April 14, 2021 at 10:54 AM
TYRE CARE AND MAINTENANCE IS IMPORTANT
As the only part of the car to actually come into contact with the road, tyres and their condition are vitally important to the road safety of you and other road users. Unfortunately, they're often overlooked during regular maintenance checks that typically only monitor oil, water and windscreen washer levels.
Tyre specialists advise that we should perform a visual check on all our tyres (including the spare) at least once a month. During this check, you're looking to see if stones, nails or other sharp objects have penetrated the tyre, or if there are any cuts, tears or bulges.
You can expect an MOT failure if:
- Your tyres aren't fit for purpose
- You have tyres of different sizes on the same axle
- The tyre tread is below the legal limit
Although they will naturally deteriorate despite the best level of care, keeping them in the best condition possible will go a long way to cutting down risks in all types of road and weather conditions. Monthly checks will also indicate when you're tyres are near replacement so you can save money in preparation for changing them.
Here are a few tips that you can do to help maintain your tyres.
TYRE TREAD DEPTH
In the UK it is illegal to drive on tyres that are under the correct tread depth of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre around the complete circumference. It's recommended that you replace your tyres when they reach 3mm tread depth.
It will take an extra two car lengths (8 metres) to stop a car travelling at 50mph in wet weather with a tread depth of 1.6mm compared to 3mm.
There is a quick an easy test to check the tread depth of your tyres and all you need is a 20p coin. If you can see the outer edges of the coin after placing it in a groove, it indicates that you need to change that tyre.
If you're not sure whether your tread is illegal always consult a professional. It's best to buy four tyres at once so that they wear evenly, but it's understandable not to do so. Specialists advise that you should at least replace both tyres on the same axle at the same time.
Having the right tyre pressure increases your vehicle's safety, improves fuel efficiency and helps to prolong the lifespan of your tyres. Under-inflated tyres cause the sidewalls to be compressed by the vehicle's weight which has two effects:
- The tyres flex over their regular limits making them more susceptible to blow-outs
- More of the tyre tread touches the surface of the road which increased the friction and slows the tyre as it rolls along the road. Therefore, your vehicle has to use more power and in turn, more fuel
Under-inflated and over-inflated tyres cause rapid wear along the edges and the centre of the tread respectively. If a tyre is operating at around 80% of the optimum pressure, its lifespan can be decreased by up to 75%.
The correct pressure setting for your tyres is determined by the manufacturer and is different depending on the make and model of your vehicle. You should be able to find the correct pressure rating for your vehicle in at least one of the following places:
- Vehicle manual
- Printed on the inside ledge of the driver's door
- Inside the petrol cap
If you can't find the recommended pressure you can use this tyre pressure site - all you need is your registration number.
Over time, your tyres will naturally lose some pressure. It is estimated that on average this will be around one psi (pounds per square inch) per month, and one psi for every drop in temperature that is more than ten degrees centigrade.
Checking your vehicle's tyre pressure is easy and you can do it at home for free in a couple of minutes once you have an accurate pressure gauge. Ideally, this should be done when the tyres are cold (ie. driven under two miles). Remove the dust cap on the valve, fix the pressure gauge and take note of the result.
If the result is below the correct pressure you should inflate it using an air pump at home (if you have one), or use the facilities available in most petrol stations.
If your tyre is over-inflated, you can allow air to escape while the dust cap is off to bring it down to the correct pressure.
All new cars registered after the 1st November 2012 in the EU are required to be fitted with a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). A device is installed in the vehicle that links to the tyres to monitor the tyre pressure as well as temperature, alerting the driver if there is a problem.
You should check your tyre pressure at least once a month and before you go on any long trips. While you're doing this, you can also perform the visual tyre check mentioned above.
Any sort of vibration felt on the steering may be down to a wheel imbalance which can actually lift your tyre from contacting the road. This vibration causes high-pressure stress in the steering and suspension, resulting in excessive mechanical wear, higher fuel consumption and tyre wear.
Rebalancing the wheels is an easily corrected and inexpensive job that can be completed at your local garage. Using a computerised electronic wheel balancer to measure the imbalance, small metal weights are added to even things up.
Whenever you change a tyre or have a puncture repaired, it is essential to have your wheels balanced.
HOW LONG DO TYRES LAST?
The lifespan of a tyre depends on a range of variables including the quality of the tyre, how well it's looked after and the road conditions it's used on.
If you drive somewhere around 12,000 - 15,000 miles a year, it is likely that a tyre's tread will wear out in three to four years, whereas, if you only drive 6,000 miles a year, it should last a lot longer.
However, tyre experts Michelin recommend that you should only keep a tyre up to ten years even if they still have a legal tread depth. They also suggest that after the fifth year, the tyres should be inspected by a professional at least once a year.