It’s shaping up to be a scorcher this summer – June saw some of the hottest days we Brits have experienced in a very long time – and with so many of us passing on an overseas holiday in favour of a staycation in the UK, the timing couldn’t be better.
Many of us are opting to include the car in our holiday plans, no matter whether for an actual driving holiday, caravanning, or just as a means to getting to our final destination. It’s not surprising, since the UK is blessed with an extensive, easily accessible road network that crisscrosses our green and pleasant land.
Just think. Not only can you go wherever you want to, whenever you want, but with minimal effort you can easily take all your luggage and holiday gear with you. It sure beats queuing for those frustrating – often jam packed – airport transfers, or trains, and the inevitable delays and cancellations that can be experienced.
The car’s the star, so treat it right
But before you set off on your great summer adventure, it’s vital that your car is in the right shape to make the journey. Most drivers will consider the essentials, such as ensuring your coolant, oil and windscreen wash levels are all topped off, and that the lights are working correctly. But only some will remember the – arguably – most important driver aid for ensuring safety and comfort: the tyres.
It’s true – your tyres really matter. Without a correctly optimised, decent set of tyres (don’t forget the spare, too) your journey could be over before it’s barely begun. The condition of your tyres is essential, because they’re the one thing keeping you, your loved ones, your possessions, and your vehicle safely on the road. Remember, without the grip created by the four small contact patches between your tyres and the surface, driving safely would be a non-starter.
And central to ensuring your tyres provide maximum grip is ensuring that they have good tread depth, and the correct pressures. Tyre experts, like Continental and Asda Tyres, recommend that you regularly inspect your tyres for both – especially if you’re about to set off on a long holiday road trip with a laden vehicle.
Your tyre pressures really matter
Ensuring that you have the correct tyre pressures will not only keep you safer on the road, it will also help to minimise tyre wear, and reduce the amount of fuel you consume. The right holiday tyre pressures can get your trip off to a great start – and it’s easy to achieve.
In most passenger vehicles, you’ll find the tyre pressure values either printed on the inside of its fuel cap, or inside the driver door. One of these values will be for everyday ‘unladen’ driving. Your tyres should already be at the pressures indicated. The second value is for heavier loads – just like when your vehicle is weighed down with holiday luggage and leisure gear. This is the pressure your tyres need to be at if your car is laden.
At Asda Tyres, our experience suggests that the ideal time to check your pressures is while the tyres are still cold – in other words, before you set off on your journey, or just after. If the latter, you can simply pull into the nearest local garage, and use the forecourt facilities. Most only charge an nominal fee.
To check your pressures, all you have to do is unscrew the tyre dust cap, and attach the air hose. That’s it. The hose will automatically measure your pressures, so you’ll instantly know whether your tyres are under or over inflated. Then, whichever yours are, simply top up or release air, until the pressures are correct for all wheels at the laden weight.
If your tyres are under inflated, you’ll encounter problems
If tyres are under inflated, they won’t achieve their optimum shape. That’s because they’ll be too flat at the bottom – with an enlarged contact patch. If the patch is too big, expect higher fuel consumption (and the commensurate additional expense) as well as uneven wear at the tyre edges. You can also expect the vehicle’s handling to feel noticeably sluggish. This can result in a lack of responsiveness, or worse still, a loss of control. If you’re travelling at high speed along a motorway in a laden vehicle, this can be very dangerous.
Having under inflated tyres also has a negative impact on the time it till take you to come to a safe stop when braking – and this means longer stopping distances. This is especially the case in wet weather conditions. And while (at the time of writing) it’s very hot and sunny in the UK, we all know from experience that a little rainfall in this country can never be ruled out, right?
Finally, it’s important to know that softer, under inflated tyres are vulnerable to damage from sharp objects. Driving over glass, sharp stones, or metal can easily puncture a tyre, or gash the compound – increasing the likelihood of tyre failure.
Beware of problems from over inflated tyres too
Just like when tyres are under inflated, if they’re over inflated they’ll incur uneven tyre wear, but in this case along the central length of the tyre. This is particularly problematic, since it is this area of the tyre that provides drivers with the most grip – and just when you need it most.
Over inflated tyres suffer from having a noticeably smaller contact patch with the road. As a result, there’s less grip, and, again – as with under inflation – this can be especially dangerous when the road is wet.
Tyre damage is also commonplace from sudden impacts and bumps, like those encountered with potholes, and kerbs. Why? Because over inflation results in the tyre being much too rigid. The lack of flexibility means the tyre can struggle to absorb shocks, and this can result in a blow-out – especially at high speeds.
Count them all – five tyres, not four
Don’t forget to make sure that your fifth ‘spare’ tyre is also inflated correctly, because you don’t know when you may need to fit it. Also, having reached your destination and unloaded the car, if you’re planning on doing excursions – such as driving to a nearby beach, or local place of interest – remember to reduce your tyre pressures down to the unladen value – and, of course, back up again, before you fully set off on your return home. As such, it’s worth noting where the nearest local petrol station or garage is.
Having good tread depth could save your life
As previously touched on, one of the issues arising from incorrectly inflated tyres is the likelihood of uneven tyre wear. This presents two problems for motorists, since it is this wear – uneven or otherwise – that reduces tyre tread depth. Your treads are the grooves that run along the length of your tyre, and which are vital for providing grip, since they’re essential for dispersing water from wet roads. Without sufficient tyre tread depth, you may not have the necessary grip you need – particularly dangerous for a laden vehicle.
When you buy brand new tyres from Asda Tyres, they typically come with a full 8mm of tread. This tread depth, in combination with the superior rubber compounds of a premium tyre – such as that used for the award winning ContiPremiumContact™ 5 – offers drivers superb, optimal grip, especially on wet road surfaces.
In an exact like for like driving comparison, it’s been shown that premium tyres wear down much slower than cheaper budget tyres, thanks to their higher quality compounds. However, over time, through normal usage, all tyres gradually wear down, and this results in a reduction of tread depth – and that means less grip.
While the UK road legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, many tyre and road safety experts – including Asda Tyres, Continental, and TyreSafe – believe that you should change your tyres when the tread is down to just 3mm. Why? Because independent braking tests in wet weather conditions clearly prove that stopping distances are greatly increased when tread is down to 1.6mm, compared to 3mm.
How far? Independent research shows it can be up to twice as far to come to a safe, full stop. On a fast moving motorway, with a fully laden car, it doesn’t bear thinking about, right? Without sufficient tread depth – and less grip – the probability of aquaplaning is significantly increased – as is the chance of experiencing an accident.
It’s easy to check your tyre tread depth
If you’ve already got a tyre tread depth gauge, that’s great. It makes sense to keep one with your car. If you haven’t, they’re easily available to purchase, but an alternative is the “20p Test”. It’s based on the depth of the outside band of the coin. Simply place the 20p piece into the long grooves that run along the length of your tyre. If the coin’s outer band is completely obscured, you can be confident that your tread is above the UK legal road minimum. However, if you can still see the top of the band, your tyres are likely to be illegal.
It’s vital that you don’t drive with illegal tyres. Not only is it dangerous – for you, your passengers, and other road users – but it’s also potentially very expensive. If the police stop you and find you’ve got one or more illegal tyres fitted, you’ll incur a fine of £2,500, and 3 penalty points for EACH tyre. It’s not a great way to begin or end your holiday, so don’t risk it.
Tyre damage is also costly – and dangerous
You’re also likely to have to pay a fine, and take penalty points on your licence, if your tyres are found to be damaged. Again, as with illegal tread depth, you’re also jeapardising your driver safety. If you’re undertaking a long journey to and from your holiday destination, your chances of both are increased.
And remember, with a heavily laden vehicle, or if you’re towing a caravan, much more stress will be placed on your tyres, further increasing the chance of tyre failure. You don’t want to ruin your holiday with an accident, do you, so minimise the chances of tyre damage by making yourself aware of what to look out for, and how to avoid it in the first place.
Tyre sidewalls are tough, but they still need protecting
Sidewalls absorb the majority of the punishing stresses and forces that your tyres endure, day in day out. And just as with treads, it’s really important to maintain them, ensuring sidewall integrity. If you don’t, your tyres won’t perform optimally, and you run the risk of tyre failure. Pressures play a significant role in optimising the tyre and maintaining sidewalls, but there are many other considerations you need to be aware of.
Regular tyre inspections, as well as checking before you set off on your holiday, will help allow you spot any problematic tears, cuts, nicks, bubbles or bulges in the tyre sidewall. Look carefully, because if you do find any of the above, there’s a strong chance of damage to the tyre’s structure – and that’s dangerous, since the risk of a tyre blowout is increased.
And if you suffer a blowout at high speed – such as when travelling on a motorway – the consequences are more than likely to be catastrophic – for you, your passengers, and your fellow motorists.
So if you spot any of this kind of tyre damage, it’s vital that you get it checked by an expert immediately, and if necessary have the tyre(s) replaced. Whatever you do, don’t just set off on your journey. It’s simply not worth taking the risk.
Top tips for helping to avoid tyre damage
While we know that it’s not always possible, if you can avoid the following you’ll significantly reduce the chances of tyre sidewall damage:
If you scuff your tyres it can lead to long-term tyre problems.
Bangs and scrapes with potholes can seriously damage your tyres.
Under and over inflated tyres
Incorrect inflation puts additional, unnecessary stress on your sidewalls.
Oil and dirty water
Clean off any spilled petrol, oil or dirty water from your tyres with a little water and washing up liquid – otherwise prolonged exposure to solvents and oils softens the rubber.
Glass, nails, and other sharp objects
Tears, cuts and nicks can appear on sidewalls through contact with sharp objects. Over time, what appears as minor damage can escalate to something more serious, often resulting in tyre blowout.
Reduce the chances of having a puncture
And, of course, any contact with a sharp object can also result in a puncture. Travelling at any reasonable speed (let alone driving quickly) often makes debris hard to detect on the road, with it only becoming known once contact has already been made.
Shards of glass, or metal fragments, and stones, can easily become embedded within your tyres, either lodged in the tread or, worse still, having pressed into the rubber compound. All have been known to do serious damage to tyres, with a puncture likely to result.
Inspecting your tyres before you set off on your holiday will allow you to identify any embedded objects. If you find one, carefully prise it away with a set of pliers. Doing so should nip the problem in the bud, before it becomes more serious.
ContiSeal™ – negating the influence of a puncture
While all debris on the road is best avoided, the everyday reality is that there’s often nothing drivers can do to safeguard against contact. Punctures may be a fact of life that we never want to experience – especially when we’re on the way to our holiday destination, or returning home – but there is a way of minimising their subsequent influence.
Continental’s superb ContiSeal™ technology immediately negates the consequences of sustaining a puncture – such as having to stop on the roadside and change a tyre. Their highly regarded, popular extended mobility solution automatically seals any damage (up to 5mm in diameter) from inside the tyre. This stops the air flowing out, and maintains the ability to continue driving. There’s no need for an immediate roadside tyre change, which – as anyone who has had to do so will know – can be a very difficult and frightening experience.
And there’s an additional benefit for holiday makers with a heavily laden car. With tyres employing ContiSeal™ technology you won’t have to unload your luggage and holiday gear to get to your spare tyre (typically housed in a recess situated beneath the floor of the boot). As if changing a tyre by the roadside wasn’t bad enough, imagine having to do unload everything while stopped on the hard shoulder of a fast moving motorway, or pressed against an incline along the side of a narrow country lane – possibly in the dark. It really doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?
ContiSeal™ is just one of Continental’s many invaluable tyre safety and comfort technologies, all of which are ideal for UK drivers undertaking long distance travel by road to their holiday destination. You can these technologies across many products in their premium tyre range, including the ContiSportContact™ 5, the ContiSportContact™ 5 SUV, and the ContiEcoContact™ 5.
ContiSilent™ – for a safer, quieter driving experience
While Continental’s priority is always driver safety, driver comfort is important, too. Ensuring that their tyres bring out the optimum handling and ride comfort characteristics of a car vital, and it’s something Continental achieve with ease.
That’s why almost one in three new passenger cars that roll off the production lines of Europe are fitted with their “OE” – Original Equipment. This dedication to delivering the best driving experience is also achieved through their ContiSilent™ noise-reducing technology.
ContiSilent™ technology is popular with UK drivers because it’s designed to reduce interior cabin noise generated from road surfaces – in all weather conditions. Better still. there’s no compromise when it comes to driving performance characteristics, or any change in mileage and load/speed capability. Tyres that employ the technology offer reduced cabin noise thanks to an inner absorber – made from polyurethane foam – which is attached to the inside surface of the tyre tread area.
And so effective is ContiSilent™ that many of the world’s leading car makers have approached Continental for this solution, since cabin noise is a common problem for many vehicles. ContiSilent™ is currently available with many summer tyres, and are compatible with all commonly sized wheel rims. You’ll find the technology in Continental’s latest high performance SportContact™ 6 premium tyre.
Driving to your holiday destination? Ask an expert for tyre advice
You know more than anyone just how hard you work all year round. So when it’s time for your annual holiday, you need it to be as hassle free as possible. Ensuring that your car is fitted with good, premium tyres will help make your driving experience both safer and more pleasant. Speak to our professional team about tyres today. Click here to live chat to one of our experts, or find your nearest fitting station.