You probably never give your tyres a second thought, but as Richard Dredge explains, a few regular basic checks might just save your life
Filling two pages on rubber products should get your juices flowing, but you might be a bit disappointed when I mention that nothing covered here will be found in the Ann Summers catalogue. Instead we’re going to talk about the rather less sexy subject of tyres, and how essential their maintenance is.
While that may sound dull, neglect the rubber rings that prop your car up and you could be heading for a whole heap of trouble. Your tyres are the only thing that keep your car in contact with the road, and if something goes wrong with any of them, you could be on the wrong side of the law – or worse. As with anything in life, when something just gets on quietly with its job, you forget about it until everything goes pear-shaped. That’s the situation tyres are in; they’re so reliable nowadays that they’re usually forgotten about until it’s too late. Even worse, when tyres are replaced, many drivers opt for the cheapest items they can find, in a bid to keep costs down. That’s to be expected when your beer tokens can be spent on all sorts of other stuff (like beer, for example), but it could prove a false economy.
A trap I once fell into was to fit some cheap tyres to my car, as they cost about a third less than the branded items I should have gone for. Within 12,000 miles they’d worn out, whereas the more expensive tyres would have gone on for 30,000. Do the sums and you’ll quickly see it’s a false economy to skimp when buying. The problem is, there’s no wear rating on UK tyres, so at buying time you have no idea how long they’ll last. That’s why you need to tell your tyre retailer that you don’t mind paying a bit more for some tyres that won’t wear out after a few trips round the block. The same rules apply where remoulds are concerned; these are tyres which have already seen a whole life cycle, but which then have a fresh layer of tread applied so they can be re-used. They’re perfectly safe and legal, but because the structure of the tyre has already gone through one life cycle, they’re designed to wear out more quickly the second time round. You’ll save money initially, but you’ll then have to fork out on fresh rubber more quickly than if you’d bought ‘conventional’ tyres.
There’s also the option of buying used tyres, which is also perfectly legal – but often far from safe. You have to consider why the tyres are being sold; there’s a good chance that it’s because the car they were originally fi tted to, was involved in a crash that destroyed it. Recently, Continental Tyres took a look at some of the used tyres available and found that some were already worn to the point of being illegal, while others were poorly repaired or in an otherwise dangerous condition.
It’s not just buying unsafe tyres that can lead to problems though; you need to maintain your existing rubber. Failing to infl ate your tyres properly will lead to increased fuel consumption, as well as uneven tyre wear. Also, tyres should be replaced every ten years because the rubber ages; keep your tyres too long and they could literally start cracking up, leading to a blowout at high speed. Even if the tyres are nearly new, you could have one burst because you’ve gone over a speed bump too quickly or kerbed the wheel sharply while parking. That’s why you must make regular checks for cuts, bulges and uneven wear.
The average car gets a puncture every 38,000 miles according to car care company Comma. Each year, more than seven million drivers get a puncture
If you’re still not convinced that taking risks should be avoided, bear in mind that if you fail to look after your tyres properly you could end up losing your licence, as well as incurring a hefty fi nancial penalty. You’re staring down the barrel at a £500 fi ne and at least three points on your licence for driving with tyres that are defective in any way. Only recently, a Norfolk driver was fi ned and received points for driving with defective tyres, after his car skidded on a greasy road and struck a pedestrian. A few days later the pedestrian died; would you want to live with that on your conscience?
Did you Know?
The average car gets a puncture every 38,000 miles according to car care company Comma. Each year, more than seven million drivers get a puncture.
Although tyres are currently always black, some companies have been experimenting with different colours. Before long, you should be able to choose blue, green, yellow or red tyres for your car. Nice…
It doesn’t take much to keep within the law, as far as your tyres are concerned. All you need to do is ensure there’s enough tread on each tyre, and that there’s also enough air in each one – it really is that simple. But of course it’s one more thing to fi t into your busy schedule, and there’s always something more pressing to attend to, isn’t there?
When the heavens open as you’re driving along, your tyre tread disperses the water that collects on the road surface. Without the tread, your car would just skate across the surface of the water, which might be fun in a controlled environment, but truly terrifying if there’s a truck bearing down on you. That’s why maintaining tread depth is so important – it’s also why your tyres get less effi cient in the wet, the more miles they’ve done.
To check how much grip you’ve got left, every so often, across the width of the tyre, you’ll see small blocks in the tread. Once these are fl ush with the tread surface, your tyres are ready for renewal – although it’s worth replacing them earlier if you can afford it. Those blocks are set at 1.6mm; there must also be this depth of tread across the central three-quarters of the tyre’s width, or you’ll be committing an offence.
It’s the same with the tyre pressures, which need to be maintained at the correct level. Investing a few quid in a gauge of your own is worthwhile, so you can check your pressures at any time. The owner’s manual for your car will list the pressures you should stick to, although you sometimes fi nd a quick-reference sticker on the glovebox lid, in the door shut or on the sun visor.