How to perform simple tyre care

Child inspecting tyre© Falken

While the overall number of road accidents is falling, tyre-related crashes are on the up. Tyre industry experts agree that an important contributor is the lack of maintenance by drivers. Spot checks show the vast majority of tyres are under-inflated by around 15 to 20 per cent. According to tyre giant Continental, this can reduce a tyre’s life by a quarter and increase fuel consumption by 5 per cent. Yet tyre maintenance is remarkably simple and tyres that are correctly inflated are less susceptible to punctures and give improved handling and road holding. Here are some top tips from Steve Howat, general manager for technical services at Continental, on how to look after your car’s tyres.

Buy a tyre pressure gauge

“The air pumps on fuel station forecourts lead a rough life and are rarely checked for accuracy. You can buy your own pressure gauge for as little as £10 from any motor accessory store or online.”

Check tyre pressures regularly

“Your car’s recommended tyre pressures will be listed in its handbook, on the inside of the fuel filler cap or the inside of the door pillar. Remember that tyre pressures vary according to the vehicle use. A lightly loaded car with just a driver needs its tyres at a different pressure to one with four passengers and their luggage. A portable air pump that’s powered by the car’s 12v system can work out cheaper in the long run than using a paying pump on a garage forecourt.”

Measure tread depth

“Tyre tread depth gauges can be bought for as little as £2. The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm but independent researchers recommend tyres are replaced when the tread depth reaches 3mm. Tyres start out with around 8mm of tread and their performance is fairly constant until the tread depth falls below 3.5mm. Performance then deteriorates, adding around 30m or more to the stopping distance from 70mph in the wet.”

Visually inspect your tyres

“A simple visual check of your car’s tyres can spot cuts, cracks or bulges in the sidewall or tread. All these can cause potential problems. A minute spent looking over your tyres could help keep you safe and avoid the inconvenience of trying to change a wheel at the roadside. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre either.”

Spotting the symptoms of a worn tyre

“An early warning of a potential problem with your tyres is a change in noise, or if you start to feel a vibration through the steering wheel or floor of the car.”

Don’t forget the dust caps

“These are important because they keep damaging debris out of the tyre’s valve. I would recommend metal dust caps. These act as a secondary seal to prevent air escaping, and you’re talking about less than £5. Failing that, plastic ones are just as functional at keeping out debris.”

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