With modern cars these days being so reliable, for most drivers there’s little or no need to check under the bonnet, save the occasional peek between services to check things like oil or coolant levels. If truth be told, we probably don’t need to, since the annual service is usually sufficient.
Unfortunately, thanks to the reliability, we’re taking everything with our cars for granted, and as a result we’re not checking our tyres either. And we really should be. Performing regular visual inspections of your tyres is really important and needs to be encouraged. The trouble is that since most of us aren’t tyre experts we can’t always tell if something’s not right.
In this tyre safety article, Asda Tyres give you an overview of the three major types of tyre damage, what to look out for, and how you can help avoid damage in the first place.
Worn tyre treads are dangerous
First invented by engineers at Continental Tyres in the early twentieth century, your tyre treads are really important. You’ll probably already be familiar with the grooved patterns on your tyres, but why are they so vital fro driver safety? Simple. The treads grooves in the rubber remove water from the “contact patch” between the tyre itself and the road surface. This results in increased traction – grip – with the road. This grip is vital, since it’s what allows drivers to safely brake, steer and accelerate – all the things which keep a car under control, and the people in and around the car safe.
Premium tyre manufacturers, like Continental, invest millions every year in researching and developing tyre technology, including in new, improved tyre compounds and tyre treads. The quality of their tyres is at the centre of their core principle of ensuring driver safety.
If a tyre’s treads are worn down, they become actively dangerous, which is why there’s a legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. By comparison, all brand new tyres come with a tread of 8mm, and manufacturers, industry experts and the DVLA recommend a minimum tyre tread depth of 3mm before replacing them. The reason? At the extreme 1.6mm minimum, tyres struggle to remove water from the road surface, especially when compared to 3mm tread or higher. Remember, the less tyre tread you have, the harder it is to brake, especially in wet weather conditions – something we experience in the UK more often than not, right?
How to spot tread wear before it’s too late
If your tyre treads are looking shallow, and the tyre surface itself is looking shiny, it’s more often than not the case that they’re worn down, and that it’s time to think about a new set of tyres. A quick and easy way of determining if your tyres are legal is to place a 20p piece between the tyre treads at different places across the tyre’s width. If you can then see any part of the coin’s outer rim, it’s not just time to think about a new set of tyres, it’s time to act. Immediately. There are two types of tyre tread wear to look out for – one is “centre”, and the other “one-sided” – as the images above show.
Top tips for prolonging the life of your tyres
- Tyre pressures – keep an eye on yours!
If your tyres are inflated at the correct level, your tyres will wear evenly. This means they’ll be much safer, as well as being more fuel efficient too. Learn more about correct tyre pressures here.
- Wheel alignment matters!
If your car’s wheel alignment is incorrect it will result in uneven tyre wear. As a result there will be less tread and grip on one side of your tyre.
- Invest in premium tyres!
You get what you pay for. Cheaper tyres may seem like a good deal, but because of their inferior rubber composition they typically wear faster than those from premium tyre brands, like Continental. While it’s true that ultimately all tyres – even if they’re correctly inflated – will wear down gradually over time, premium tyres will last longer by comparison to cheaper tyres.
Tyre sidewall damage is dangerous
Tyre sidewalls are built to be strong and to withstand the extreme forces and pressures often experienced while driving. Sidewalls keep your car stable. Look out for any tears, cuts, nicks, bubbles or bulges in the sidewall. If you spot any of these it’s typically a sign of serious damage to the tyre’s structure, and that’s dangerous. As a result, you and those around you are at risk of a serious accident caused by tyre blowout. If this happens at high speed – say on a motorway – the consequences can be fatal. For this reason, it’s essential to get the damage checked by an expert immediately, and if appropriate have the tyre replaced.
Top tips to help you avoid tyre sidewall damage
- Avoid any contact with roadside kerbs!
It is often the case that sidewall damage begins with a rough bump against a kerb or pavement. If you regularly scuff your tyres when parking, more often that not it will lead to long-term tyre problems.
- Potholes: avoid driving into them!
Okay, they’re not always avoidable, but bangs and scrapes in potholes can seriously damage your tyres. It pays to be extra vigilant and avoid potholes as often as possible.
- Tyres pressures matter – make sure they’re correct!
When you don’t have enough air in your tyres the sidewall is exposed to even more extreme forces and pressure. Why? Because the tyre is compensating to try and keep the car stable. As a result, this can cause premature wear to the tyre structure.
- Avoid spilled oil and clean off any on your tyres
If you’re unfortunate enough to spill any petrol on your tyres, or (more typically) drive through some dirty water on the road, make sure you clean off whatever’s left on the tyres as soon as possible with water and washing up liquid. Why? Because prolonged exposure to solvents and oils softens the rubber, and can subsequently damage the tyre sidewall structure.
Nails, glass and other sharp objects
We’re all aware that local authorities are working with reduced budgets, and that many services we once took for granted have either been reduced or stopped all together. Despite the best efforts of borough councils to keep our local roads clean and free of debris, there’s still plenty of it around, and this poses a potential risk for UK drivers.
Unfortunately, short of getting out on the streets and removing debris yourself, there’s nothing you can realistically do about it as a driver. And let’s be honest, most of the time you wouldn’t even notice a nail or stone in the road, let alone one lodging itself between your tyre treads. Alas, left to linger, foreign objects like these can cause substantial lasting damage, typically resulting in punctures and sidewall failures.
Top tips to help you avoid a puncture
- Regularly check, check check for foreign objects!
Start getting in the habit! As part of a regular tyre check procedure, be on the look-out for any bits of glass, nails and sharp stones you may have picked up in the treads.
- Don’t be afraid to prise debris out!
If your tyres are otherwise in good condition, the damage from a small object – such as a nail – may not be lasting, if it’s removed quickly. So, with this in mind, don’t be afraid of getting your pliers out and prising any objects out. You should still keep an eye on the situation – to ensure things don’t get any worse and – if you’re in any doubt at all – get the tyre checked by a professional.
If in doubt, seek expert advice from Asda Tyres
First and foremost, take the time to make regular checks of your tyres. The visual checks and regular maintenance you carry out will not only help to prolong the life of your tyres (which in the long term will save you time and hassle) they’ll also help you save money too (on replacement tyres and – just as importantly – fuel). Most importantly, regular tyre checks will help to keep you and those around you safer on the roads.
However, if you’re in the least bit of doubt about what you’ve seen during your tyre check, speak to an Asda Tyres expert. We’re here to offer you experienced, impartial tyre advice. Click here to live chat to one of our experts, or find your nearest fitting station.