As drivers, we understand how important it is to maintain our vehicles. Making sure we have effective brakes, regularly servicing the engine – even giving our car or van a good clean – are just some of the things we know from experience that we need to keep an eye on, and all are important. But equally as important – some would say more so – is the ongoing management and maintenance of your vehicle’s tyres.
Ensuring that they’re in tip-top condition on a regular basis is essential for your vehicle’s performance and your driver safety. If you ignore them and let your tyres deteriorate, there may well be serious consequences – for both your wellbeing on the road and your bank balance.
Are you aware that if you’re stopped by the Police and they find you driving on dodgy tyres you’re liable to incur a fine of up to £2,500 for each defective tyre? It’s true, and that’s not all. If you’re convicted of driving on defective tyres you’ll likely incur three penalty points on your license – for each offending tyre.
The government and police take the matter very seriously, with authorities coming down heavily on those found guilty. Figures from 2016 show that UK drivers were fined £27m for driving on dangerous tyres
What are the signs of dangerous tyres, and how can they be avoided?
There are many. Here are some of the key indicators you need to be aware of to help ensure the wellbeing of your tyres:
General tyre condition makes a difference
If your tyres are dirty it can compromise their performance, as well as conceal any damage. By regularly cleaning them you’ll minimise this possibility. Remove any dirt, grease or oil from the surfaces of your tyres, as well as from around the air valves and valve caps. It’s not difficult to achieve and will save you trouble – and money – in the long term. Keep a sharp eye out for any debris such as stones that have become embedded in your tyre’s tread (the grooves on the flat length of the tyre). If you find anything there that shouldn’t be, make sure it’s removed. Failure to do so increases the chances of the object piercing the tyre, and this will most likely lead to a slow puncture – and nobody wants that, right?
Tyre damage can also occur on the sidewalls. If you’re not familiar with the term, these are the vertical sides of your tyres. This part of the tyre plays a major role in providing the stability and safety you need when driving, since they endure significant stresses and strains throughout your journey. It’s essential that your sidewalls are correctly maintained so as to ensure your tyres can perform at their optimum best. Tell-tale signs of sidewall damage include bulges, lumps, cuts and tears. If you spot any of these – no matter how small they may be – and do nothing about it, the tyre will in all likelihood become compromised, and that will endanger your driver safety.
What to do: Regularly inspect your tyres to minimise the chances of incurring any damage, and to ensure any damage found is not exacerbated further. If you’re in any doubt about damage or the general condition of your tyres, seek professional advice.
The importance of tyre tread depth
Much of the £27m in fines incurred by UK drivers for defective tyres was because the tyres were ‘bald’. This term is in reference to tyre tread depth – the grooves that channel water away from between the road surface and your vehicle, and that are vital for generating the grip you need to drive safely. In Britain, the road-legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. If your treads are anything less than this you’re driving on illegal tyres, and at risk of incurring the stiff fines and penalties previously outlined.
More importantly, you’re at greater risk of endangering not only your own driver safety, but that of any passengers, and your fellow motorists. It’s important to realise that tread depth gradually reduces over time through natural tyre wear (both even and uneven) and is something all drivers need to keep an eye on.
What to do: Use a tread depth gauge to measure your tread depth. If you don’t have one, you can instead do the quick and easy ‘20p test’. Simply place a 20p coin into the tread at multiple points along its length, and if you can see any part of the coin’s outer band the chances are your tread is under the 1.6mm legal minimum. Do not drive on it, as you will be breaking the law. Instead, immediately arrange to have the tyre(s) replaced.
Additionally, many tyre professionals, including leading premium tyre manufacturer Continental and Asda Tyres recommend that you change your tyres long before they reach the UK road legal minimum tread depth. We – as part of broad industry consensus – suggest replacing tyres once the tread is down to 3mm. Why? Because time and again independent research and testing conclusively demonstrates that at 3mm the tyre tread – and grip available – rapidly deteriorates, significantly reducing the tyre’s ability to perform optimally, especially in wet weather conditions. It’s for this reason that all series 5 and higher Continental tyres feature TDIs – tread wear indicators – that signify when you’re down to 3mm of tread.
Be alert to the consequences of tyre wear
Tyre wear naturally takes place on the tread, resulting in reduced grip. Nothing lasts forever, but this wear can occur evenly or unevenly. The latter is best avoided. It can occur if your tyres are incorrectly aligned. Parts of your tread will wear down more than others, leaving you with irregular tyre tread depth. This is a serious issue since it adversely affects the way water is channelled away from the tyre.
What to do: Make an appointment with your local Asda Tyres fitting centre and we’ll realign your tyres for you. Simple.
One more thing; uneven tyre wear is also likely to occur if you have incorrect…
Your pressures are pivotal in determining the condition and performance of your tyres. Having the right pressures makes a massive difference to your driving experience. Motorists will usually be able to locate their correct tyre pressures inside the driver door, or under their vehicle’s fuel cap. Having the correct pressures helps to ensure that your tyres are correctly inflated and able to provide you with the best performance. They also help to maintain even tyre wear.
Following EU legislation, all new cars have a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) installed which will notify drivers if the tyres are under or over-inflated. Either way, both outcomes are problematic and will result in uneven tyre wear. Under-inflated tyres lead to unnecessary contact with the road, particularly at the edges of the tyres where additional wear will occur. Under-inflated tyres also require more power to turn, and that means using more fuel – and greater expense.
With over-inflated tyres, the focus of contact with the road occurs at the centre of the tyre. As a result, this lifts the tyre edges away from the road surface. This not only leads to uneven tyre wear in this area, eroding the tread, but also reduces the tyre’s contact area that is able to generate grip – endangering your driver safety.
What to do: Don’t ignore your TPMS, always heed the warnings. If your car or van doesn’t have a tyre pressure monitoring system, make the time to regularly check your pressures. If you don’t have a pressure gauge you can visit your nearest Asda Tyres fitting centre or local petrol station. Both will typically have the facilities to check your pressures and top them up / top them off as necessary (usually for free, or a nominal fee).
Other important considerations to be aware of
As well as regularly inspecting for damage, and ensuring your pressures and tread depth are as they need to be, there are some other important considerations when it comes to tyres:
Some motorists switch from ‘summer’ tyres to ‘winter’ tyres as soon as the temperature begins to get colder. It’s a smart move, because each tyre type performs at its best in warm and cold conditions respectively. They’re optimised for temperature, and so behave differently. This directly affects their performance, particularly when it comes to grip. As a result, drivers need to store their ‘second’ set of tyres. If not done correctly, over time they’ll become compromised. There are six pointers to follow when it comes to storing tyres. Learn how to correctly store tyres.
Retorquing your wheels
Just as with shoes, when you first fit a new tyre it needs time to settle. Your wheel and its tyre are attached to the vehicle’s axle with nuts, and the way these are applied is critical to performance. If your wheel nuts are incorrectly torqued it will negatively impact performance, and also on your driver safety. It’s very important to retorque every now and again, especially when a new tyre has been fitted. Learn more about retorquing.
Balancing your tyres
The correct balance is crucial for ensuring the weight distribution of your vehicle is even across all of its tyres. If your wheels are out of balance, they can generate vibrations while driving. The wrong balance can also lead to premature wear of your vehicle’s suspension, its steering components, rotating parts, and its tyres. All of these issues will not only reduce your driving comfort and vehicle performance, but also your driver safety. Learn more about tyre balancing here.
Tyre quality really matters
Your tyres are the only thing in contact with the road. They’re arguably the most important component of your car or van, and as such vital for driver safety. Take time to maintain your tyres on a regular basis, with visual inspections and check-ups. The quality of your vehicle’s tyres could be the difference between having an accident and avoiding one. If you’re in any doubt about your tyres, speak to the professionals at your local Asda Tyres fitting centre.