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Tyre Safety and Why it Matters

By: Kevin Dowling BA (IMC) - Updated: 7 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Tyre Safety Vehicle Motorist Insurance

Make no mistake about it, the four tyres on your vehicle are extremely important when it comes to its smooth running and safety. They are the only point of contact between your car and the road. Yet most motorists neglect their tyres to an alarming extent.

According to a national survey conducted last year by Tyre Safe, almost 40% of vehicles randomly tested were found to be driving on dangerously under inflated tyres.

Furthermore, one in eight vehicles were discovered with illegal tyres where the tread was deemed so worn away as to pose a serious threat, not only to the driver and passengers in the car itself, but also to other road users.

Why should you maintain your tyres?

Worn tyres can have an extremely destabilising affect on a vehicle. Tyres running on a low tread can cause problems with braking, steering and accelerating, the essentials needed for good driving.

Not only do poorly maintained tyres present a driving hazard, they are also illegal and could invalidate a motorist’s insurance if they are involved in an accident. This could mean costly repairs, fines or even a prison sentence all because a vehicle’s tyres have been neglected. So what do you need to know about your tyres?

Understanding tyre pressures

Tyres should be always be correctly inflated. Not only does tyre pressure affect a car’s road handling and braking ability, as well as fuel consumption, but over or under-inflated tyres will also drastically reduce the life span of the tyres themselves. A tyre does not have to appear flat to be dangerously under inflated. The specific tyre pressure for your vehicle can be found in the handbook or user’s manual.

Remember that the recommended tyre pressure is for cold tyres, so make sure that you check the pressure before you start out on a journey, not after. Pressures will also be needed to be adjusted if you are planning on carrying a heavy load.

Tread Depth

The tread of a tyre is what helps it keep a firm grip on the road, vitally important during wet weather If the tread is too worn then you run the risk of losing traction and skidding. The legal minimum tread on a tyre is 1.6mm. It is, however, recommended that tyres with a tread of less than 3.0mm should be replaced sooner rather than later.

You can check the tyre tread with a special depth gauge, available from all good garages or petrol stations. Many new tyres have built-in tread indicators, small blocks of rubber that when they are level with the tread of the tyre, demonstrate that they are ready to be replaced.

Remember that for each illegal tyre discovered a motorist could face a fine of up to £2,5000, as well as three penalty points on their licence.

Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment is the maintenance that ensures that a vehicle’s wheels are set to the ideal specification set by the vehicle’s manufacturer. This ensures that the vehicle has straight handling and doesn’t veer off to the side when driving.

If you check your tyres and find them to be evenly worn across the surface, this is usually a sign of being under or over inflated. If, however, the tyre is only worn on one particular edge then it is more than likely that the problem could be poor wheel alignment. Most garages can fix this problem relatively quickly and inexpensively.

Spare Tyres

Should you find yourself in a position where you have to replace a particular tyre, perhaps because of a puncture, it is important to bear in mind that it is illegal and could also be dangerous to put different types or brands of tyre on the same axle.

Even if you never need to use your spare, it is still worth checking it from time to time to ensure it is in a good condition just on the off chance you may need it.

Regular tyre checks may seem like a pointless or worthless task, especially when you are in a hurry to complete your journey. When you think about the dangers of driving with poorly maintained tyres, or the potential costs of being in an accident where your insurance won't pay out, then it is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

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