You’ve probably read the title of this post and thought, well that’s a bit over dramatic. Surely something as simple as car tyres can’t be classed as life changing? But I promise you, get it right and it will not only change your life, it could even save your life. Your tyres are the only thing connecting you to the road, so it’s critical they’re in good condition. One in five people admit to never checking their tyres, ever! There are severe penalties for those found driving with faulty tyres but following these tips will ensure you stay safe and legal on the road, brought to you in this sponsored post by Point S.
1. Tyre tread
Let’s start off with one of the most important checks you can make on your car. So many people are guilty of continuing to use worn out tyres, compromising on vehicle safety and risk losing their license. Your tyres are so critical, that for each tyre below the legal limit the penalty is a £2,500 fine and 3 points on your license. Four illegal tyres on your car will therefore set you back £10,000 and one driving license ban.
The law states that the tyre tread must be at least 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre. However, it is recommended that you change your tyres once they reach 3 mm. This is because the performance of the tyre will start to dramatically decrease below 3 mm, with stopping distances increasing by up to 40% in the wet. Even in the dry, steering on the bends will start to feel light as your tyres struggle to grip on the road. In dry and perfect conditions, with good tyres, the relative grip is 75-100%. In the wet, this reduces to 50% and in the snow, it can be as low as 12% (Ben Collins, How to Drive). These numbers significantly decrease once your tyre drops below 3 mm.
All this increases the chance of having an accident. I’m not sure about you, but if I had to stop in an emergency, I would want to do everything in my control to stop as quickly as possible. If you neglect your tyres and the lack of grip causes an accident, you have carelessly put yours and other people’s lives in danger. Plus, if your tyre tread depths are found to be less than 1.6 mm, insurance companies will refuse to pay out on any claim.
Hopefully this has already highlighted how critical tyre tread really is. It’s recommended you check the tyre tread at least once a month. It’s super easy to check and you don’t even need any fancy tools. All you need is a 20p coin! The outside border of a 20p coin is equal to 1.6 mm. Place the 20p in the grooves of your tyres, and if you can still see the border, your tyres are below the legal limit and need to be replaced immediately. However, if you want something more accurate, I recommend this tyre tread depth gauge. Remember, 1.6 mm is the legal limit, but you should have already replaced your tyres once they reach 3 mm. If you do realise you need to replace your tyres, it’s always a good idea to visit a local tyre dealer. Point S have plenty of branches across the country, and you can buy tyres online on their website here.
2. Tyre Pressure
Checking tyre pressures is also one of the easiest and most beneficial checks you can make on your car. You may have heard that driving with your tyres at the incorrect pressure increases your fuel consumption and it’s true! Having your tyres under-inflated by only 10% can increase your fuel consumption by 20%, so you might as well be throwing money out of the window as you drive along. Using extra fuel also means more emissions, so more pollution is being pumped into the environment at the same time. In the U.K. about 57% of cars and vans are currently being driven below the recommended pressure setting, so if you haven’t checked them, it’s highly likely they’re at the wrong pressure.
However, having under-inflated tyres is more serious than just losing a few pounds. Low pressures put more force on the outside of the tyre, causing it to arch in the middle. This means less contact with the road, and consequently less grip and reduced ability to dissipate water. If tyre pressures are out by just 10%, this can lead to a 10% increase in stopping distance and a 10% increase in tyre wear (tyresafe.org). Tyre pressures change regularly with temperature, therefore it’s a good idea to check them every couple of weeks. See my previous post for my recommended digital tyre pressure pump.
3. Tyre damage
Just as important as pressure and tread is the overall condition of your tyres. It’s a good idea to inspect them once a month for any cracks, cuts or bulging. This includes looking on the inside of the tyre which is usually hidden. Even if your tyres are inflated correctly, any weakness in the tyre structure can lead to a tyre blow out. This is even more likely at high speeds which would put lives at risk. Because of this, the £2,500 fine and 3 point penalty also applies to damaged tyres.
4. Tyre Brand
You may be tempted to try and save a bit of money when it comes to buying new tyres and go for the cheapest option. However, it is always recommended that you buy the best quality tyres you can afford, using brands such as Michelin, Bridgestone, Pirelli, Continental or Goodyear.
The reason why they’re more expensive is because these companies put a lot of effort into research and development of the tyre to significantly improve their performance over cheaper alternatives. They last longer, meaning there might not be a big difference in price over time. They also improve grip and handling and have been demonstrated to reduce your stopping distance.
5. Summer vs winter tyres
Most of us will stick with the same tyres all year round. All season tyres combine the properties of summer and winter tyres, and give good performance throughout the year. However, for extreme winter driving, it’s worth investing in winter tyres. They use a different compound of rubber with more grooves, as in cold weather all season tyres can become stiffer and provide less traction. Summer tyres are best for performance cars, as they’re much more responsive under braking and cornering. But this does mean you will need to switch to winter tyres for better performance in the winter. Make sure you check that you have the best tyres for your car and the conditions.
6. Use Matching Tyres
It’s important for the balance of the car that both front tyres, and both rear tyres match. This ensures they wear evenly and do not affect the handling of the car. Having the correct tyre pressures also ensures even tyre wear. Under-inflated tyres will wear quicker on the outside, and over-inflated tyres wear more in the centre. As well as the issues discussed earlier, this ultimately means your tyres won’t last as long, costing you more money.
And as the driver of the car it is YOUR responsibility to carry out these checks. They’re so simple, can save you a lot of money, avoid penalties and ensure you’re safe on the road.
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