As much as I hate the stereotype that women and machinery don’t work – hence that women aren’t great with cars – it does ring a little bit true for myself. Other than my annual MOT and service, I’m terrible at checking my car regularly. And, I do one hell of a lot of miles.
But when I ask around, I do tend to find this is pretty common: lots of us are not checking our tyres, and we should be. It’s vital to regularly undertake visual tyre inspections, but since most drivers aren’t tyre experts they can’t always tell if something’s amiss, and this can be dangerous.
So here’s a little round up of what we should be looking for when it comes to avoiding tyre damage.
First up: Worn tyre treads
Tyre treads are super-important, arguably the most important element of a healthy tyre. Tyre treads are the grooves in the rubber that remove water from the “contact patch” that connects the tyre itself and the road, enabling grip and traction.
It’s this grip that allows the driver to accelerate, steer and brake safely – the essentials that keep your vehicle under control, and the people in and around it safe.
If your treads are too worn down, the tyres become dangerous. It’s the reason why there’s a legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in the UK. To give you an idea of how much tyre wear has occurred to get to the legal minimum, brand new tyres come with a tread of 8mm.
And while 1.6mm may be legal, the DVLA recommend that drivers change their tyres when the tread is worn down to 3mm. So do all tyre industry experts and manufacturers. This extra tread is vital in wet weather conditions for achieving shorter stopping distances.
Make sure when you purchase new tyres, you are shopping from a quality place. For example, you can get your car tyres from Essex branch of Jet wheel tyre which has a good reputation.
How to spot dangerous tyre tread wear
Take a look at your tyre treads. If they’re looking shallow, and the tyre surface is somewhat shiny, the treads are too worn down and it’s seriously time to get a new set of tyres. As well as driver safety, there’s a road-legal consideration too.
To ensure that your tyres are legal, place a 20p piece into the tyre treads at different places across the tyre’s width. If at any point you can see any of the coin’s outer rim, it’s not just time to think about a new set of tyres, it’s legally time to act.
Failure to replace badly worn tyres not only exposes you – and your passengers and fellow road users – to accidents, you’re also at risk of incurring severe fines.
Those who travel around busy cities and towns often, like Essex and London where the roads can be quite pot-holed, can be at risk here of damaging their tyres often.
Top tips for minimising tyre tread wear
- Regularly keep an eye on your tyre pressures: if your tyres are inflated at the correct level they’ll not only wear more evenly, they’ll be both safer and more fuel efficient too.
- Make sure your wheels are aligned correctly: If your wheels are incorrectly aligned, your tyre treads will wear unevenly. As a result you’ll have less tread and grip on one side of your tyre.
- Invest in premium tyres, rather than cheaper tyres: Why spend a little more? Because cheaper tyres are typically made from inferior rubber compositions, compared to premium tyres. As a result, these cheaper tyres typically wear down faster than those from premium tyre brands, like Continental (exact, like-for-like driving comparison only).
- Remember though that all tyres – even if they’re correctly inflated – will ultimately wear down gradually over time.
Spotting sidewall damage
The sidewalls of your tyres are built to be robust, so that they can withstand driving forces and pressures, keeping your vehicle stable. But as strong as they are, they’re still vulnerable to damage.
Do a visual inspection of your tyres. If you notice any tears, cuts, nicks, bubbles or bulges in the sidewall, experience says it’s normally a sign of very serious damage to the tyre’s structure, and dangerous. If left in place, you, your passengers and those around you – both fellow road users and pedestrians – are at risk of a serious accident caused by a blowout.
How to try and avoid punctures from small, sharp objects
- Visual inspections help you detect foreign objects: Get in the habit of regularly checking your tyres and you’ll dramatically increase the chances of spotting foreign objects – such as nails, bits of glass and sharp stones– that you may have had the misfortune to have picked up in your tyre treads.
- Don’t be afraid – prise them out: Assuming your tyres are in otherwise good condition, damage caused by a small nail may not be too serious and lasting, if you remove it quickly. As such, get a pair of pliers and prise foreign objects out.
If you’re in any doubt about tyre damage, seek expert advice. Regular visual checks and ad hoc maintenance will undoubtedly help you to not only to prolong the life of your tyres, they’ll also save you fuel too. But most importantly, checking your tyres will to keep you, your passengers, and those around you safer on the road.