Tyres are often badly looked after and rarely replaced, considering that our safety and the safety of other drivers and pedestrians is at stake, we should take much better care of them. Tyres tend to be poorly maintained because many vehicle owners don’t understand when a tyre needs to be replaced or repaired. As a result, a number of motorists have ended up breaking down or getting themselves into accidents because their tyres were unsafe, faulty or simply too old.
In this article we tell you what a tyre does, provide advice on how to check the condition of your tyres and help you to understand when it is time to get them replaced:
When driving on a dry road tyre tread diminishes a car’s performance because it results in a reduced contact patch area. This essentially leaves you with less grip than if you had no tread, hence the reason why formula one cars tend to run slick tyres (no tread) in good weather conditions because it gives them amazing grip.
On the flip side, the tread is great on wet roads as it is designed to scatter water from the contact patch, helping the tyre to grip the road.
With no tread, a tyre would struggle to grip a wet road, making it almost impossible to brake, corner and accelerate.
In simple terms, a contact patch is the area of the tyre that is literally in contact with the road.
How to tell when your tyre is worn out?
Any good set of tyres will include tread wear indicator bars. These bars are sculpted into the tread grooves at periodic intervals around the tyre to illustrate when it is worn to an unsafe level.
UK law requires tyres to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three-quarters of the tyre.
Although that is the legal specification a few car manufacturers urge drivers to change their tyres before they have worn to that degree.
It’s always a good idea to review your owner’s manual to find out what the producer of your car recommends.
Understanding tyre pressure
Sustaining the appropriate inflation pressure is key to looking after your tyres. A properly inflated tyre will wear evenly across the tread, however, one that hasn’t been inflated accurately will wear unevenly.
Tyre pressure increases while a car is being driven, therefore, you should only set inflation pressure when the tyres are cold to avoid setting the pressure incorrectly.
Tyre pressure is measured in “pounds per square inch” (psi), if you are unsure of the recommended inflation pressure for your vehicle’s tyres then you can check the placard attached to the body of your car (normally on the driver’s door pillar), or your owner’s manual, for a recommended psi.
The recommended tyre pressure can vary depending on the type of load you will be carrying, however, recommended psi for a fully loaded vehicle should be specified along with the normal inflation pressure recommendation.
It’s advisable to check the inflation pressure of your tyres at least once every couple of weeks. You will also want to review it before you go on any long journey or before towing. Lastly, you should try to make sure that your spare tyre is inflated correctly.
Is it okay to rotate my tyres?
Yes, it is a good idea to rotate your tyres around your car as it can even out the wear on all tyres. This means that when the time comes you can replace all your tyres at the same time.
The reason why most tyres wear at different rates is because of their position on the car. It is the drivetrain of your car that determines whether your front or rear tyres will wear faster e.g. on a rear-wheel drive car the rear wheels will wear faster and on a front-wheel drive car the front wheels will wear faster.
If you do decide to rotate your tires it is advisable to do so at approximately 3000-mile intervals so that the imbalance between the tyres wearing the fastest and those wearing the slowest is lessened.
Knowing the basics about car tyres and when to replace them means you don’t have to rely on the expertise of a mechanic. Some will tell you that you need to replace your tyres when it isn’t actually necessary. Learn to check if your tyres are damaged or worn and you could end up saving yourself some money.
This should really go without saying, but you will want to avoid spinning your wheels on acceleration or locking them to prolong the life of your tires.
Finally, routine wheel alignment checks and generally looking after your car should help to extend the life of your tyres.