the video below for some useful tips.

If you would like to comment on this or anything else you have seen on BBC Autos, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter. And while you're at it, join the BBC Autos community on Instagram.

And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Autos, Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.