As the contact point between your car and the road, your tyres are one of the most important components of your car in terms of safety and economy. Driving with flat or deflated tyres is seriously detrimental to the economy of the car and moreover can damage the wheels of your car. Driving with worn tyres or tyres with no tread is extremely dangerous as your stopping distance becomes greatly increased and cornering increasingly difficult as the car’s grip on the road is hampered.
It is also estimated that in the UK punctures and flat tyres account for around 10% of breakdowns. Naturally, pre-emptive maintenance can dramatically reduce the chance of a tyre related breakdown, saving your time and often money. Therefore, taking care of your car tyres is necessary to stay safe on the road, and maintain a good fuel economy. There are a number of ways to do this, from maintaining a careful driving style to carrying out regular checks and inspections.
Regular inspections are the number one method for looking after your car tyres. Inspections should be carried out roughly every month, or more frequently if you are a heavy driver. There are a number of things to inspect:
1. Tyre pressure
Maintaining adequate tyre pressure not only maintains your cars economy, it also reduces the risk of skidding or losing grip as well as protecting your wheels from damage. The pressure may drop due to perforations or minor punctures, temperature fluctuations or even air escaping from its components.
The best place to examine your tyre pressure is before a journey, when they are cold.
You will be able to locate the recommended pressures for your tyres in your vehicle’s user manual or on the inside of the fuel flat. Do not be mistaken in thinking the recommended pressure is located on the tyre – this is the maximum pressure to which the tyre can be inflated.
If you find your tyre pressure drops whilst driving or away from home, pull over if and when safe to do so and inspect before travelling any further. If the tyre has deflated by more than a few psi below the recommended level, re-inflate it if you can. If you have a puncture or a flat tyre and feel comfortable enough to do so, replace the wheel with your spare if possible. Otherwise, call a mobile tyre fitter or breakdown service who will be able to travel to you and repair or fix the puncture.
The tread of your tyres is responsible for gripping the road, crucial when driving around corners or in wet weather. Regularly checking it will not only maintain this level of safety, it will also keep you in line with the law.
Many tyre manufacturers mould gauges to the side of the tyre to help you inspect more easily. Ensure your tyres are changed before the tread depth is worn to 1.6mm. Failing to do so is dangerous and illegal.
3. Balancing and wheel alignment
Checking your balancing and wheel alignment at home is more difficult than examining the tread of tyre pressure, as it often requires use of a rolling road and tools available only to a garage. Therefore, every time you have a tyre changed or take your car to a visit to the garage it is sensible to have them check both the balancing and alignment.
That said, a mis-balancing can be indicated by one area of the car feeling lighter or heavier. It can cause vibrations, put stresses on the front of your car and drastically wear down your front tyres.
Wheel alignment is often thrown out if you hit something like a curb when driving. Ensuring your wheels are alignment will increase your fuel economy, prevent irregular wear and give you greater control of your car on the road.
4. Bumps, scratches and irregularities
Finally, when performing the above inspections, always check for any bumps or scratches your tyres have picked up. Whilst they may not be immediate causes for concern, any weaknesses could be the source of future telling damage or punctures. If your tyres displays any noticeable cuts, lumps or discolouring ensure you take it to a garage for further inspection as these could cause a blow-out whilst driving.