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Get A Grip: Looking After Your Tyres

Tue, 17/01/2017
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In June 2016 the world’s most expensive tyres sold for $600,000 in Dubai. While most of us don’t really need diamond encrusted tyres with 24-carat gold leaf for our morning commute, we do all need tyres. And even though they don’t have the same extortionate price tag, they still sometimes cost more than we would like to pay.

Your tyres are the only part of your car touching the road, so it’s important that they are always roadworthy. This is even more true when you consider the cold weather, ice and snow we can expect around this time of year. From checking your current tyres to choosing replacements, our guide aims to help you make sure your tyres are both safe and cost-effective.

Perhaps we view all vehicle-related expenses as a necessary evil that we have to put up with, but when it comes to tyres, it’s worth spending extra cost and effort to ensure every journey we make is a safe one.

How To Check Your Tyres And What For

It’s important to keep an eye on your tread depth, as well as the general state of your tyres so that you stay safe and road legal. If you are found to have defective tyres you could be fined up to £2,500 and have three penalty points added to your licence.

The legal minimum tread depth requirement is 1.6 millimetres across the central ¾ of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. However, you should replace your tyres before this limit is reached – many manufacturers recommend replacing them at 3mm. Those extra millimetres can have a big effect on your stopping distances – in wet weather at 50mph it takes an extra two car lengths to stop when you have 1.6mm of tread compared to 3mm.

While you’re looking at your tyres, you should also inspect them for damage. Check the tread for abnormal wear patterns, as well as cuts, stones and nails. You should also check the sidewalls for cuts, cracks and bulges. Small cracks are to be expected as your tyres age, but bulges or cuts in the sidewall can be susceptible to a blowout - if you spot anything like this your tyre should be replaced.

Inflate Your Tyres To Avoid Inflated Driving Costs

Low tyre pressure can also lead to reduced fuel efficiency and increased CO2 emissions because the tyres will require more force to make them turn. In 2010 safety campaigners TyreSafe estimated that £0.7 billion of fuel is being wasted each year as a result of underinflation. In fact, more than a third of UK motorists have high fuel costs which could be lowered simply by keeping tyres properly inflated.

Underinflated tyres can wear out quickly and you may notice excessive wear on the inside and outside edges of the tread. When tyres are underinflated (or overinflated) the amount of tread in contact with the road is reduced, and this can also increase your stopping distances as you’ll have less traction.

So, keeping your tyre pressure at the recommended level is not only safer, but cheaper and better for the environment. Tyre pressure is measured by calculating the amount of air that has been pumped into your tyre in pounds per square inch (PSI) or BAR pressure. Your car owner’s manual should tell you the correct tyre pressures for your car. You can test the tyre pressure using a pressure gauge, and inflate your tyres using an air pump either at home or at a petrol station.

Do You Need Winter Tyres?

Cold, damp and icy conditions can affect the performance of your tyres and provide less grip. Not only is ice on the roads a problem, but when temperatures drop below 7 degrees, the tread compound in your tyres begins to harden, also reducing your grip. This is why some motorists opt for winter tyres.

Winter tyres contain more natural rubber and advanced silica compounds, so the tread is less susceptible to hardening. They also have more sophisticated tread patterns, and these factors work together to give you extra grip and shorter stopping distances.

The British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association found that when travelling at 60mph on a wet road in 5 degrees, a car fitted with winter tyres will stop five metres shorter than a car without winter tyres.

Remember to have them changed back for the warmer months as winter tyres have less grip in summer and may consume more fuel.

Choose the Right Tyres For Your Car

You can find out which tyres are recommended by your car by looking in your owner’s manual. The manual will give you information about the recommended tyres size, speed rating and load rating. Car manufacturers choose tyres for your car based on braking, wear rate, handling, ride comfort, and road noise. So, if you choose the same brand that was fitted when your car was new, you won’t go far wrong.

Premium vs. Budget Tyres

The type of tyres you buy will depend on your needs and your budget. For example, premium tyres will last for 15,000 to 20,000 miles, and they also offer improved stopping distances, fuel economy, and grip. You can buy premium tyres from manufacturers including Michelin, Goodyear, Continental, Pirelli, and Bridgestone.

Mid-range tyres can give you good value for money – they’re cheaper, but they can also be high quality and have a long life-span. Avon, Yokohama, Firestone, Toyo, Cooper and BF Goodrich all fall into this mid-range bracket.

Budget tyres are fine in the summer, but with a 7,000 – 8,000 mile life span they could be a false economy, and you’ll find that they don’t perform as well in bad weather conditions. Budget tyre manufacturers include Federal, Hankook, Kumho, Landsail and Maxxis.

If you’re planning on replacing your tyres soon, speak to your garage to ensure your next set of tyres provide the reassurance and life span that you’re comfortable with.

Part-worn Tyres

Tyres are one of the most important things you can buy for your car, and they must keep you safe, which is why at this point we have to explain the dangers of buying used or ‘part-worn’ tyres.

While they may seem like a cost-effective alternative to buying brand new tyres, used tyres are potentially very dangerous. Even though £10 may sound like a bargain for a tyre, it isn’t worth the risk to yourself and other road users. TyreSafe report that each year over 1,200 road casualties are caused by accidents where illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres are a contributory factor. This risk can be minimised not only by checking your tyres regularly, but by purchasing brand new tyres instead of used ones.

Part-worn tyres will have less tread left, which means you will need to replace them more quickly. And because they need to be replaced more often, used tyres are actually worse value for money than new ones – they cost £6.33 per mm of tread depth compared to £5.32 on a new tyre.

All new tyres on sale in the UK will meet safety standards, but the same can’t be said for used or part-worn tyres. Even though there are safety regulations in place, TyreSafe found that 98% of part-worn tyres are sold illegally. 34% were found to contain potentially dangerous forms of damage or non-compliance, and to an inexperienced eye it may be difficult to tell whether a used tyre is road legal or not when you buy it. Don’t take the risk – buy new tyres and check them regularly, especially in the winter.

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