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Everything You Need to Know About Tyres

By: Kevin Dowling BA (IMC) - Updated: 5 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Tyres Car Safety Maintain Road Users

Your car’s tyres are extremely important in ensuring that your car is performing at its best. They play an important part in how your car handles on the road and the amount of fuel your car consumes.

Yet most road users know very little about their tyres or how best to maintain them. For example it is believed that three quarters of all British motorists are currently driving with under-inflated tyres.

Motorists can be fined up to £2,500 and get three points on their licence for each unsafe tyre on their vehicle, so as well as the safety implications, there’s several reasons to make sure that you are looking after your tyres properly.

Checking Tyre Pressure

If your tyres are under-inflated it will result in your tyres wearing out faster, providing you with less grip on difficult surfaces and slower braking times.

Conversely, good tyre pressure will mean sharper braking, improved acceleration and more responsive steering. It will also mean increased fuel economy and increase the life span of your tyres.

Your tyre pressure be checked regularly, at least once a week, and certainly before you embark on a long journey.

You should check the pressure in your tyres at least once a week, and before every long journey. If the pressure seems low, check it immediately with a tyre gauge.

If you are unsure what the recommended tyre pressure for your car is, you can find out by looking through your user’s manual. Alternatively, it is often located on the rear doorjamb on the driver’s side. Many petrol stations also include a chart with correct pressures next to their electric tyre pump.

Damage and repairs

If your tyres are damaged in any way, then you shouldn’t delay in getting them examined by a specialist. Not all damage will necessarily result in having to replace the tyre, but it is worth making sure that a registered tyre fitter removes the tyre from your vehicle, before making a proper inspection.

This should be done as soon as possible, as any delay could result in the tyre rapidly losing pressure, causing your car to lose grip on the road or even a tyre blow out.

When you are checking your tyre pressure, you should also give your tyres a quick examination for any bumps, bulges or splits. You should also keep an eye out for any foreign objects, such as glass shards or nails embedded in the rubber that could cause a slow puncture.

Checking your Tyre Tread

The tread of your tyre is the inner markings, and they are designed to provide the best possible grip on the road, particular when the road surface is wet. The more you drive, particularly on wet roads, the more the tread on your tyres will wear away. The more tread your tyres have, the sooner your car will break in wet conditions.

By law, the minimum depth of a tyre’s tread is 1.6mm around its circumference. You can check whether your minimum tread was worn down to dangerous levels when its thickness is level with the small indicators in between the thicker parts of the tread.

It is advisable to do something about the tread of your tyres before they are worn down to the legal minimums. Ideally you should have at least 3mm of tread on each tyre.

Using Spare Tyres

It is always wise to carry a temporary spare tyre with you, but you should also know the rules when it comes to using your spare.

You should always try to drive slower than 50 miles per hour, and drive with greater caution than you would normally. You should not try to travel on a temporary spare for any more than 50 miles, as they are not designed for use on longer journeys. 50 miles should be enough to get you home or to a garage so that you can get the originally tyre replaced and put the spare back in the boot.

‘Run Flat’ Tyres

Run flat tyres have been designed to survive a puncture and keep going. Run flat tyres are becoming more common in newer, luxury cars, and they use an electronic tyre monitoring system to ensure that they stay inflated at the correct level. To identify a run flat tyre, check whether it has RF or RSC in the size indicator section.

Replacing your tyres

When it is time to replace a tyre, you should try to replace all four of the car’s tyres at once, so as not to affect the car’s handling too much. If this is not possible, try to replace the front tyres or back tyres as a pair so as not to unbalance the car’s alignment.

Poorly maintained tyres are estimated to cost British drivers more than £2 billion a year. Follow this advice and you can cut your motoring costs and improve your car’s safety.

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