When was the last time you looked properly at your tyres to see if they were in good condition and set to the right pressures? Many modern cars are fitted with tyre pressure warning systems, lulling us into a sense of security that all is well, when actually something could be wrong with the tyre. So, let's look at some of the routine checks you need to make, and what to do if something isn't quite right.
Why do I need to Check my Tyres?
Your car's tyres are the only point of contact between your car and the road. This means that they're one of the most essential components fitted to your car, and yet also one of the components that needs to be renewed most frequently. Tyres put up with a lot of stress, including potholes and poor road surfaces. Your tyres only have 8-9mm of tread when they're brand new, and this wears away over time as you drive. Legally you must have at least 1.6mm of tread across the middle three quarters of the tyre, otherwise you'll either fail your MOT, or risk a penalty if you're stopped by the police. In fact, tyre grip and performance drops sharply below 3mm, so it's worth renewing your tyres at this point, to improve your safety.
What Checks do I need to make, and How?
The Highway Code says that drivers should check items such as tyres, lights, wipers and washer fluid before every single journey. Ideally, you should check your tread depth, tyre condition and pressures monthly at the very least. You'll need a tyre depth gauge, an air pump and a tyre pressure gauge, all of which are available at a small cost at car accessory stores.
Visual Checks - Inspect every surface of each tyre, looking for any deep cuts, bulges, exposed cord on the edges, nail or screw punctures, or worn tread. If you spot any of these problems, get your tyres checked immediately at a garage.
Tyre Tread Depth - Using your depth gauge, measure each tyre in three places across the width of the tyre. If you get different readings, your tyres might be wearing unevenly, which could be down to incorrect pressures, or even a suspension problem. If they're below 3mm at any point, it’s time to change them.
Tyre Pressures - Press the pressure gauge firmly on to each tyre valve. You'll hear a quick burst of air for a few seconds, then you'll get a reading. Compare the readings with the recommended pressures in the owner's manual, and inflate or deflate as required. Only check tyre pressures when the tyres are cold, not when you've been driving, because you'll get false readings. If you've got a tyre pressure warning system fitted, reset it after adjusting your pressures. Don't forget to check your spare wheel as well if you've got one - imagine needing to swap a tyre and finding your spare is flat too!
What are the Consequences If I Don't Make Regular Checks?
Tyre issues can cause a number of problems, so it’s essential to keep on top of your tyre tread depth. If your tyres are underinflated, then your steering can become heavier, your handling less sharp and your car will use more fuel. If you overinflate your tyres, your car might start to drift and be harder to control. Any damage including punctures, bulges (sometimes known as "eggs") or serious wear could cause a rapid loss of pressure, known as a blow-out... which wouldn't be fun on the motorway. Low tread depths will have a major effect on your stopping distance, and also seriously reduce your road grip, and your tyres' ability to disperse water. When your tyres can't disperse water quickly enough, this can cause your car to lift from the surface from the road, known as aquaplaning.
What If I find a Problem?
Some issues can be easily rectified, such as your tyre pressures. If your tyre tread depth has worn below 3mm, give your local tyre fitter a call to book in. If your tyres are worn below 1.6mm, it will be illegal to drive, so change them early. If you spot any safety issues such as a nail in the tyre or a bulge in the sidewall, contact a tyre dealer as soon as possible for advice, and avoid driving the car until you've got advice on whether it's safe to drive.
Here at Thame Cars we offer a range of tyre services, including a free tyre check, so if you're not confident to make these checks yourself, we'll happily check them for you and let you know if you need to take any action. We offer tyre fitting as well as balancing and wheel alignment, you can be confident we'll take good care of you. Give us a call, visit our website, or pop in if you need help or advice.